THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM IRVING, COLE, AND A CREW OF ABOUT FIFTY

The masters of American popular song sit for a series of often-flawed profiles.

National Book Award nominee Sheed (In Love with Daylight, 1995, etc.) brings felicitous wit to essays on Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Jerome Kern, among others. In Hollywood, he writes, “even Siamese twins are likely to wind up just good friends…” Sheed says his approach to songwriting is “circumstantial.” So, at his best, he illuminates the work of Johnny Mercer and Jimmy van Heusen, for example, with keen insight. He explains how Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Paramount Pictures, booze, broads, World Wars I and II and their aftermaths led to songs such as “Here’s That Rainy Day” and “It Had to Be You.” Other profiles falter, as Sheed veers off into one topic or another. Cole Porter’s secret gay life draws more attention than his classic music and lyrics. (Sheed consistently downplays the effect of lyrics, saying they’re “simply verbal clichés about emotional clichés.”) He begins Richard Rodgers’ profile claiming the composer “generated practically no gossip.” But after detailing Rodgers’ infidelities, depression and alcoholism, Sheed concludes that Rodgers acquired “the equivalent of a police dossier in gossip.” Sheed’s contentions will provoke strong disagreement. Although many think Show Boat’s theme of miscegenation brought maturity to American musicals, Sheed states that without Jerome Kern’s glorious score, the musical would “be laughed off the stage, not to mention jeered off.” And although Sheed’s passion for his subject is evident, errors in fact and chronology mar his work. Bloomer Girl appeared on Broadway not at the start of World War II but at the end of it. Roger Edens, not Arthur Freed, produced the film Funny Face. And transistor radios went on the market in 1954, not 1945.

More flat than sharp.

Pub Date: July 3, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6105-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more