Thelonious Sphere Monk (October 10, 1917 â€“ February 17, 1982) was an American jazz pianist and composer. Widely considered one of the most important musicians in jazz -- he is one of only five jazz musicians to be featured on the cover of Time -- 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."
Often regarded as a founder of bebop, Monk's playing style later evolved away from that form. His compositions and improvisations are full of dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists, and are impossible to separate from Monk's unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silences and hesitations; a style nicknamed "Melodious Thunk" by his wife Nellie.
Monk was born October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the son of Thelonious and Barbara Monk, two years after his sister Marian. A brother, Thomas, was born a couple of years later. In 1922, the family moved to 243 West 63rd Street, in Manhattan. Monk started playing the piano at the age of six. Although he had some formal training and eavesdropped on his sister's piano lessons, he was essentially self-taught. Monk attended Stuyvesant High School, but did not graduate. He briefly toured with an evangelist in his teens, playing the church organ, and in his late teens he began to find work playing jazz.