Another biography I got out the library over the summer was Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head. Both Monk and Syd had this nut thing thrown at them and in both cases there was a definitely a reason for that, but it just begs the question as to whether madness is a requisite for true artistic endeavour. Probably not, but maybe we can say that often the very best lurk close by to the seeds of madness.
One other thing in common is that mental outlooks in both cases tended to have a retrograde effect on commercial success. This is truly some sort of madness in that we can equate madness finally with the inability to feed oneself and this sort of commercial success kamikaze turn ultimately ends up as the inability to feed oneself. In Syd’s case this probably wasn’t helped by the fact that he was able to feed himself because somehow there was always money for him.
Towards the end of Monk’s life he lost interest in playing the piano. There was a piano in Nica‘s appartment that he could have used. Barry Harris apparently often played it and sometimes Monk would leave his door open to indicate that he was listening but the desire to express himself had gone. That’s sad but in the end, why not? He’d done it all before. You can end up like a performing seal. Bring me blessed silence finally O Lord.
Vincent Van Gogh‘s another of those guys who was dipping a bit into the insanity pool. I love this segment from Kurosawa‘s Dreams (actually I love all the segments of Kurosawa’s Dreams) with Martin Scorsese playing the painter and that beautiful Prelude 15 by Chopin.