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Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era
Synopses & Reviews
Always Magic in the Air is a family portrait of fourteen remarkable youngsongwriters who, huddled in midtown Manhattan's Brill Building and in 1650 Broadway during the late 1950s and early '60s, crafted rock 'n' roll's first entries in the Great American Songbook — classics like Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock," Dionne Warwick's "Walk on By," the Crystals' "Uptown," the Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Neil Sedaka and Howie Greenfield, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich melded black, white, and Latino sounds before multiculturalism became a concept, integrated audiences before America desegregated its schools, and brought a new social consciousness to pop music.
Evoking a period when fear and frivolity, sputniks and hula-hoops simultaneously girdled the globe, Ken Emerson — author of the acclaimed Doo-Dah!: Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture — describes the world that made these songwriters, the world they in turn made in their music, and the impact on their careers, partnerships, and marriages when the Beatles, Dylan, and drugs ripped those worlds asunder. The stories behind their songs make the "golden oldies" we take for granted sound brand new and more moving and eloquent than we ever suspected.
"Emerson (Doo-Dah!: Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture) enthusiastically chronicles the lives and careers of seven songwriting teams whose pioneering work from the late 1950s through the mid '60s ushered rock and roll into mainstream America. From Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman came enduring hits like 'On Broadway' and 'Yakety-Yak.' Emerson follows their progress as competitors, lovers and collaborators, creating a hagiography of these ambitious, often classically trained (and often Brooklyn-bred) tyros, influenced as much by the great American songbook as New York City's Latin, soul and doo-wop sounds. Emerson also depicts a music industry in flux, shifting idols from Sinatra to Elvis and learning to cater to a lucrative youth market. Seldom short on gossip, this dense mix of biography, music analysis and social history offers an upbeat reading of rock history. It begs for a fuller discussion of the influences of Motown, the British invasion and payola, but Emerson's affectionate tone, delight in the songwriter's craft and extensive research are fortifying — much like the classics he celebrates. Agent, Gloria Loomis. (Oct. 20)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The story of these writers is long-overdue in the telling, and Emerson tells it splendidly. Under the boardwalk or up on the roof, this is a marvelous read." Kirkus Reviews
Evoking a period when fear and frivolity, sputniks and hula-hoops simultaneously girded the globe, the author of Doo-Dah!: Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture reveals how 14 unlikely young songwriters forever changed American culture. 16-page photo insert.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, after the shock of Elvis Presley and before the Beatles spearheaded the British Invasion, fourteen gifted young songwriters huddled in midtown Manhattan's legendary Brill Building and a warren of offices a bit farther uptown and composed some of the most beguiling and enduring entries in the Great American Songbook. Always Magic in the Air is the first thorough history of these renowned songwriters-tunesmiths who melded black, white, and Latino sounds, integrated audiences before America desegregated its schools, and brought a new social consciousness to pop music.
About the Author
Ken Emerson, the author of Doo-Dah!: Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture and coauthor of Stephen Foster, a documentary film for the PBS series The American Experience, has written widely about popular music and culture since the 1960s. His articles and reviews have appeared in publications ranging from Rolling Stone to The Wall Street Journal. He is the former articles editor of The New York Times Magazine and op-ed editor of New York Newsday.
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