A solid appreciation that restores Handy to his rightful place in America’s music pantheon.

W.C. HANDY

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE MAN WHO MADE THE BLUES

Poet and biographer Robertson (A Passionate Pilgrim: A Biography of Bishop James A. Pike, 2004, etc.) takes the measure of musical giant W.C. Handy, composer of such classics as “The Memphis Blues” and “Beale Street Blues.”

Born in northern Alabama eight years after the surrender at Appomattox, W.C. Handy died the year Elvis entered the Army. At the outset of his lengthy career, this talented cornet player aspired, against the wishes of his minister father, to become “the colored Sousa,” a leader of brass-band music. He became much more. Blending African-American folk-blues melodies “with ragtime and his own distinct notation,” he fashioned the blues into a publishable, commercially successful form. Robertson revisits each stage of Handy’s career: his years as the music director of various fraternal organizations, as the leader of dance bands; as a college music professor; and, most revealingly, as a performer and director on the minstrelsy circuit, where he encountered virtually every form of popular music. The author effectively demonstrates how by 1904 Handy was uniquely poised to turn folk blues into a commodity for a national audience. Handy corralled the notoriously improvisational blues, snatching folk melodies for his compositions and making the “blue note,” unexpected minor and flatted notes, his signature. Robertson stoutly defends Handy against attacks by Jelly Roll Morton and other partisans of the New Orleans tradition, noting that in his time, Handy’s Memphis strain of blues was every bit the equal of anything emanating from the Crescent City, and surely the public’s favorite. If Robertson never quite nails Handy the man—the author includes scant information about Handy’s philandering or the blindness that afflicted half his life—he supplies plentiful details about the career, the timeless blues compositions, the groundbreaking publishing company Handy established and the composer’s late-life attention to spirituals.

A solid appreciation that restores Handy to his rightful place in America’s music pantheon.

Pub Date: March 18, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-26609-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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