His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of "bebop" and establishing Monk as one of America's greatest composers. Yet throughout much of his life, his musical contribution took a backseat to tales of his reputed behavior. Writers tended to obsess over Monk's hats or his proclivity to dance on stage. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. Now, historian Robin D.G. Kelley brings to light a startlingly different Thelonious Monk--witty, intelligent, generous, politically engaged, brutally honest, and a devoted father and husband. This is the saga of an artist's struggle to "make it" without compromising his musical vision; a story that, like its subject, reflects the tidal ebbs and flows of American history in the twentieth century.--From publisher description.