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The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor

Dr. Billy Taylor. with Teresa L. Reed

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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pp. 5-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xvi

On a frigid December evening, I left my room at Le Parker Meridian and decided to walk the five blocks to the place where Dr. Billy Taylor left his heart. That place, that era, and that magic were so deeply ingrained in his being that his stories about 52nd Street came alive in my own mind, transporting me to the reality of something...

Chronology of the Life of William Edward Taylor Jr.

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pp. xvii-xix

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1. Beginnings: 1921–1938

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pp. 1-31

The seductive power of jazz resides in its distinctive sway, its particular saunter, its gait, its swing. The genealogy of that swing begins in West Africa, where a primal pulse spawned the ritual drumming, call-and-response singing, and orisha-possessed dancing that were the musical and spiritual...

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2. College Years: 1938–1942

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pp. 32-50

The time had come for me to test my wings, a prospect that both excited me and frightened me. I had the utmost respect and admiration for my parents, but I believed I had the moxie to move forward, although it was that of a typical seventeen-year-old male. I was bursting with the kind of restlessness that...

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3. Making Waves: 1943–1946

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pp. 51-89

On a chilly Friday night late in 1943, I boarded the train for the big city, my pockets filled with the money I’d saved, my head filled with dreams, and my heart pounding a syncopated rhythm of nervous yet hopeful anticipation. New York was jazz heaven, and I couldn’t wait to get there and take my place...


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pp. 90-108

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4. The Subject Is Jazz: 1946–1958

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pp. 109-140

Once back from Europe, it didn’t take long for reality to set in. My early years in New York gave me lots of exposure, but when you’re absent for months at a time, people tend to forget about you. While I was overseas with Don Redman, the music scene in New York went on without me, so I needed to reestablish...

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5. From “Tobacco Tags” to the Urban Airwaves: 1959–1968

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pp. 141-162

In the late 1950s, we were living in the Riverton, a very secure upper-middle-class Harlem housing development between 135th and 138th Streets. The group of ten or so buildings that made up the Riverton community served as an oasis, a peaceful and comfortable world apart from the normal...

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6. How It Feels to Be Free: 1969–1990

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pp. 163-186

Somehow, in the midst of all of my activity, I had become middle-aged. When I was a boy back in Raleigh and later in Washington, D.C., I remember wondering why no one would speak up. Although I did as I was told, it bothered me that my place was at the back of the bus, or in the balconies of certain...

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7. Reflections

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pp. 187-199

I listen to those old records and I can’t believe that there was a time that I could play that fast! I miss the dexterity of my youth. And I miss those old days, that affirming sense of camaraderie we had when jazz was our gathering place. I even miss those smoke-filled, hot, and crowded...


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pp. 201-212

Selected Publications by Dr. Billy Taylor

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pp. 213-237


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pp. 215-227

E-ISBN-13: 9780253009173
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253009098

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Revised Edition