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OTIS REDDING

AN UNFINISHED LIFE

Better late than never, the soul master receives his considerable due in this superbly researched and written biography.

A music biography with the depth to do its subject justice.

Otis Redding (1941-1967) ranks high in the pantheon of 1960s musical luminaries, so it’s fitting that this biography ranks equally high among such work focusing on popular musical artists. With full cooperation from Redding’s widow and family, along with many involved in his management, his music, and his recording and touring career, Gould (Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America, 2007), a former professional musician, illuminates the life and work of an artist who flourished during an era when the mainstream press gave scant attention to soul singers and the emerging rock press was just beginning to come to terms with Redding’s music. In fact, following the plane crash that took the life of the 26-year-old in December 1967, “Otis’s death inspired an outpouring of publicity that far exceeded the sum of what was written about him during his life.” Gould also provides deep context regarding the racial relations and politics that informed Redding’s progression from high school dropout and Little Richard imitator to the artist whose achievement gave Stax Records its distinctive identity and whose galvanizing performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival suggested even greater things to come. Rock impresario Bill Graham, who presented Redding for the rock crowd at his Fillmore West, said “in terms of all the people I’ve seen on stage since then…[Otis] hasn’t been equaled. There’s nothing close.” Yet just months after his coronation at Monterey, Redding was dead, a victim of wintry Midwest conditions and an inexperienced pilot. He left behind a posthumous masterpiece, “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay,” that sounded like nothing he had previously recorded and seemed to indicate not only artistic growth, but a change in direction.

Better late than never, the soul master receives his considerable due in this superbly researched and written biography.

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-307-45394-5

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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