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Spirit Seeker, John Coltrane’s Musical Journey



Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about John Coltrane along comes the children’s book, Spirit Seeker – The Life and Musical Journey of John Coltrane by New York Times bestselling author Gary Golio and award winning illustrator, Rudy Gutiérrez.

Commentary by New York Co-Editor/Journalist – Tomas Peña

The story begins in 1939, at a small church in High Point, North Carolina where Coltrane’s grandfather, Reverend Blair, preaches about the power of the Spirit and its ability to guide and heal each human being, “no matter what!” The reverends message resonates with Coltrane, “a young, shy boy from a deeply religious family who grew up to find solace and inspiration in his unique approach to both spirituality and music.”

Spirit Seeker – John Coltrane’s Musical Journey

Golio is no stranger to the plight of musical icons who have struggled with their demons and in some cases, died tragic deaths. In the past he has explored the lives of guitar wizard Jimi Hendrix and singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. This time around Golio takes on the extraordinary life and legacy of saxophonist and spiritual seeker John Coltrane. “I wanted to turn them (kids) on to this amazing man who had very human struggles,” says Golio, “and whose success was built on persistence, passion and the desire to do the best with he’d been given.”

There is also another method to Golio’s “madness.” In addition to being an accomplished author and visual artist, he is an addiction therapist who counsels children and teenagers. As part of his therapy, he points out that everyone – including larger than life musical icons – have their struggles and their difficulties.

Illustrator Rudy Gutierrez’s dazzling artwork is the icing on the cake. He describes his style as “different languages and layers of reality, real, abstract flat, tonal, rhythmic, urban at times but first and foremost about emotion.”  For Spirit Seeker Gutierrez immersed himself in John Coltrane’s life and music. Moreover, he prayed and fasted in order to do justice to Golio’s prose and adjusted his color schemes to suit the text and mood on each page. Gutierrez is known for his album art, including Carlos Santana’s “Shaman” and Roy Hargrove’s “RH Factor – Hard Groove.” His illustrations also appear in the books, “Pele, King of Soccer,” “Papa and Me,” “Malcolm X” and “La Causa, the Migrant Farm Workers (Stories of America)” among others.

Admittedly, I am not a parent but it is not difficult for me to imagine the joy and inspiration young readers will derive from Spirit Seeker’s passionate words and splendid images. Though the story was written with young readers in mind children of all ages will enjoy it. Beautifully written and splendidly illustrated, Spirit Seeker – The Life and Musical Journey of John Coltrane is a testament to a “bold explorer in the areas of feeling and sound and an inspiring example of what an artist can be.”

Illustration from “Spirit Seeker”

Books by Gary Golio

Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow – A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix (Clarion, 2010)

With Mark Burckhardt – When Bob Met Woody – The Story of the Young Bob Dylan (Little Brown Books, 2011)

For additional information on Gary Golio visit :

For additional information on Rudy Gutiérrez visit:

A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

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