Thelonious Monk

Bebop, Musical Artist

1917 – 1982


Who was Thelonious Monk?

Thelonious Sphere Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer, considered one of the giants of American music. Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "Epistrophy", "'Round Midnight", "Blue Monk", "Straight, No Chaser" and "Well, You Needn't". Monk is the second-most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed over 1,000 songs while Monk wrote about 70.

His compositions and improvisations are full of dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists, and are consistent with Monk's unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silences and hesitations. This style was not universally appreciated, shown for instance in poet and jazz critic Philip Larkin's dismissal of Monk as "the elephant on the keyboard".

Visually, he was renowned for his distinctive style in suits, hats and sunglasses. He was also noted for the fact that at times, while the other musicians in the band continued playing, he would stop, stand up from the keyboard and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano.


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Oct 10, 1917
Rocky Mount
Also known as
  • Theolonius Monk
  • Monk Thelonious
  • Thelonius Monk
  • Thelonios Monk
  • Monk, Thelonius
  • Monk, Thelonious
  • Thelonious Sphere Monk
  • The High Priest of Bebop
  • The Mad Monk
  • Melodious
  • African American
  • United States of America
  • Stuyvesant High School
    ( - 1935)
Lived in
  • Rocky Mount
  • Manhattan
Feb 17, 1982
Resting place
Ferncliff Cemetery

on July 23, 2013