A music historian with a fine interpretive ear for both music and language examines the collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin- -in what is not a biography but rather a nontechnical study of how the Gershwins' music, lyrics, and sense of drama are interrelated. With the help of in-depth interviews with Ira Gershwin, Rosenberg (Music Theater Program/NYU; The Brothers Gershwin, 1989- -not reviewed; coauthor, The Music Makers, 1978) traces the creative development of the major Gershwin songs and shows. After a short discussion of the brothers' upbringing and exceedingly different temperaments (``We never had much in common as kids,'' Ira recalled. ``I was always home reading...[George] would get into street fights and come home with black eyes''), she launches into a wide-ranging discussion of Rhapsody in Blue and ``The Man I Love,'' the breakthrough song in which the Gershwins first discovered their ``ability to make a song intrinsically dramatic.'' Next comes an examination of Lady, Be Good; here, Rosenberg cites one major reason why the brothers—-especially at first—-were so different from other collaborators: In the early days of musical comedy, stars were chosen and songs composed before the ``book'' (i.e., plotline, dialogue) was written, a separatist approach very much against the symbiotic Gershwin instinct. Other chapters study such shows as Oh, Kay! and Girl Crazy and explain such pivotal details as how George's ``blue'' notes affect the meaning of Ira's words. The chapter on Porgy and Bess is especially interesting. ``Above all,'' writes Rosenberg, ``Porgy and Bess is suffused with two [Gershwin] characteristics....The first is a depiction of deep loneliness....The second...is an appreciation of a diverse national character.'' Though at times too detailed for the general reader, Rosenberg's straightforward prose is a pleasure. Intriguing and insightful, casting new light on the Gershwin genius. (Black-and-white photographs; score samples.)
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)
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").