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Nice Work If You Can Get It: My Life in Rhythm and Rhyme Hardcover – October 12, 1995


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1977, Feinstein, who had since childhood been a passionate collector of records, sheet music and other material relating to classic American popular music, went to work for Ira Gershwin, cataloguing his private collection of rare recordings. This led to a close relationship with the aged lyricist during which he acted as the older man's archivist and formed a friendship that lasted until Gershwin's death in 1983. In his entertaining book, Feinstein tells of those years, his reverence for Gershwin and his subsequent career as a cabaret artist specializing in the interpretation of the music of the Gershwins and other American songwriters. He includes the story of the 1982 discovery, in a warehouse in Secaucus, N.J., of a cache of unpublished music manuscripts that included works by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart and Jerome Kern. Feinstein also relates the saga of his friend Harry Warren, a prolific songwriter who suffered lack of name recognition; and he offers a chapter on the art of writing song lyrics and a description of life as a piano-bar performer. Feinstein's enthusiasm for the music of the golden age of American popular songwriting is infectious. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Prior to emerging as a popular tuxedoed cabaret artist, Feinstein worked as Ira Gershwin's personal archivist. This book affords a fascinating glimpse into the bizarre Gershwin household late in Ira's life. We get a picture of Ira as a sweet, insecure, and weary old man, still obsessed with, and devoted to, his more famous, long-dead brother George. Ira's wife, Leonore, appears as a pill-popping and manipulative former flapper. It is strange that in this work, ostensibly an autobiography, we learn far more about the Gershwin family than about the author. Still, Feinstein's love of the American songbook is evident, and even if he is cagey about his personal life, the book is literally stuffed with interesting anecdotes about Harry Warren (for whom he also worked briefly), Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Irving Caesar, and others. And there is an insightful chapter on the art of writing and singing lyrics. Recommended for public libraries.
Michael Colby, Univ. of California, Davis
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1st edition (October 12, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786860936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786860937
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #479,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
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4 star
10%
3 star
20%
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See all 10 customer reviews
The perfect book for anyone interested in wordsmiths.
Gill B. Falson
Feinstein offers us an insiders look at the great lyricists and writers of the first half of the twentieth century.
inland sailor
Read this biography and learn of his glamorous life in California as a young piano player in bars.
Betty Burks

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you are a lover of good music and equally good writing, then "Nice Work If You Can Get It" is a must. The light and breezy style of Mr. Feinstein makes this one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. I literaly couldn't put it down and once I finished reading it, I started reading it again. Each reading provides me with new insite into this most talented of performers. His stories are fresh and informative. It's hard to believe that Michael didn't personally know the great songwriters and composers of the golden age. His writes about George and Ira Gershwin as if they were beloved members of his family, particularly his love for Ira who became almost a second father to him. If you are a lover of good music and good writing then "Nice Work If You Can Get It" is a must. Sit back, open the book and prepare yourself for a wonderful time, again and again.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 4, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Once you stop wondering why you should read an autobiography by someone still in his late 30's, you'll find that "Nice Work If You Can Get It" isn't really an autobiography at all, but rather a story about a young man's fascination with the standard American songbook,and where this interest has led him.
You've got to admire a young kid in the rock era who gets himself involved with one of the great lyricists of our song legacy, for Feinstein's enthrallment with popular songs led to a working and personal relationship with Ira Gershwin. That all came about via Oscar Levant. Feinstein became engrossed with the story of Levant, and when a spiritualist told him that in an aura around Michael, she saw a man in a rumpled suit who chain-smoked, Feinstein decided it was Levant. He called Oscar's widow, June Levant, and eventually she agreed to let him help catalogue much of her husband's record collection. Instead of pay, Michael asked to be introduced to Ira Gershwin.
And that was the start of a beautiful friendship, a mentorship, and the priceless opportunity to meet other premier songwriters like Harry Warren and Burton Lane. Just as Michael Feinstein entertains on stage with infectious enthusiasm, this same energy and youthful pride in his own achievement comes through in his book. His admirable knowledge of our popular music makes for informative reading; his love for the music makes one appreciative that this young kid followed his dream.
-Elizabeth Ahlfors
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rosella Ann Myles on January 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Michael Feinstein writes a very informative as well as entertaining book, tha gives an insiht to famous composers and lyricist of the golden age, like George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Jerome Kern. It's a lot about his life experiences mmeeting and befriending Ira Gershwin. It's well worth reaing, and there's many interesting stories he has to tell, at times happy, sometimes sad, as well as humerous.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By country diva on April 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm very glad I bought this book. I learned things about the George and Ira and other lyricists I never knew before; I am a "word" person; always listening to the lyrics to songs; love reading the bios of famous and not so famous lyricists of the 20's, 30's, and so on; if you like the music from this time period you will enjoy reading this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Schwartz on June 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is an extraordinarily interesting book for those who care about the songs from the first half of the last century that became "standards," and the people and circumstances that produced them. Barely out of high school, Feinstein was such an avid collector and cataloger of the output of the great songwriters and performers that he came to be introduced to the circle, in Los Angeles, of legends who were forgotten but not gone -- Ira and Leonore Gershwin, Harry Warren, Rosemary Clooney, June Levant .... He became a paid secretary to the remarkable lyricist Ira Gershwin, and informally to the great composer of melodies (Jeepers Creepers, I Only Have Eyes For You, 42nd Street) Harry Warren, in the years before their deaths in the early 1980s. He draws on their stories, those of many others who lived beyond the eras in which their songs and talents were in greatest demand, and his own experiences in his climb from piano bar to elite nightclubs and concert halls. He doesn't pull punches or hide his own opinions, about people as well as musical and other issues. Worth it for a raft of funny stories about one-liners, singing telegrams, and quirky personalities. Doesn't matter whether he's a favorite singer of yours or not. Just a great book.
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