On Sunday, June 3, 2018 from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. CDT I will host Music on the Sunny Side on WBRH-FM radio (90.3 FM and WBRH.org). During the first hour I’ll feature music by some of the greatest male vocalists of the Big Band era including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Vaughn Monroe, and Russ Columbo. Columbo is not as well known as the others, probably because he died so young. On September 2, 1934 he visited his friend, photographer Lansing Brown. While Brown was showing Columbo his gun collection, an accident occurred. Brown described it this way:
“I was absent-mindedly fooling around with one of the guns. It was of a dueling design and works with a cap and trigger. I was pulling back the trigger and clicking it time after time. I had a match in my hand and when I clicked, apparently the match caught in between the hammer and the firing pin. There was an explosion. Russ slid to the side of his chair.”
The bullet ricocheted off of a nearby table, hit Columbo in the head and killed him. He was only 26 years old. Had Columbo survived, he might have become as popular as Sinatra or Crosby.
The second hour will feature three excerpts from three musical movies directed by Busby Berkeley. When Berkeley was in the Army, he had his men do intricate march routines. When he got out he did the same thing with beautiful women in the Warner Bros. musicals of the 1930s. Those musicals really appealed to the people who were suffering through the Great Depression. You think you’re watching something that’s taking place on a Broadway musical stage until you realize that what’s happening is much too large for a theater stage. In fact, the numbers were filmed on large sound stages on the Warner Brothers movie lot. The overhead shots (Berkeley’s specialty) were fascinating because of the mechanization and intricacy of the dance routines that flawlessly form numerous geometric patterns. Don’t miss Busby Berkeley: Going through the Roof on YouTube. It’s in four parts, each of which is about 15 minutes long.
While in Paris many years ago singer/songwriter Paul Anka heard a song in French that he fell in love with. He bought the rights to change the lyrics and wrote “My Way” which he then presented to Frank Sinatra. Sinatra’s rendition of “My Way” became a classic – despite the fact that he didn’t particularly like the song. It’s all about someone who refuses to live by the rules. He does as he pleases and accepts the consequences. If Sinatra had been even slightly introspective, he would have realized that it was about the way he lived.
The original song, “Comme d’Habitude,” (“As Usual”) is about a love affair that is slowly ending. I’ll play the recording of “Comme d’Habitude” performed by the great French singer Mireille Matieu. You’ll love it.
The third and final hour is a “doozy.” (Hmmm, where does that word come from?) The hour is titled “See the U.S.A. in Your _______ .” You can fill in the blank. Some of the musical possibilities are Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Ford, Stanley Steamer, Jeep, Winton Flyer, Cadillac, Nash Rambler, and even a little red wagon.
A yellow Winton Flyer plays an important part in William Faulkner’s 1962 novel The Reivers (an old-fashioned word for “thieves.”) Faulkner died the same year that the novel was published, and posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year for the novel. Although it’s one of his least popular novels, it was made into a movie in 1969.
In the novel, an old man tells a delightful tale about what happened to him back in 1905 when he was 11 years old. Burgess Meredith, as the old man, was the narrator in the movie and John Williams wrote the music for it. I will play a shortened version of the story that Williams recorded with the Boston Pops Orchestra. Burgess Meredith is once again the narrator of the tale. Williams firmly believed that music was vitally important in films to set a mood, and, in some cases, to tell the story. I think you’ll agree that the piece you’ll hear would be diminished without the music that Williams created.
Steve McQueen who played Boone Hogganbeck in the movie, ended up with the Yellow Winton Flyer, which was built especially for the film. It was one of the many cars in McQueen’s collection.
If you miss my show, you can listen to The Reivers here.
By the way, “doozy” is a word that owes it origin to the high-quality Duesenberg automobile which was manufactured in the United States between 1913 and 1937.
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If you go into Literati bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan you will find a typewriter on a table in a quiet corner. You are invited to anonymously type out any note that is meaningful to you. Thousands of people have done so, and some of those notes are now part of a new book entitled Notes from a Public Typewriter. You can watch a video about it here.
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PBS has kicked off an eight-part series called The Great American Read with a two-hour program showcasing the 100 greatest novels ever written according to Americans who took part in a survey. Meredith Vieira hosted the initial program and will host the other seven as well. If you missed the program, you can watch it at the official website. The point of the series is to have the public choose the greatest novel in the full list.
The books could originate from anywhere in the world, but all of the novels had to be available in English. Only one book by any author could be included on the list except that an entire series (such as the Harry Potter series) could be included – but only as one of the 100 books. How varied is the list? Below is a statement from the official website:
“The list contains a broad range of fictional titles, authors, time periods, countries, genres and subject matter. The list includes books from as far back as the 1600s and as recent as 2016. From beloved world literature to contemporary best sellers, many categories are represented: 20th century American classics, thrillers, young adult novels, sci-fi/fantasy, adventure, historical fiction, romantic stories, and books that represent the human experience told from a diverse range of perspectives.”
Indeed, the list includes old classics like Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; modern classics like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger; children’s classics like Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery; and a number of books including The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Hadden, Fifty Shades of Grey (the series) by E. L. James, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn which seem to me to be too new to be on the list. But that’s the list that emerged after 7,200 people were polled.
How does the voting work, and when will the winning novel be announced? Here is the information from the official website:
“Voting will open online and on social media with the launch of the two-hour premiere episode and continue throughout the summer, leading up to the finale in October 2018. Over the summer, viewers can vote online and through hashtag voting via Facebook and Twitter. In the fall, viewers will also be able to cast their votes by using SMS and toll-free voting.”
You can vote once a day and you’re encouraged to vote often. Also, you can sign up at the official website for occasional newsletters.
If nothing else, the list may encourage you to read some books that are outside your comfort zone. (I’m a big believer in this and have pointed to two different articles about reading outside your comfort zone in past posts. The first is “How to Become a Superager,” and the other is “30 Books You Need to Read to Earn ‘Well-Read Status.’”) Novels on the list could also be discussed in your favorite book club. I find the list fascinating, and I intend to read a few books on the list over the summer months. I hope you’ll do the same.
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From Book Expo 2018 Publishers Weekly give us an insider’s view of the books that will be hot in the coming months.
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The next edition of the live author interview program In-Depth on Book TV (C-SPAN2) will air Sunday, June 3, 2018 from noon to 3:00 p.m. EDT. The featured guest will be author Gish Jen. Her books include Typical American, Mona in the Promised Land, and World and Town.