The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor

The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor

Billy Taylor
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/18/2013
Format: Hardback 25 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00909-8
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Certificate of Merit in Historical Research in Recorded Jazz, 2014 ARSC Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research

Legendary jazz ambassador Dr. Billy Taylor's autobiography spans more than six decades, from the heyday of jazz on 52nd Street in 1940s New York City to CBS Sunday Morning. Taylor fought not only for the recognition of jazz music as "America's classical music" but also for the recognition of black musicians as key contributors to the American music repertoire. Peppered with anecdotes recalling encounters with other jazz legends such as Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and many others, The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor is not only the life story of a jazz musician and spokesman but also a commentary on racism and jazz as a social force.

Author Bio

Dr. Billy Taylor (1921–2010) served as the Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University, Artistic Advisor for Jazz to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Board Member on the National Council for the Arts. A lifelong spokesperson for jazz, he hosted radio shows in New York, on National Public Radio, and became the jazz correspondent on CBS Sunday Morning. With over 23 honorary doctoral degrees, Dr. Billy Taylor is also the recipient of two Peabody Awards, an Emmy, a Grammy and a host of prestigious and highly coveted prizes, such as the National Medal of Arts, the Tiffany Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Downbeat Magazine, and election to the Hall of Fame for the International Association for Jazz Education.

Teresa L. Reed is Director of the School of Music at the University of Tulsa where she teaches music theory and African-American music.


“As a highly-esteemed jazz pianist, educator, and media figure who helped popularize the concept of jazz as “America’s classical music,” Billy Taylor’s contributions to jazz were significant, and his story intersects with some of the music’s most fascinating figures and historical chapters. As a jazz education pioneer and well-liked spokesperson for the music, Mr. Taylor is a civil rights figure in his own way, and this gives his book a value that transcends the normal boundaries of music biography. ”
 — David Brent Johnson, Jazz Director, WFIU

“Peppered with anecdotes recalling encounters with other legendary jazz artists, this autobiography is both the life story of a jazz ambassador and a commentary on racism and jazz as a social force.”

“The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor is an impeccable memoir by one of America’s most celebrated renaissance men. The consummate master musician, intellect, educator, humanitarian and activist reveals the steep challenges and overwhelming victories of his life journey in a manner that exemplify his tremendous dedication to making the world a better place and his demonstrative commitment to excellence. The writing is as fluid as it is gorgeous, captivating and inspiring. This monumental memoir offers an in-depth and critical analysis of American history through the lens of one the most decorated African American creative artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Filled with poignant reflection on the importance of the African-African American cultural continuum as a foundation for American culture, this memoire takes us from the hey days of 'Swing Street' to the most prestigious concert halls around the world with an insider’s tour of the meritorious metamorphosis of William E. Taylor, Jr. into the widely celebrated, Dr. Billy Taylor. From amazing details of interactions with Malcolm X, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Coltrane and Mary Lou Williams to the behind-the-scenes inspirations for compositions such as 'I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,' 'Don’t Go Down South' and Peaceful Warrior; this is a must read by anyone who claims to be remotely interested in American music, history, arts and culture.”
 — Emmett G. Price III, Ph.D, Executive Editor of Encyclopedia of African American Music

“In this excellent collaboration with author Teresa Reed, Dr. Billy Taylor, one of the most beloved and iconic figures in the jazz world, tells his extraordinary life story in his own words with characteristic humility, warmth, and eloquence. This is a book of major importance not only to the jazz field but also to the study of the African American social and cultural experience in the 20th and early 21st centuries. It is a must read—I couldn't put it down!”
 — Dr. David N. Baker, Chair, Jazz Studies, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music; National Endowment for the Arts Amer

“The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor . . . does his high esteem justice. Without sacrificing the man's integrity, the book captures Dr. Taylor's wide-eyed enthusiasm for jazz and for his missions to further the music's tradition and expand its audience.”
 — JazzTimes

“...Those of us who had the privilege of hearing him speak will recognize how accurately Reed captures his spirit and his enthusiasm for the music to which he dedicated his life.”
 — NPR

“This must-read collaboration weaves not only the story of a highly esteemed jazz great and genre ambassador, but it is also a narrative on racism and the social influence of jazz. ”
 — Smooth Jazz News

“This book (including Dr. Teresa L. Reed’s eloquent introduction) captures with great clarity and accuracy the character of this man. Taylor not only always aspired to excellence, he was also humble and generous of word and deed. The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor provides the backstory of why he must be remembered as one of the major leading lights of America’s classical music.”
 — New York City Jazz Record

“[C]o-author Reed has done an exemlary job of making the story flow in Taylor's own words. ”
 — Jazzwise

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Table of Contents

Chronology of the Life of William Edward Taylor Jr.

1. Beginnings: 1921–1938
2. College Years: 1938–1942
3. Making Waves: 1943–1946
4. The Subject Is Jazz: 1946–1958
5. From "Tobacco Tags" to the Urban Airwaves: 1959–1968
6. How It Feels to Be Free: 1969–1990
7. Reflections

Selected Publications Authored by Dr. Billy Taylor

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