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Customer Review

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chinese take-out, a bottle of gin, and thou: a superb biography of Billie Holiday, February 3, 2009
This review is from: Billie Holiday: Wishing On The Moon (Paperback)
When writing about American jazz, Donald Clarke's prose style is often that of the hip insider: he captures Billie Holiday's world in a way no other biography or study of the singer has managed to do. This is neither a straightforward narrative or a cautionary tale, and readers attempting to breeze through its pages in order to pick off the highlights may well be thrown by Clarke's casual story telling, which is given to warm-hearted floating asides, including descriptions of sessions and performances, and analysis of individual records, all of it interspersed with vivid and often lengthy comments from his interviewees. Clarke cares deeply for this woman, his patience seems inexhaustible, and his anger at the racism and stupidity of the times can make a page tremble without disrupting the cool assurance of his methods, but he also has a sense of humor in all this: you have to love a biography that gives the last word to pianist Jimmy Rowles, whose affectionate two page monologue ends with Billie tucked into bed with Chinese take-out and a bottle of gin for company.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 8, 2009 2:11:10 PM PDT
Nice piece, but my name is not Stanley and I am not British.

Donald Clarke

Posted on Feb 26, 2015 6:52:31 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 26, 2015 6:57:03 PM PST
Yes, you missed the author's name (!) and his country of origin, BUT you captured the flavor for sure. Reading your review was a welcomed piece of jazzy writing that hit the right notes ending with my visualization of our Lady Day in bed with her booze and Chinese bounty.

I'm buying this book because I just finished Mr. Clarke's ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL, the finest Sinatra bio I've read--and I've read many! I grew up at that time, saw all his films, played his music (still do!), & looked over at his table at the Villa Capri in Hollywood many times. I also saw him open for the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in 1993 just 5 years before his death. The author REALLY captured this most fascinating man in all his complexities & contradictions, his magic and his shocking meanness. The research is exhaustive & the book is superbly crafted. (I am most definitely NOT a "groupie": Sinatra mesmerized all ages of admirers in all walks of life like no one else other has.)

But I also would have bought BILLIE HOLIDAY on the basis of your review alone.

Thank you, Mr. Clarke! And thank you, David P.
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