Synopses & Reviews
You Cant Steal a Gift is about the impact of American racism on Americas greatest gift to the world of music—jazz. In a work that combines memoir, oral history, and commentary, Gene Lees has crafted minibiographies of four great black musicians whom he knew well—Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Milt Hinton, and Nat “King” Cole. Lees writes of them, “All are men who had every reason to embrace bitterness . . . and didnt.”
When Lees left Montreal to become the music and drama critic of the Louisville Times in 1955, he was shocked by the racism and segregation he found in the United States. In jazz he found a community of like-minded souls who freely shared their gifts with all lovers of music, regardless of race and condition.
"Lees is about as colorblind as it is humanly possible to be. . . . The value of this book lies in the way he unapologetically opens his heart."—New York Times Book Review New York Times Book Review
"Gene Lees is one of my favorite writers on jazz."—Dave Brubeck Dave Brubeck
"An intensely personal, provocative, highly informative and engrossing plunge into the world of jazz."—Santa Barbara News-Press Santa Barbara News-Press
"[You Cant Steal a Gift] is about the expression of genius in the face of racism and brutality. It is about continuing to give when others wanted to stop the giving."—JazzTimes JazzTimes
About the Author
Gene Lees is a journalist and music critic, song lyricist, singer, and personal friend of several generations of jazz musicians. He is the author of Cats of Any Color and biographies of Woody Herman and Oscar Peterson. For twenty-one years he has been the publisher of the Jazzletter. Nat Hentoff is the author of Boston Boy: Growing Up with Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions and Listen to the Stories: Nat Hentoff on Jazz and Country Music.