In 1972, Charles Mingus was making his return to the music scene, after a six or seven year layoff. Playboy writer John F. Goodman reviewed Mingus’ comeback concert that year, which brought the two together for various interviews between 1972 and 1974.
The interviews were recorded by Goodman for a proposed memoir. Forty years later, these conversations are now collected into a new book, Mingus Speaks, described by Goodman as “a book of extended interviews which allowed the man to explain himself.”
Mingus’ collaborator, Sy Johnson, provided both photographs and commentary for the book, which also includes insights from Mingus’s wife Sue, Teo Macero and George Wein.
Mingus had his own quasi-autobiography published in 1971 – Beneath the Underdog: His World as composed by Mingus – providing a wide range of stories in a “stream of consciousness” style, many of which are considered to be exaggerated. Mingus Speaks too offers a wide range of topics, and sheds new perspectives on some of the stories told in the earlier book.
WNYC interviewed Goodman in a recent Soundcheck segment.
“There’s never been a better interview subject, in my opinion,” Goodman said. “His reputation in many ways preceded him. He was very warm. Very open. A great enormous big man. And I think part of the fact that I wrote for Playboy was sort of a kick for him. He loved to talk about sex and women and all of it. But he was always very approachable, sometimes moody, sometimes there was a lot of dead air, and you’d just sit there and wait until the appropriate time to pick it up again.”
Listen to the complete Soundcheck interview: