Underappreciated Writers: Charles Mingus

The only things he penned were an aggressively absurd autobiography and the liner notes to a couple of his own records, but if I went back in time and told Mingus he were the greatest writer to ever live, I think he would’ve agreed with me. So I’ll give him a nod here, if only because he was probably a little too brilliant to ever actually understand himself. His book, Beneath the Underdog, is really more about inner tensions and frustrations than anything related to music (we’re talking about the most important bassist of the 20th century here, if you’re not with me at this point), and I dig it so much because — whether it was his playing, composing and writing — Mingus was one of the few people who genuinely never felt a need to do anything for anyone else’s benefit. Judge that how you will, but to me it makes him an eternally interesting son of a bitch. And he molded his prose like he did a gospel-tinged blues: loose, with thick soul, and a yell if he felt so inclined. Which he usually did.

~ Samuel Spokony

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