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Can't Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell Hardcover – November 9, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

If the test of an autobiography is whether the reader comes to know (and like) the subject, then Farrell succeeds admirably with this frank and charming account of her extraordinary career. She doesn't gloss over mistakes or weaknesses; nor does she quote endlessly from her reviews. In short, she appears genuinely modest while being honest about her abilities and successes. Her singing career was unique, with enormous success both in classical music and jazz. She worked with many famous singers and conductors of her time and doesn't hold back her blunt opinions of them. She explains the brevity of her career at the Metropolitan Opera, her controversial teaching career at Indiana University, and her rewarding experience with the Bach Aria Group. Many of her recordings have recently been reissued on compact disc, making this a perfect time for the first book about her career to appear. Recommended for academic and public library collections.AKate McCaffrey, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Music buffs will love this spirited memoir from a world-renowned dramatic soprano who combined opera and pop in her controversial repertoire and shunned the role of prima donna in favor of Staten Island housewife. Born to a musical Irish Catholic family, Farrell had her own program on WCBS by the time she was 20. Her radio repertoire was largely arias and art songs, but she was also experimenting with popular music. After marriage to a New York City policemana pairing that triggered her image as a blue collar housewife with a voiceand the birth of her son, Farrell set out on the concert and recital circuit. She performed with most of the major conductors, and pulls no punches in commenting on her colleagues. Arthur Fiedler, for instance, was ``one of the world's worst. Thomas Schippers and Leonard Bernstein, on the other hand, were ``the two best singers' conductors I ever worked with.'' A stint in Hollywood to provide the voice in a film bio of Metropolitan opera star Margery Lawrence, and frequent radio and television appearances (Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnett), kept her name before the general public, as did a blues album and two concurrent classical recordings. Once Farrell entered the classical pantheon with a concert version of Medea, her first full-length opera performance, the call finally came from Metropolitan Opera general manager Rudolph Bing. But after only five seasons at the Met, her relationship with Bing, wary to begin with, ``worked [its] way up to intense dislike.'' Post-Met, she taught, continued to concertize, and, after her husband died in 1986, cut a series of popular albums, the last issued in 1995. Now 79, Farrell no longer performs publicly but has some cogent comments on the current musical scene. An unpretentious story of carving out a memorable singing career sans substance abuse and tantrumsthough it certainly helps to have a magnificent voice. (b&w photos) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Northeastern (November 9, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555534066
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555534066
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,142,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dennis J. Pauly on December 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Eileen Farrell is the only opera star to date who can sing pop songs and not sound like an opera singer. Just listen to her dazzing CD THE EILEEN FARRELL ALBUM where she sounds like a red hot mama. Her biography is well done. She tells it like it was. She never starved along the way for quite soon after arriving in New York she had her own radio show. The book is delightful throughout as she talks about TV, the Met and her family. She grinds no axes nor does not paint the world through rose colored glasses. It is a great read by a delightful lady.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "thekapper" on January 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is tremedously fun to read. I am a fan of the pop singer Eileen Farrell -- but I'm not an opera fan -- so I was thrilled to discover it reads more like a romp through the history of entertainment in America than a libretto. I'm not sure how Brian Kellow did it, but the writing makes me feel as if Eileen Farrel was calling me up to dish about anything and everything. Her sense of humor and (delicious!) candor are a treat!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Eileen Farrell is one of the most gifted and celebrated American singers of the twentieth century. She is both a classically trained dramatic soprano and a talented songstress of pop songs and the blues. Can't Help Singing: The Life Of Eileen Farrell is a superbly crafted memoir in which she shares candid reminiscences about her professional career and her personal life. With humor and affection she surveys her New England childhood, her sudden success at the age of twenty starring in her own CBS radio show, dubbing for Eleanor Parker in the MGM movie "Interrupted Melody", her many guest appearances on television, and her operatic work, including an historic debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Alceste in 1960. Eileen also recollects her sometimes troubled marriage of forty years to New York police officer Robert Reagan and her frustrating tenure as a faculty member at Indiana University. In this wonderful memoir we meet the famous figures of music who were her contemporaries, fellow performers, and associates from Leonard Bernstein to Maria Callas, from Ethel Merman to Carol Burnett. Can't Help Singing is a marvelous biography that will hold great interest and appeal for her many fans and for students of 20th Century American music.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
It's like sitting across the table from the great Farrell, over a cup of coffee and listening to her tell you stories of her career. She is honest, self-deprecating and funny. While this book was neither deep nor insightful, it was a great read and enjoyable. It is also well-written, keeping the story moving in an interesting, readable way. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys Farrell's singing (in whatever genre).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By W. Russell on September 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Do not confuse this witty, sparkling memoir with the stilted, egocentric ("I" this and "I" that) memoirs you may have encountered. Farrell, one of the Met's most underused artists - yet one of its greatest, writes with charm and style that enthrall the reader making us wish she had easily written a book twice as long. Brava! Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a great read and "meeting" a great lady.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SDP on June 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thank you, Eileen Farrell, for a wonderful career and for your candor in telling your very personal and inspiring story. I couldn't put the book down! As a professional singer myself, I found your experiences from your innocence at the first audition to your regular radio show moving and encouraging. Your book is as honest and refreshing as your performances and a must-read for even those with no interest in opera.
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