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Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael Paperback – October 30, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (October 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195168984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195168983
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,027,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This first full biography of Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981), a major jazz singer/songwriter, is a dense labor of love. Sudhalter (Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contributions to Jazz) admits to being driven by thoughts of obsolescence: "How quick we are to discard, to expunge what's not immediately relevant to us," he laments. "Surely it wasn't all that long ago that Hoagy Carmichael wise, thoughtful, casual in a grown-up, seen-it-all way was a familiar, even reassuring, presence in our midst." Sudhalter skillfully blends cultural and personal history, demonstrating how growing up in Indiana, a racial and musical crossroads for myriad touring musicians and entertainers, profoundly influenced Carmichael. Sudhalter paints vivid pictures, trying to divine the biographical inspiration for such Carmichael hits as "Ole Buttermilk Sky," "Georgia on My Mind" and "Lazy River." At times, Sudhalter's detailed notes on composition weigh heavily on the narrative. It's hard to imagine that the new audience Sudhalter hopes to entice would derive much pleasure from his scholarly dissections. Thankfully, the stiff bits are drummed between long runs of imaginative exposition. Sudhalter draws from numerous interviews, archival material, recorded music and Carmichael's personal papers to show that the laid-back man at the piano, cigarette dangling from his lips, was, for the most part, image. Carmichael, far from being carefree, embodies the American myth hardworking, self-taught, recognized for his efforts and pushed aside by the next big thing: rock and roll. (Apr.) recordings Stardust Melody, featuring some of Carmichael's most famous songs along with rare and previously unreleased tracks (RCA/Victor, Mar.); Stardust Melody Beloved and Rare Songs, compiled by Sudhalter (Challenge Records, Feb.); and a five-CD set (JSP Records, Apr.).
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Jazz trumpeter and author Sudhalter (Lost Chords) admirably fills a gap in the literature on American popular music with this biography of songwriter and performer Carmichael (1899-1981), whose own had been the only readily available sources of information. Chronicled here are Carmichael's personal life and musical development, from his early years at Indiana University through his time in Florida, New York City, Hollywood, and later Palm Springs, CA. Probably best remembered for writing popular songs (e.g., "Star Dust," "Heart and Soul"), he also played piano and sang, acted in movies, hosted television revues, composed serious music ("Johnny Appleseed Suite"), and painted with varying degrees of success. Sudhalter's entertaining yet straightforward style propels the narrative forward, and the musical examples are a plus. The exhaustive research, including interviews with Carmichael's relatives and colleagues, makes this essential for all popular music, American culture, or Indiana collections. (Photographs not seen.) Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Rick Kennedy on September 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
We owe Richard Sudhalter for preserving the often-forgotten history of America's early jazz pioneers and composers. His subjects are white musicians, but he doesn't write about them with a nasty political agenda. He just doesn't want their contributions to be forgotten. Along the way, he pays warm tribute to the black musicians who led the musical revolution. Unfortunately, politically-charged reviewers refuse to see this.
I especially love this Sudhalter work. Sadly, Hoagy is becoming a forgotten genius of American song. Duke Ellington once called him America's greatest songwriter, and Sudhalter goes a long way in providing the evidence to such a claim. I especially enjoyed the focus on Hoagy's home state of Indiana, which was an amazing hotbed for jazz in the 1920s. One should take this book and drive around Bloomington, Indiana, and find all of the haunts described in rich detail by Sudhalter. Then go to Indianapolis, and Richmond, Indiana. Sudhalter really did us all a huge favor in providing such a wonderful document.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By chris dant on July 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My father, Bud Dant, is prominently featured in this book, as a man who helped Hoagy write down Stardust and I grew up hearing about the stories and now here they all are in a book...not just a book, but what I know is an extremely accurate and real account of Hoagy's life...the writing is terrific and Richard's obvious love of the music and times shows in his accounts...I know for a fact he researched this material exhaustively...it shows! It pretty much dwarfs all other books on Hoagy.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Brady L. Buchanan on April 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Whatta life! From poverty to great wealth based on musical talent of creating songs as well as a wonderful actor. He had many highlights writing songs and acting but after rock & roll took over the musical scene his talents went for nothing as no youth were interested.
Mr. Sudhalter covers Hoagy's entire life and an interesting one it was. The writing in many places is of a "text book" nature, but the content of relating Hoagy's life puts the reader in the center of life as it existed in the 20's through the 60's. Apparently Hoagy's type of music is gone forever which is a loss without question. New generations continue on and what was usually stays behind as merely history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tom Without Pity on September 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
STARDUST MELODY: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF HOAGY CARMICHAEL by Richard M. Sudhalter
published by Oxford University Press in 2002.

Stardust Melody: the life of Hoagy Carmichael is a fine biography by Richard M. Sudhalter about the composer of Stardust and many other fine, sometimes wistful popular songs which seemed to gain their peak of popularity from the mid 1930s into the early 1950s.

Composer Hoagy Carmichael was sometimes pictured as a somewhat passive vessel of fine pop tunes which apparently came to him by divine inspiration with just a minimal amount of keyboard labor. But the truth is, as Mr. Sudhalter points out,
that hard work begets inspiration as much if not more than anything else.
And Hoagy Carmichael,despite his "nothin' to it" demeanor labored mightily for many of his tunes including some of those that were not commercially successful but were nontheless beautiful compositions.

Mr. Sudhalter recreates the world of Hoagy Carmichael, who once he got on board the Hollywood Movie Music express became a fairly wealthy man who did not have to worry about his next meal, much less his family's welfare. Hoagy Carmichael
prospered in that world and did not want to leave it, building one success upon another but never forgetting his jazz background and always seemed to maintain a sense of authenticity around him because of that background.

Hoagy Carmichael became a successful actor because of that sense of authenticity around him, and his laid back comfortable persona was used in more than a few films and even for one season, a late 1950s TV western series.
Mr.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. W. Best on September 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Hoagy Carmichael was one of the most influential jazz composers of the 20th century and wrote some of the great standards from the accepted "American Songbook." When we fall in love with the songs of any great songwriter, we often forget the negative factors that shaped their lives. This biography offers a fair portrayal of a great artist, but also a man with very human failings. Learning of his early feelings of inadequacy and insecurity only made me hear his music with a greater sensitivity to its beauty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. F. Isaacs on February 12, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author is a practitioner of the fantastic romantic watercolor school of jazz writing, where all musicians are legends and heroes, and where suggestion is better than telling. Facts are dull and he'd rather weave tales on an enchanted loom.
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