Wednesday, February 29, 2012

GRG Recap - Music & Musicians

The Genre Reading Group rocked it out last night with a discussion of books about music and musicians.  From the science of music & the brain to urban legends to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, we talked about it all.  There are so many facets to the impact of music on our lives that it would've been impossible to have comprehensive discussion, but the group enjoyed ranging far and wide on the books we read.

We'll be reading fiction next month and the topic is magical realism.  There is a large display of these books at the second floor Reference Desk so please do stop by and check one (or more!!) out, even if you can't make it to the March 27 GRG meeting to join in the discussion.

On to the list!

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks
With the same trademark compassion and erudition he brought to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks explores the place music occupies in the brain and how it affects the human condition. In Musicophilia, he shows us a variety of what he calls “musical misalignments.” Among them: a man struck by lightning who suddenly desires to become a pianist at the age of forty-two; an entire group of children with Williams syndrome, who are hypermusical from birth; people with “amusia,” to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans; and a man whose memory spans only seven seconds-for everything but music. Illuminating, inspiring, and utterly unforgettable, Musicophilia is Oliver Sacks' latest masterpiece.

Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller

Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon remain among the most enduring and important women in popular music. Each woman is distinct. Carole King is the product of outer-borough, middle-class New York City; Joni Mitchell is a granddaughter of Canadian farmers; and Carly Simon is a child of the Manhattan intellectual upper crust. They collectively represent, in their lives and their songs, a great swath of American girls who came of age in the late 1960s. Their stories trace the arc of the now mythic sixties generation -- female version -- but in a bracingly specific and deeply recalled way, far from cliché. The history of the women of that generation has never been written -- until now, through their resonant lives and emblematic songs.

Filled with the voices of many dozens of these women's intimates, who are speaking in these pages for the first time, this alternating biography reads like a novel -- except it's all true, and the heroines are famous and beloved. Sheila Weller captures the character of each woman and gives a balanced portrayal enriched by a wealth of new information.

Girls Like Us is an epic treatment of midcentury women who dared to break tradition and become what none had been before them -- confessors in song, rock superstars, and adventurers of heart and soul.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:  I thought there was a film made from this book, but I don't see any evidence of that.  The book was optioned in 2008 however.  The movie I was thinking about was actually The Runaways, starring Kristen Stewart, released in 2010 and adapted from the book Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway by Cherie Currie.  PBS Arts has a special called Women Who Rock, exploring the phenomenon of the women who are the 21st century's top-grossing recording artists.

Music Fell on Alabama by Christopher Fuqua
Music Fell on Alabama is the story of the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, music industry, which began with Rick Hall's single Fame Studios and exploded to turn the Shoals into a thriving music hot spot. Competition and jealousy threatened to end the Shoals' story before it began, as the area quickly began attracting the attention of a who's who of stars, including Bob Seger, Cher, the Osmonds, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, and Lynard Skynard.

Who Were the Beatles? by Geoff Edgers
Almost everyone can sing along with the Beatles, but how many young readers know their whole story?  Geoff Edgers, a Boston Globe reporter and hard-core Beatles fan, brings the Fab Four to life in this Who Was...? book.  Readers will learn about their Liverpudlian childhoods, their first forays into rock music, what Beatlemania was like, and why they broke up.  It's all here in an easy-to-read narrative with plenty of black-and-white illustrations!

The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock and Roll by Eric Segalstad
When Delta bluesman Robert Johnson died poisoned by whiskey in 1938, he started a mysterious pattern of premature deaths among rock & roll musicians at age 27.

The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll tells the fascinating and complete story about music's most eclectic phenomenon. In addition to stories & anecdotes about the lives and legacies of thirty-four 27s, the book delves into numerical and astrological meanings behind the number 27.
Adding tension to a gripping narrative, The 27s is beautifully illustrated throughout and the art complements or create visual tangents intended to draw the reader further in to The 27s' universe.

Inventive use of maps, timelines, and sidebars aid the reader with a sense of place, additional information, pop cultural placeholders, and more.

The 27s include crooner Jesse Belvin ("Earth Angel," "Goodnight My Love"), Rudy Lewis of the Drifters, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Malcolm Hale of Spanky And Our Gang, Alan Wilson from Canned Heat, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Arlester Christian of Dyke And the Blazers, Jim Morrison, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan of the Grateful Dead, Pete Ham of Badfinger, Gary Thain of Uriah Heep, Roger Lee Durham of Bloodstone, Helmut Koellen of Triumvirat, Chris Bell of Big Star, D. Boon of Minutemen, Pete de Freitas of Echo & the Bunnymen, Mia Zapata of the Gits, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Kristin Pfaff of Hole, Raymond "Freaky Tah" Rogers of Lost Boyz, Sean McCabe of Ink & Dagger, Jeremy Michael Ward of De Facto and The Mars Volta, Bryan Ottoson of American Head Charge, Valentin Elizalde.

The recent history of New Orleans is fraught with tragedy and triumph. Both are reflected in the city’s vibrant, idiosyncratic music community. In Keith Spera’s intimately reported Groove Interrupted, Aaron Neville returns to New Orleans for the first time after Hurricane Katrina to bury his wife. Fats Domino improbably rambles around Manhattan to promote a post-Katrina tribute CD. Alex Chilton lives anonymously in a battered cottage in the Treme neighborhood. Platinum-selling rapper Mystikal rekindles his career after six years in prison. Jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard struggles to translate Katrina into music. The spotlight also shines on Allen Toussaint, Pete Fountain, Gatemouth Brown, the Rebirth Brass Band, Phil Anselmo, Juvenile, Jeremy Davenport and the 2006 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. With heartache, hope, humor and resolve, each of these contemporary narratives stands on its own. Together, they convey that the funky, syncopated spirit of New Orleans music is unbreakable, in spite of Katrina’s interruption.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: One member mentioned a recent Stevie Nicks song celebrating New Orleans.

Take Me Home: An Autobiography by John Denver
The internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter, and environmental activist describes his youth in a conservative military home, striking out on his own, early success, uneasy dealings with fame, and concern for the environment.  

Between Rock and a Home Place by Chuck Leavell
For more than half of the Rolling Stones’s incredible career, Chuck Leavell has been their keyboard player and an integral part of their acclaimed live performances. But fans also recognize him from the landmark Eric Clapton Unplugged session and tours, the late George Harrison’s final performances and of course Leavell’s time with the Allman Brothers at the height of their creative success. That’s only half the story of the Alabama-born musician, however, who reveals in this candid, photo-filled memoir how he became not only one of the world’s most highly regarded rock and roll piano players, but also one of the most respected and hon-ored environmentalists and forestry experts in the United States.

Chuck Leavell is one of the most respected keyboardists in the world of rock-n-roll, and at the same time, his work at Charlane Plantation--the award-winning tree farm he and his wife Rose Lane have created near Macon, Georgia--has earned Leavell a fast-growing reputation as one of our country’s foremost conservationists. His first book, Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest, 2nd Edition was released in 2004.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxane Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening—until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds, and people from different continents become compatriots. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion . . . and cannot be stopped.

Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael by Richard M. Sudhalter
Georgia on My Mind, Rockin' Chair, Skylark, Lazybones, and of course the incomparable Star Dust--who else could have composed these classic American songs but Hoagy Carmichael? He remains, for millions, the voice of heartland America, eternal counterpoint to the urban sensibility of Cole Porter and George Gershwin. Now, trumpeter and historian Richard M. Sudhalter has penned the first book-length biography of the man Alec Wilder hailed as "the most talented, inventive, sophisticated and jazz-oriented of all the great songwriters--the greatest of the great craftsmen."

Stardust Melody follows Carmichael from his roaring-twenties Indiana youth to bandstands and recording studios across the nation, playing piano and singing alongside jazz greats Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and close friends Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong. It illuminates his peak Hollywood years, starring in such films as To Have and Have Notand The Best Years of Our Lives, and on radio, records and TV. With compassionate insight Sudhalter depicts Hoagy's triumphs and tragedies, and his mounting despair as rock-and-roll drowns out and lays waste to the last days of a brilliant career.

With an insider's clarity Sudhalter explores the songs themselves, still fresh and appealing while reminding us of our innocent American yesterdays. Drawing on Carmichael's private papers and on interviews with family, friends and colleagues, he reveals that "The Old Music Master" was almost as gifted a wordsmith as a shaper of melodies. In all, Stardust Melody offers a richly textured portrait of one of our greatest musical figures, an inspiring American icon.

What have we missed on this topic?

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