I HAD THE CRAZIEST DREAM: Helen Forrest and the Big-Band Era by Helen with Bill Libby Forrest

I HAD THE CRAZIEST DREAM: Helen Forrest and the Big-Band Era

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Helen Forrest, #1 big-band singer in the early Forties, emerges as a likable lady in this autobiography--but the book itself, unfortunately, is light on both drama and music, heavy instead on padding and repetition. Forrest starts out with the only emotionally charged material here: her affair with bandleader Harry James (""the greatest lover in the world"") and her hysterical reaction when Harry--""the most faithless son of a gun who ever lived""--dumped her for Betty Grable. Then she goes back to her Brooklyn-Jewish childhood (rotten mother and lecherous stepfather), her early work in clubs and on radio, the start of her Big Band career: in 1938 she joined Artie Shaw's band, briefly knew Billie Holiday (""I was white and she was black and the gap between us. . . was just too much""), and was soon nationally known. Artie temporarily closed up shop in '39, however, so Helen moved over to cold, inconsiderate Benny Goodman--""by far the most unpleasant person I ever met in music."" (""He called everyone 'Pops.' He even called me 'Pops.' He just couldn't be bothered to remember anyone's name."") And then came Harry James--along with romance, a nose job (Helen never liked her looks), and Helen's insistence that vocal arrangements be built around her, not the band. (""I wanted to start the song and end the song."") As for the rest: a tribute to the late Dick Haymes, regrets over her career's decline (till the nostalgia revival), health problems, a series of bad marriages (""I sing all these love songs, but love has passed me by""), motherhood, and quotes from reviews. So: okay for old fans--who'll appreciate the reprinted lyrics of some hit songs--but of little wider interest.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1982
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan