Synopses & Reviews
The remarkable life and times of the man who popularized American folk music and created the science of song
Folklorist, archivist, anthropologist, singer, political activist, talent scout, ethnomusicologist, filmmaker, concert and record producer, Alan Lomax is best remembered as the man who introduced folk music to the masses. Lomax began his career making field recordings of rural music for the Library of Congress and by the late 1930s brought his discoveries to radio, including Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Burl Ives. By the 1940s he was producing concerts that brought white and black performers together, and in the 1950s he set out to record the whole world.
Lomax was also a controversial figure. When he worked for the U. S. government he was tracked by the FBI, and when he worked in Britain, MI5 continued the surveillance. In his last years he turned to digital media and developed technology that anticipated today's breakthroughs. Featuring a cast of characters including Eleanor Roosevelt, Leadbelly, Carl Sandburg, Carl Sagan, Jelly Roll Morton, Muddy Waters, and Bob Dylan, Szwed's fascinating biography memorably captures Lomax and provides a definitive account of an era as seen through the life of one extraordinary man.
Alan Lomax: and#160;The Man Who Recorded the World
and#160; [Starred review] "Factually tireless and fluently analytical, Szwed gamely corrals a great river of events, efforts, and discoveries into a straight-ahead portrait of an intrepid, culture-defining artist and humanist." and#160;
and#8212;Booklistand#160; and#160; "Szwed is a sensitive interpreter of music. . . he is meticulous about the work, and makes a strong case for Lomax as a central figure in the history of American music." and#160;
and#8212;The New Yorkerand#160; and#160; "A keenly appreciative, enormously detailed new Lomax biography."and#160;
and#8212;The New York Timesand#160; and#160; "John Szwed has written a graceful and informative cradle-to-grave study that's a perfect marriage of author and subject."and#160;
and#8212;Douglas Brinkley, Texas Monthlyand#160; and#160; So What: The Life of Miles Davisand#160;
and#160; "...Szwed offers crisply detailed backstories to such masterpieces as Sketches of Spain, Round About Midnight and Miles Ahead. His prose has a musical pulse, and he highlights the most significant element of Davis's soul: "he told every woman he became involved with that music always came first, before family, children, lovers, friends." Davis's music has been called a "divine disease," and this in-depth study clarifies the nature of that compulsive, satisfying malady in a way that will enlighten listeners and musicians."and#160; and#8212;Publishers Weeklyand#160;
and#160; Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Raand#160;
and#160; "... Szwed has produced a rare jazz biography--one that takes full account of the history that shaped the music and its central personalities. An anthropologist, historian and musicologist who teaches at Yale, Szwed brings an impressive array of skills to this job. He needs them all to track down a subject whose every word seems intended to protect him from scrutiny."and#160; and#8212;Brent Staples, The New York Times Book Reviewand#160;
The definitive biography of Alan Lomax-from John Szwed,andquot;the best music biographer in the businessandquot; (L.A. Weekly).
One of the most remarkable figures of the twentieth century, Alan Lomax was best known for bringing legendary musicians like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Muddy Waters, Lead Belly, and Burl Ives to the radio and introducing folk music to a mass audience. Now John Szwed, the acclaimed biographer of Miles Davis and Sun Ra, presents the first biography of Lomax, a man who was as influential as he was controversial-trailed for years by the FBI, criticized for his folk- song-collecting practices, denounced by some as a purist and by others as a popularizer. This authoritative work reveals how Lomax changed not only the way everyone in the country heard music but also the way they viewed America itself.
Published in celebration of Holidayand#8217;s centenary, the first biography to focus on the singerand#8217;s extraordinary musical talent
When Billie Holiday stepped into Columbiaand#8217;s studios in November 1933, it marked the beginning of what is arguably the most remarkable and influential career in ?twentieth-century popular music. Her voice weathered countless shifts in public taste, and new reincarnations of her continue to arrive, most recently in the form of singers like Amy Winehouse and Adele.
Most of the writing on Holiday has focused on the tragic details of her lifeand#151;her prostitution at the age of fourteen, her heroin addiction and alcoholism, her series of abusive relationshipsand#151;or tried to correct the many fabrications of her autobiography.and#160; But now, Billie Holiday stays close to the music, to her performance style, and to the self she created and put into print, on record and on stage.
Drawing on a vast amount of new material that has surfaced in the last decade, critically acclaimed jazz writer John Szwed considers how her life inflected her art, her influences, her uncanny voice and rhythmic genius, a number of her signature songs, and her legacy.
About the Author
John Szwed is Professor of Music and Director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University. As a jazz musician, he played professionally for more than a decade. He is the author of sixteen books, including So What: The Life of Miles Davis, Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra, and Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World.