A Gershwin run-through, by the biographer of Bernstein (1987) and Boulez (1976): a disjointed mix of familiar anecdotes, so-so musicology, rancid gossip, and psychobabble. The supposed Big Story here is Gershwin's illegitimate son- -born in 1926, Peyser claims, to actress Mollie Charleston, but raised as ``Alan Schneider'' by Mollie's sister and brother-in-law. The primary sources are iffy: a former Gershwin valet and Alan himself, who has admittedly suffered from amnesia. Moreover, Peyser's own credibility is severely compromised by her inclusion, throughout the book, of thirdhand rumors about other illegitimate children and Gershwin's sexual habits. (At one point, we're told what someone said his psychiatrist said another patient said about Gershwin.) Nor are the Gershwin family portraits entirely convincing. According to Peyser, George himself, raised by rejecting parents, was a narcissist with low self-esteem, incapable of real feeling; wounded by bad reviews in the 1930's, he internalized his anger and wound up with a brain tumor. (According to Peyser's medical consultants, it started growing years before he died.) Brother Ira, a blur here, was ``virtually pathological when it came to money,'' under the thumb of ``cruel,'' ``rapacious'' wife Leonore. And there are unsatisfying glimpses of George's many girlfriends, with only Kay Swift emerging as more than a clutch of innuendos. As for the music, Peyser offers the standard ``torn between two worlds'' story: the facile songwriter straining for concert-hall greatness. Her analysis of the symphonic work is serviceable, but her treatment of the songs is unacceptably sketchy, with a thesis—Ira's lyrics tell George's life-story—that doesn't work. Gershwin's dark side may merit more attention than it's gotten in the past, but Peyser's version is too shrill and unscholarly to be taken seriously. Stick with Edward Jablonski (Gershwin, 1987), Deena Rosenberg (Fascinating Rhythm, 1991), and the other more balanced Gershwin commentators. (Thirty-two pages of b&w photographs)

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-70948-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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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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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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