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Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend
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Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  210 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Django Reinhardt was arguably the greatest guitarist who ever lived, an important influence on Les Paul, Charlie Christian, B.B. King, Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins, and many others. Yet there is no major biography of Reinhardt.
Now, in Django, Michael Dregni offers a definitive portrait of this great guitarist. Handsome, charismatic, childlike, and unpredictable, Reinhardt wa
Paperback, 326 pages
Published May 12th 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2004)
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Nov 26, 2012 Belinda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This was a very personal book for me. Django is my favorite guitar player of all time--and I know whereof I speak--my most significant relationship barring my current one was with a genius guitar player who is now a professional teacher of guitar who also jams with bands such as Wilco. So I have heard A LOT of guitar in my life and Django has always been my favorite. Add to that the fact that he was Romany and you have pretty much a human I can't resist. Besides the educated musicians in my life ...more
HA, conquered you, book.


Okay, real review time. Real talk. So.... I found this kind of really problematic.

As biographies go, I mean, it shouldn't have been bad. The bio part. I like biographies. But then it left a bad taste in my mouth, too, because it was kind of... well, I don't know how to put this nicely. Filled to the brim with stereotypes? Rather ethnically insensitive?

Insensitive thing beneath the spoiler: (view spoiler)
Jan 19, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended for people interested in Django's life and times. This was a highly researched book with lots of detail; the author really sweated the details. It provided a great background and milieu of 1940's WWII Paris, and details about many of the players Django worked with. So many musical references I would have liked to have a Reinhardt CD Anthology next to me to play along with the ever-evolving music. So satisfying I read it twice.
Nov 08, 2012 Lemar rated it really liked it
Dregni provides a context for the emergence of one the first non American to make a huge impact on jazz. He beautifully relates how when Django, then clad in characteristic gypsy neckerchief playing violin and guitar/banjo at french out door cafes, first heard Louis Armstrong. the young man was overcome with emotion, sat down and wept. The rest of his too short life was spent creating a genre of jazz often called gypsy jazz or Jazz Manouche ofter the tribe he belonged to. This is a fascinating a ...more
Ray Campbell
Mar 14, 2014 Ray Campbell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2014
I came across Django back in college. I was largely earning my tuition playing music and switched to a music major for a time. Despite my humble state school having a modest music department, I was able to pick guitar as a major instrument. So, when I had to write a paper for the History of Jazz, I picked Django. At that time, the early 80s, there was enough material to write a paper, but no authoritative biography. Michael Dregni has filled that gap.

This is a straight forward biography, no atte
Randall Wallace
Oct 26, 2013 Randall Wallace rated it really liked it
Django and Hendrix are the most revered guitarists in history and this book is very helpful in giving insight into Django’s life from the world of the Caravan through Vichy France to Samois-sur-Seine.

Some cool reasons to read/buy this book? It explains musette reeds on French accordions, that D’s repertoire was hundreds of tunes – he was a human jukebox. Stephane played 6 hours a day for two years. Venuti rarely improvised. Stephane improvised on the melody while Django preferred to improvise o
Jul 08, 2013 Alistair rated it really liked it
This is a well researched and fascinating biography Of Django Reinhardt the brilliant Gypsey guitarist . That a man could play such fluid melodical and original guitar is remarkable but unfathomable when you know that he lost two fingers in a fire before he became an international star .
The Paris night club settings , the meetings with other American jazz greats , his travels , romantic life style of living in the moment and having a dismissive attitude to authority are brilliantly captured . H
Barry Hammond
Mar 04, 2016 Barry Hammond rated it really liked it
Django Reinhardt was one of the first musicians to turn the guitar from a rhythm to a lead instrument and to make jazz for strings. Due to his Gypsy background, which has an oral tradition (rather than written documentation), his life has always been shrouded in a certain amount of mystery. Michael Dregni has done the finest job yet in penetrating Gypsy culture to present the man and musician in the kind of detail and context that no one else has managed. He also has a firm grasp on the period m ...more
Daniel Mcbrearty
Jul 26, 2016 Daniel Mcbrearty rated it it was amazing
In popular culture, Django is a romantic and perhaps distant musical genius, and reading this well-researched book more or less confirms and colours in that impression. At the same time, and to Mr Dregni's credit, it steers clear of cliché, and gives us as solid a picture of who Django really was as we have any right to ask for.

While improvised black American music has been the most pervasive force in the musical culture of the twentieth century, Django has the rare distinction of of being proba
D. Jason
May 18, 2014 D. Jason rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history, music, jazz
Good, thorough bio of Django that suffers two problems, one unavoidable.

Even with a ton of original research, Dregni cannot avoid substituting speculation for facts, for the simple reason that Django was illiterate most of his life, and his family were gypsies, and not prone to keeping records or talking to outsiders. So there is, especially covering the early years, a surplassage of "He must have felt this" and "He likely did that". Irritating. But, again, completely unavoidable.

The other probl
Jul 25, 2007 Apurva rated it liked it
The Author doesn't do it right in the end. You can feel that he wants to finish typing the last chapter and send it out. Or wants to keep it emotionally neutral by enforcement. It was so much fun reading Django looking at the moon in England and exclaiming, "They have moon too!" and running into someone's chicken coup at night and bringing back a chocked chicken under his arm. Or trying to write his last name. Then why hold back on the anything when the greatest guitarist ever, is dying and his ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Yasmin added it
I didn't read this book to the end but as far as I'm concerned I'm finished with it. Unfortunately the author was writing in an awful stereotypical way that I was actually convinced the book was written some time in the 1950s! He used the terms "gypsy" and "Romany" so interchangeably that if the reader didn't know better would be convinced that gypsy is an accurate label. He also wrote as though the life of the Romany is one of high romance and the desperate need for survival is a riotous time a ...more
May 21, 2011 Kevin rated it liked it
Shelves: the-us, music
Django Reinhardt is a compelling figure. How could a gypsy who with a maimed left hand became one of the most important guitarists ever not be? But because many of his early biographical details are murky at best -- the author admittedly takes best guesses and expounds on them -- and Django himself was a quiet sort, even after reading this book he remains a mute character. (The author's somewhat intellectually lazy caricature of him as "child-like" doesn't help.) This is, however, a good accompa ...more
David Ward
Jan 18, 2011 David Ward rated it liked it
Django, The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend by Michael Dregni (Oxford University Press 1994) (780.92) is an impeccably researched book into the life of self-taught guitarist Django Reinhardt, who is widely acclaimed as one of the best jazz guitarists of all time. Born in 1919 in a gypsy caravan in Belgium, he was there in Paris at the beginning of jazz and played with many of the greats including Louis Armstrong. Best known for his collaboration and partnership with jazz violinist Stephane Grap ...more
Aug 11, 2010 Deb rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
For some reason, I wanted to read about the life of the composer who's song I was using for a new choreographed belly dance piece.
Django Reinhardt was an amazing man and an amazing musician. The writer did get hungup a bit on musical descriptions and details but one could really feel the flavor of Paris in the 20s and 30s, the newness of Jazz, and the influx of Black American musicians. As a gypsy (one of the first groups Hitler wanted to purge out of Europe), Django's life in Occupied France wa
Gary Lang
Feb 01, 2014 Gary Lang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Starting with his life playing banjo in the Gypsy camps, and ending with him playing bebop electric guitar in Samois-Sur-Seine, and in between taking us through pre-war France, the founding of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, the war years when he was suspected of being a collaborator, this book covers a ton of background material that, as a life-long fan of Django Reinhardt, I should have known all along. 5 stars.
Robert Howard
Sep 10, 2015 Robert Howard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terrific Biography

I love biographies that help challenge established mythologies about a person. In this case, the myth of Django's so called disastrous American tour. Turns out that was just hyperbole, with a little homesickness from Django. I also loved all the detail about the other figures in Parisian jazz.
Jun 06, 2007 Ian rated it liked it
Recommends it for: musicians, jazz fans
Very engaging, vivid portrayal of Django's career. Every guitar player and jazz/popular music fan needs to know about the person widely considered the best guitarist to have walked the earth, to date. String jazz, guitar as a lead instrument, and music as we hear and appreciate it would not have developed the way it all has without Django.
Barbara B Eddins
Apr 14, 2016 Barbara B Eddins rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and comprehensive history of jazz from Gypsy Romany roots up to be-bop. Django Rienhardt, the guitar virtuoso and composer genius enthusiastically led in every timely change in music. The writing style is creatively descriptive of Django's talent and tells a complete story of his life and culture. Not a quick read, this book goes deep into many topics.
derrick white
Aug 13, 2009 derrick white rated it liked it
Interesting read in parts... At least a quarter of the book was devoted to subject matter that only a serious fan could appreciate. All in all, it opened my mind to a type of music I hadn't seriously considered before...
Jim Bradbury
Jun 23, 2008 Jim Bradbury rated it it was amazing
An amazing job by Dregni on sorting out fact from legend about the uniquely gifted guitarist. If you read this, the the CD compilation Gypsy Jazz so you can hear what's been written about -- it features not only Django and the Hot Quintette but their contemporaries, too.
Juan Ramirez
Mar 03, 2010 Juan Ramirez rated it it was amazing
Dregni does a phenomenal job with descriptive detail on events of Django. The sources must be detailed. I have to admit as fun as it was to read, prepare to be reading a while. After the read, however, you may want to purchase some or all of Django's music.
Jul 24, 2008 Derek rated it liked it
Dregni did a lot of great research for this bk but his prose is bland. Good try. The definitive bio of this giant is yet to be written.
Janis Oliver
Apr 27, 2013 Janis Oliver rated it it was amazing
I was consumed by this book..... So distracted for months after reading it. I am an American guitar player, but for awhile there, i became a gypsy, I swear it.
Feb 29, 2012 Brent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Django, and this biography, bring guitar, jazz, and gypsy music to life.
Where, now, is a Django Reinhart box set of recordings?
Highly recommended.
Keep St. Pete Lit
In conjunction with the museum’s exhibit The Art of the Classical Guitar, we’re reading Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend by Michael Dregni.
Jay Storey
Nov 20, 2012 Jay Storey rated it really liked it
A fascinating window not only into the life of a musical genius, but into the world of early twentieth century Paris, the beginning of the second world war, and the gypsy culture.
Apr 04, 2007 Michael rated it really liked it
Ah plane rides, love them. This was quite good, but I would have liked more detail about recording sessions.
Benito rated it liked it
Apr 17, 2012
Jan 03, 2013 Kurt rated it really liked it
This book was a real page-turner. Much of Django's life reads like an outlandish screenplay.
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“HE WAS KNOWN As DJANGO, a Gypsy name meaning "I awake." His legal name-the name the gendarmes and border officials entered into their journals as his family crisscrossed Europe in their horsedrawn caravan-was jean Reinhardt. But when the family brought their travels to a halt alongside a hidden stream or within a safe wood to light their cookfire, they called him only by his Romany name. Even among his fellow Gypsies, "Django" was a strange name, a strong, telegraphic sentence due to its first-person verb construction. It was a name of which Django was exceedingly proud. It bore an immediacy, a sense of life, and a vision of destiny.” 1 likes
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