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Dream Lucky: When FDR Was in the White House, Count Basie Was on the Radio, and Everyone Wore a Hat...by Roxane Orgill
Synopses & Reviews
The time: 1936-1938. The mood: Hopeful. It wasn't wartime, not yet. The music: The incomparable Count Basie and Benny Goodman, among others. The setting: Living rooms across America and, most of all, New York City.
Dream Lucky covers politics, race, religion, arts, and sports, but the central focus is the period's soundtrack—specifically big band jazz—and the big-hearted piano player William "Count" Basie. His ascent is the narrative thread of the book—how he made it and what made his music different from the rest. But many other stories weave in and out: Amelia Earhart pursues her dream of flying "around the world at its waistline." Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., stages a boycott on 125th Street. And Mae West shocks radio listeners as a naked Eve tempting the snake.
Critic Nat Hentoff praises the "precise originality" with which Roxane Orgill writes about music. In Dream Lucky, she magically lets readers hear the past.
"Orgill unleashes verve and rhythmic riffs to capture the mood of the pre-WWII years, when 'the radio was always on.' An ASCAP — Deems Taylor Award winner, Orgill, who has written about music for young readers (Mahalia), recalls radio programs. big band music, comedians, art, sports, the struggle for racial equality and a nod to the Depression and Europe's gathering storm. To recreate radio, she listened to recordings rather than using transcripts because she 'needed to hear the voices and the music' herself. The format is chronological, covering 48 eventful days framed by Joe Louis's loss to Max Schmeling on June 19, 1936, and the June 22, 1938, rematch, which Louis won. In between, we hear Rudy Vallee introducing Edgar Bergen to radio listeners and Count Basie at Roseland, and Amelia Earhart soaring. Langston Hughes opens his theater, Orson Welles is The Shadow and FDR watches Disney cartoons. Orgill concludes this rhapsodic time-travel tour guide with a 'Suggested Listening' list, cueing readers to play Basie as a background for her lilting language." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Orgill, an independent author and former music critic, focuses on the popularity of big band jazz from 1936 to 1938, and how this musical genre affected politics, race, religion, sports and the arts during that period. Using the career of Count Basie as a touchstone, the author uses a brisk narrative technique to give this history book the same sheen as a novel. Enjoyable and upbeat, this should appeal to general audiences, especially those fond of such historical figures as Basie, Amelia Earhart, Joe Louis and FDR. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Roxane Orgill is the author of a number of notable books for children and young adults, including the recent Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire. She has also been an award-winning music critic whose reviews and articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Billboard. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.
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History and Social Science » US History » 1920 to 1960