From Publishers Weekly
Sheed (Office Politics
), who won a 1987 Grammy Award for Best Album Notes (for Sinatra's The Voice
), spoke over the decades with many of these Great American Songbook creators and their families. In this book, he employs an informal, anecdotal approach as he looks back at the top tunesmiths of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and Hollywood. Composer Arthur Schwartz recalled that he dashed off the tune in 20 minutes after lyricist Howard Dietz casually remarked, What is life but dancing in the dark? Beginning with Gershwin and Irving Berlin, Sheed quotes numerous lyrics throughout his lilting, witty profiles (of Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Frank Loesser, Johnny Mercer, Richard Rodgers and others), plus brief comments on 57 more. Since Hurricane Katrina, Louis Alter's Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? has served as a national anthem, so the curt dismissal of Alter (more a swinging musician than a songwriter proper) is curious amid the many choruses of praise. Sheed soars on the wings of song with scintillating, lyrical writing. (July 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Although no musicologist, Wilfrid Sheed has been around the block. He has written acclaimed novels and nonfiction books, most notably on baseball and literature. Here, he displays a lifelong passion for jazz and recounts his interaction with some of the greats in this engaging, knowledgeable, opinionated, and occasionally-some of Sheed's more obscure references may lose the neophyte-aggravating look at the Golden Age of music in America. The House That George Built
doesn't reach the status of, say, Alec Wilder's American Popular Song
or Max Wilk's They're Playing Our Song
, in part because it's not meant to be a coherent, formal history of the period. But Sheed's book is a testament to the rich work that comes from a lifetime of devotion.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.