Nellie Monk, wife, sustainer and muse of legendary jazz pianist-composer Thelonious Monk, died of a cerebral hemorrhage June 25 in New York. She was 80.
St. Petersburg, Fla., native moved with her family to NYC as a child and met Monk when they were youths, staying together from 1947 until his death in 1982. During his financially uncertain career, she worked as a seamstress, nurtured their son and daughter during his absences, recorded his playing, fed his musicians, handle financial matters, paid his musicians, arranged for band member travel, collected money from promoters and more — even though she wasn’t officially his manager.
He trusted her opinions about his music and dedicated his ballad “Crepuscule With Nellie” to her.
After his death, she helped establish the Thelonious Monk Institute and was a driving force behind the family label Thelonious Records.