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Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life and Times of Doc Pomus Hardcover – February 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One of America's most popular songwriters was Jerome Felder, better known as "Doc Pomus." For decades he wrote big hits ("Save the Last Dance for Me," "This Magic Moment," "A Teenager in Love") for such artists as Dion, Fabian, the Drifters, Elvis and Dr. John. Pomus (1925–1991) himself was more of a blues story than anything he could have written. Halberstadt, who writes on music and pop culture, can be awkward writing about Pomus's intimate life, although he definitely knows his music history. The son in a New York working-class Jewish family, Pomus contracted polio when he was seven and lost the use of his legs. From then on, his life was all about music; he started bands, wrote music and promoted artists until the day he died. Halberstadt's understanding of how Jewish and African-American "hipster" subcultures fit together in the music world is particularly sharp. He takes readers to 1940s nightclubs where Pomus was the only white man around; hotel lobbies where Pomus spent afternoons listening for "the random brilliance of overheard speech"; and Pomus's hotel room when Bob Dylan came calling. This strangely affecting biography follows a straight chronology, including wonderful excerpts from Pomus's own diaries and a great selection of rarely seen photos. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Teenage Jerome Felder had never heard of a blues singer "who was crippled or white or a Jew" when he announced in a small club in Brooklyn, "I'm a blues singer . . and I'm here to do a song." Wearing leg braces necessitated by childhood polio, he closed his eyes, shouted out "Piney Brown" in his best Joe Turner style, and was somewhat astonished when he got applause. That night on the subway home, he became Doc Pomus. With that monicker, he achieved success as a blues singer and much more success as a writer of songs recorded by artists as diverse as the Dead Kennedys, Led Zeppelin, Tom Jones, and Dolly Parton. Furthermore, his death inspired Lou Reed's album Magic and Loss. Halberstadt's first book lovingly details Felder/Pomus' life in a streetwise style that makes even Doc's years with the Brill Building pop-song factory sound exciting. The story of this member of both the Rock and Roll and the Songwriters halls of fame is well worth acquiring for pop-music-intensive collections. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press Ed edition (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306813009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306813009
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Recommended reading for any music fan.
Doc Pomus was a remarkable man in many ways and his story is unique.
S. E. Morris
I was so riveted by this book that I read it in about 2 days.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
He was short and stubby. He'd had polio at 9; he couldn't walk without braces and crutches. To see this 16-year-old kid struggle to the stage of a Greenwich Village club in 1943 was to get a taste of what it was like to run into Toulouse Lautrec in a Paris cafe half a century earlier --- you knew this guy was....different.

His dreams, for starters. Jerome Felder wanted to stand in a boxing ring and, though he couldn't move, win the championship. Or fire unhittable fastballs from the pitcher's mound. And the women --- they'd be lined up for him.

In that club, though, Jerome connected with a dream that could come true. He got on stage and sang the only blues song he knew --- and people clapped. The next night, he was back, with a new confidence and a new name: Doc Pomus. He was on his way to becoming the greatest songwriter in the history of early rock `n roll.

There are books you read because you're interested in the subject. And then there are books you read because you just happen to pick them up --- and the next thing you knew, your mouth was dry, your heart was racing and you were turning the pages like the secret of life lay just ahead. "Lonely Avenue" was like that for me: a freight train with no brakes, bound for glory and ruin.

I have a soft spot for stories about people who make something out of nothing --- people who reach into their guts and share their deepest, rawest feelings in a form that makes us feel them too. The Doc Pomus story is the very best of that breed. A Brooklyn kid who didn't want to waste his life at a desk. A misfit who found his first home in black blues clubs.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on February 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
He wrote many of the lyrics you've sung to yourself again and again, his catchy phrases sticking in your head like musical seaweed in the tide basin of memory. He was intimate with the likes of Duke Ellington, Rodney Dangerfield, and John Lennon. Phil Spector depended on him, yet drove him crazy with his manic behavior. And with Elvis, the king of rock and roll, the two of them forged a musical partnership that swelled in the years just after Elvis' return from Germany after serving in the US Army and meeting Priscilla.

Who you might ask is this man? The one and only Doc Pomus who wrote SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME, TURN ME LOOSE, and HUSHABYE, among many other top ten hits. Long dismissed as a Tin Pan Alley relic, he regained popularity with a new host of musical imitators in the 1970s and 1980s, and Alex Halberstadt's impressionistic, moody biography takes us through the fabulous highs (marriage to two beautiful blondes) and lows (polio and a weight gain some estimated as soaring to 350 pounds). He spent his life on crutches, and later in life Eunice Shriver recruited him for the Special Olympics. I expect LONELY AVENUE to be a natural for best sellerdom not only among pop music fans but for course adoption in disability studies as well, since for the first time Halberstadt tries to show us how Pomus' disability guided and provided some of his most well known compositions-- SAVE THE LAST DANCE, for example, gains poignancy when you realize it was written by the proverbial wallflower.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Lee on May 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I met Doc Pomus in a treasured CD by Johnny Adams. Pomus' lyrics fascinate me. I have searched and found bits and pieces of his life. When I read a review of Lonely Avenue, I had to have it. I savored every word as I have a special place in my heart for musicians. I did not want to finish the book because I did not want him to die. I have loaned the book to friends who are musicians and loaned Johnny Adams' interpretation of his music also. Friends of my who are avid readers have been receiving this recommendation from me as "a person I would like to have known." Long Live Doc's Music!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K. G. allocco on June 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic new book. Among its many strengths is the fact that this is a book that can be appreciated and enjoyed by anyone. While it is a biography of a great American song writer, it is also a multi-dimensional work that offers readers glimpses into the history of New York City and its various neighborhoods, the evolution of American culture, the personal struggles of all its characters and the music industry. The book is also very personal and very human and is an inspiring piece about extraordianry and ordinary people. Anyone can read this book; no one needs to have a background in music history or to even love Elvis!

Halberstadt's book is very beautifully written. I was just as caught up with the writing as I was with the subject. I learned a great deal about America's famous musicians, but I also just loved the prose and the intimate details that the author included. Clearly, this book was exhautively researched and the author obviously labored lovingly over each sentence. I hope that Halberstadt will continue to publish books as I am eagerly looking forward to his next one.

I highly recommend this book. It is perfect for summer reading, for serious inquiry into American history, for book clubs, for college classes.... You will not be disappointed, and you will probably go out and buy lots of new music after reading it!
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