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Three Chords for Beauty's Sake: The Life of Artie Shaw Hardcover – May 3, 2010
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“Absorbing… fascinating.” (David Gates - The New York Times Book Review)
“Nolan reconsiders the swing clarinetist-bandleader in a beautifully measured, unforgiving account… An exemplary work of jazz biography.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Every great artist deserves a great biography, and Swing Era bandleader and clarinetist Artie Shaw finally has one… Nolan has crafted a well-written, highly entertaining, and informative biography.” (Library Journal)
“Enthralling… [Nolan] gives the satisfactions of a true rags-to-riches story, complete with the spice of glamorous marriages and flings (with Lee Wiley, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, etc.), and plausibly accounts for Shaw’s huge character faults without obscuring his charm and prodigious talent.” (Booklist)
“Tom Nolan has a great story to tell and he knows precisely how to tell it, fast and deadpan, abetted by the irascible Shaw himself―a serial husband, detached father, and full time autodidact who may have been the finest clarinet virtuoso of all time.” (Gary Giddins, author of Warning Shadows and Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams)
“[A]t last, the lively, continually imaginative life of the most creative clarinetist in jazz history and an orchestra leader who not only produced hits but also new dimensions of this music.” (Nat Hentoff, author of At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years at the Jazz Scene)
“In this riveting biography, Tom Nolan recovers the genius, the legend, the ego and blocked emotions of an enigmatic American icon.” (Kevin Starr, University of Southern California)
“[C]ompulsively readable.” (Daniel Akst - Wall Street Journal)
Top Customer Reviews
The Life of Artie Shaw
A biography of clarinetist Artie Shaw has been published. Its title is Three Chords for Beauty's Sake...The Life of Artie Shaw, W.W. Horton Co., by Tom Nolan. While this biography is a welcome survey of Shaw's life, it is far from definitive. Mr. Nolan, like many interviewers, researchers, and documentarists before him, devotes far too many pages to quoting Mr. Shaw, thus perpetuating many of Shaw's "rationalizing smokescreens", as they were so aptly described by Gunther Schuller in his book The Swing Era (Oxford University Press, 1989). Mr. Nolan might have been able to get away with this if he had balanced Shaw's version of reality with independent research. Unfortunately, the balance in this biography is tilted in the direction of Shaw's recollections, and his unseemly rants against most of his colleagues in the music profession, which undercuts the authoritativeness of this biography.
Nevertheless, Mr. Nolan did do some original research (as opposed to citing to periodicals or memoirs). He located information about the birth and death dates of Shaw's parents, and about Shaw's various childhood homes. He also interviewed a number of persons who either lived with Artie Shaw or worked closely with him over lengthy periods of time, especially in the later decades of Shaw's life. The information gleaned from those interviews assists greatly in trying to understand Artie Shaw.
Most notable among these were the recollections of Joanne Lupton, who lived with Shaw from 1973 to 1980. Ms. Lupton, now Dr.Read more ›
While the book gives way to his miserable childhood with an unsympathetic old world father, a smothering mother, poverty, anti-semitism, and abandoment (by way of his disappearing father), it fails to explain his dreadful behavior or what made him the way he appeared to be. Artie Shaw was a self-made man and no doubt a musical genius and perfectionist, but he was also a mean and belittling husband to many women who were intelligent and beautiful, and he was never more neglectful than when it came to his two sons whom he had little to no relationship with. After many years of an Artie enforced estrangement he refused to visit his mother when she was dying.
This book works in the sense that it does an excellent job of chronicling Shaw's career with its many high points, tumultuous romances and marriages, and Shaw's varied interests. It doesn't really explain why Shaw abandoned the clarinet in 1954 and it really never explains all the voids in his personal behavior. While I think author Tom Nolan did a remarkable job with the information he had, I don't think he could fabricate a soul for Artie Shaw and I don't think anyone could.
This book is interesting, but its also frustrating in that Shaw is so elusive. I don't think anyone really knew him.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm not that familiar with Shaw's music, but my folks liked him, so I'd heard about him. I read the book because it sounded like Shaw was an interesting personality. Read morePublished 4 days ago by farington
I was never much of a fan of Artie Shaw - preferring instead Glenn Miller, Harry James, and Tommy Dorsey. Read morePublished 3 months ago by CJS
Please note that this book was published under the title Artie Shaw: King of the Clarinet His Life and Times.Published 3 months ago by C. Freeborn
Fascinating insight into the life of one of America's Jazz Giants! Held me all the way through!Published 22 months ago by Robert C. Price
Read and you will gain insight into the complete Artie Shaw and not just the musician. He was a complex person. You'll have to read it. Read morePublished on June 19, 2013 by Jorge Barbarosa
I am a very long-time fan of Artie Shaw, as a clarinetist, bandleader, and of his various orchestras and small groups over the years. Read morePublished on May 19, 2012 by Murray713
A couple years back I read Artie Shaw's autobiography, published in 1954, The Trouble with Cinderella. I went away from that with a pretty positive impression of the guy. Read morePublished on February 17, 2011 by Andrew Adelmann