In 2023, a new memoir titled Easily Slip Into Another World by Henry Threadgill will be released by a major publisher. This book is a unique entry into the Vietnam War memoir genre, as it only partially describes Threadgill’s war experience, with the rest of the book covering his rebellious childhood in 1950s Chicago, his work in the city’s music scene, and his later career as a composer, saxophonist, flutist, and musician. This memoir offers more than just war stories; it is a musical memoir that ranks alongside works by Miles Davis and Gil Scott-Heron.
Threadgill enlisted in the army in 1966 at the age of 22 after losing his draft deferment for not being able to afford full-time attendance at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. Threadgill did not look like a soldier and was given the opportunity to continue his musical career in the army if he volunteered. He was later sent to the 4th Infantry Division at Pleiku, Vietnam in the midst of the fighting, where he was nearly killed many times and suffered permanent damage to his hip.
Despite the difficulties, Threadgill continued to play music in the army, meeting other bands and expanding his musical template of the Vietnam War beyond popular artists like Hendrix and Credence to include Coltrane and Coleman. The book also covers Threadgill’s hurdles as a black composer and classical musician and the support he received from family, teachers, and stray artists along the way.
Threadgill’s memoir is not just for music lovers but also for young musicians who can learn from his obstacles and determination to carve his own way in the music industry. The first 200 pages of the book are captivating, but the last 200 pages float, covering Threadgill’s bands, tours, and commissions, although still providing a thoughtful reflection on music and life.