A very much less than definitive biography of one of our greatest jazz performers. Clarke (editor, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music) relies heavily on interviews conducted in 197073 by Linda Lipnack Kuehl, who apparently hoped to write a biography of Holiday (she died before she could complete her work). Holiday's (191559) life story is well known, and Clarke does an adequate job of tracing her rise and fall, from her illegitimate birth in Baltimore and her reform-school years through her stormy reunion with her natural mother, who may also have served as her part-time pimp. Holiday showed a natural talent for singing and was soon working the after- hours clubs. By the mid-'30s, she was recording with legendary pianist Teddy Wilson and touring with Count Basie and Artie Shaw. Her greatest years were few, however, due to her proclivity for abusive relationships (with a series of male managers who also served as lovers, drug dealers, and ``financial managers'') and her growing dependence on heroin. Clarke traces her decline through the '50s, sparing no details of her increasingly erratic behavior. While he obviously idolizes Holiday, Clarke is fairly evenhanded in his descriptions of the musicians and lovers who were part of her life, although his dislike for famed producer John Hammond (whom he contemptuously calls ``one of the great white gods'' of the music industry) is evident. Clarke's analysis of Holiday's recordings are filled with clichÇs (``The music in Heaven is like this'') and such ham-fisted assertions as his suggestion that Holiday achieved the status of a Christian icon, ``an image of something sacred...because she was granted Grace.'' Surely, the greatest voice in jazz deserves an equally compelling biography; for now, her own Lady Sings the Blues, although deeply flawed in its factual account, remains the best introduction to her life and work. (24 pages b&w photos, 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").
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)