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Collecting Info: Book Reviews

Music Books

Charles, Ray and David Ritz: "Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story"; NY: Dial Press, 1978. ISBN: 0-8037-0828-9.

Book shelves groan under the weight of "as told to" autobiographies-the bulk of them self-serving, dishonest, and awful. A few years ago one baseball player was found not to have even read his recent "autobiography" and the whole business of books by celebrities has more to do with packaging and marketing than the often painful work of giving an honest account of one’s deed and misdeeds. Ray Charles and David Ritz didn’t flinch once. In Charles’ own, wonderful voice, it’s all here: music, racism, drugs, blindness. Honest, painful, brilliant. When I was working on CATCHING DREAMS, the book I wrote with Frazier Robinson on his years as Negro League catcher, BROTHER RAY was my model.

Bechet, Sidney: "Treat It Gentle"; NY: Hill and Wang, 1960.

This masterpiece of jazz autobiography fixes the writer in time (the early 20th century) and place (New Orleans). But Bechet is not embalmed in these pages; rather he is as alive as his recording of St. Louis Blues. And his account of his grandfather, Omar, a slave forced to flee through the bayous of Louisiana for falling in love with a slave girl desired by his master, is simply Homeric.

Dawidoff, Nicholas: "In The Country Of Country: People and Places in American Music"; NY: Pantheon, 1997. ISBN: 0-679-41567-X.

Dawidoff travels from North Carolina to California to chronicle the roots of country music-which is to say the country music no longer heard on commercial radio. Along the way he visits Maces Springs, Virginia, home of the Carter Family, and Meridian, Mississippi, home of Jimmie Rodgers, and meets Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, Iris Dement, and Merle Haggard. What emerges is Americana of the grandest order.

For the book collector, only the Bechet should prove a challenge to find.
Content provided by Paul Bauer, Archer's Used and Rare Books.

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