KANSAS CITY LIGHTNING: THE RISE & TIMES OF CHARLIE PARKER
BY STANLEY CROUCH
BUY ON AMAZON
Jazz: The first in a two-volume life of the transformational and tragic genius that was Charlie Parker may wander at times into a little too much peripheral black American history for those hungry for the meat of the main attraction but it’s hard to bicker when the writing is of this caliber. Stanley Crouch has such a flair for prose and language that you will find yourself rereading passages simply to savor twice the dynamic of his words. The paragraph describing Parker abandoning his wife and child is as beautifully written as it is heart breaking, direct simple and hauntingly sad.
From Depression era Kansas City to segregated Chicago and finally New York’s Harlem Crouch chronicles Parker's addiction to music and drugs as he hones his craft in the shadow of the likes of Lester Young and Roy Eldridge. After being humiliated on the bandstand at an impressionable age he perseveres to master and then transcend the idiom. Charlie Parker re shaped modern jazz and became a comet burning bright with unlimited possibility until his untimely end. For that though we must wait patiently for volume two, I’ve no doubt it will be worth the wait.
THE BARONESS: THE SEARCH FOR NICA, THE REBLLIOUS ROTHSCHILD
BY HANNAH ROTHSCHILD
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Jazz: A biography created from much detective work on the authors part The Baroness tells the story of Pannonica Rothschild a glamorous and romantic spirit who gave up her wealthy and privileged life and moved to New York to devote herself to helping jazz legend Thelonious Monk and other musicians. She paid their bills, bailed them out of jail, drove them to gigs and became their muse and confidant in the process. Her love and passion for their music was real and the sight of her convertible Bentley parked outside Harlem clubs was a common and accepted sight in the 50’s & 60’s. Charlie Parker famously died in her apartment and she narrowly escaped multiple prison time by taking the rap for Monk. Hannah Rothschild respect and diligence in excavating her great-aunts legacy is both admirable and entertaining.
JOSH WHITE: SOCIETY BLUES
BY ELIJAH WALD
BUY ON AMAZON
Folk-Blues: Society Blues traces the career of the great folk-blues singer from his days as a “lead boy” for traveling blues performers to his success in New York playing on Broadway and in cabarets in the ‘30s and ‘40s, the collapse of his career in the McCarthy Era, and his triumphant return in the ‘60s. Through the twists and turns of White’s life, Society Blues shows the evolution of the folk and blues revival. It is a must read for anyone interested in the history of American popular culture, as well as a fascinating life story.
I AM THE BLUES: THE WILLIE DIXON STORY
BY WILLIE DIXON & DON SNOWDEN
BUY ON AMAZON
Blues: A good companion piece to our ARR special on the songs of Willie Dixon and a relatively straightforward take on Willie’s life from the horse’s mouth. Arguably the most successful and prolific blues songwriter of the 20th century Willie’s songs have woven themselves so indelibly into the fabric of blues and rock that for many Willie’s contribution to them is unknown and is easily attributed to others. His catalogue contains so many classics that at times it’s hard to comprehend and that without that catalogue the set lists of every fledgling supergroup would be thinner by half.
If you want a easy course on how Willie Dixon got to be one of the true titans of the blues and how his tenure with Chess Records made him the go to guy on the Chicago blues scene this book will fill in the blanks although one hopes that some day soon a more profound and detailed analysis of his remarkable career might be waiting in the wings.
Throughout the life of America Roots Radio, Taupin would recommend books that he believed allowed the listener to delve more deeply into subject matter discussed on the show. Here are those recommendations, posted latest entry to earliest.