An enjoyable slice of 20th-century music journalism almost certain to provide something for most readers, no matter one’s...

DYLAN GOES ELECTRIC!

NEWPORT, SEEGER, DYLAN, AND THE NIGHT THAT SPLIT THE SIXTIES

Music journalist and musician Wald (Talking 'Bout Your Mama: The Dozens, Snaps, and the Deep Roots of Rap, 2014, etc.) focuses on one evening in music history to explain the evolution of contemporary music, especially folk, blues, and rock.

The date of that evening is July 25, 1965, at the Newport Folk Festival, where there was an unbelievably unexpected occurrence: singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, already a living legend in his early 20s, overriding the acoustic music that made him famous in favor of electronically based music, causing reactions ranging from adoration to intense resentment among other musicians, DJs, and record buyers. Dylan has told his own stories (those stories vary because that’s Dylan’s character), and plenty of other music journalists have explored the Dylan phenomenon. What sets Wald's book apart is his laser focus on that one date. The detailed recounting of what did and did not occur on stage and in the audience that night contains contradictory evidence sorted skillfully by the author. He offers a wealth of context; in fact, his account of Dylan's stage appearance does not arrive until 250 pages in. The author cites dozens of sources, well-known and otherwise, but the key storylines, other than Dylan, involve acoustic folk music guru Pete Seeger and the rich history of the Newport festival, a history that had created expectations smashed by Dylan. Furthermore, the appearances on the pages by other musicians—e.g., Joan Baez, the Weaver, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Dave Van Ronk, and Gordon Lightfoot—give the book enough of an expansive feel. Wald's personal knowledge seems encyclopedic, and his endnotes show how he ranged far beyond personal knowledge to produce the book.

An enjoyable slice of 20th-century music journalism almost certain to provide something for most readers, no matter one’s personal feelings about Dylan's music or persona.

Pub Date: July 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-236668-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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