Tag: music

Songs of America by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw

November 29th, 2019 — 1:02pm

Songs of America by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw

Jon Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize winning presidential historian who has written about Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Andrew Jackson, FDR, George Bush, and many more. Tim McGraw is Grammy Award winning musician who has sold more than 50 million records and he is the most played country artist as well as being an author. While this is obviously a joint project, Meacham wrote the narrative text whereas McGraw offered his take on selected songs in a framed presentation which probably just as well could have been blended into the book.

Nevertheless, the final product is an amazing presentation of the songs and music that have been part of the American fabric since its birth. The context of various musical pieces often including the actual circumstances in which the words and music were created, are frequently very familiar to the reader.

There will be some pieces that most of us never heard of such as the “Liberty Song” which was created in 1768. There is also “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, an American Revolutionary War song that which will probably be familiar to most children. The book winds its way through American history with a background of American music. Many of the readers will know the story of Francis Scott Key who eagerly looked to see if the American flag was still flying as the British and Americans battled in the war of 1812. The book also includes the words and songs that came from the oppressed slaves in America and not only accompanied them on the road to freedom but also became part of the fabric of American music especially jazz and beyond.

This book is much more than a recital of songs and music. It is an in-depth look at American history while at the same time using music and song to reflect the history that is being made. The journey includes the assassinations of Lincoln, Martin Luther King and JFK and much more. We are presented with a combination of a music and history journey through the great world wars, Korean, Vietnam wars as well as the cold war and American political wars. Intertwined in this wonderful historical piece are many of the words of songs, which have left their indelible mark on all of us who have experienced some small part of history and read about so much more.

As I read this excellent book, I could almost hear much of the familiar music and words in my head. I also could not help but think what a tremendous accomplishment it would be if the author could have created an audio book with much of the music described. I checked and found out that while there is an audio version read by the two authors, much of it only has the authors reading the words of the songs while the music and singing was largely excluded. Should the authors be able to obtain the rights to all or most of the songs described in the book and blend them with the narrative, it would surely be a classic that people might very well pay the extra cost for the royalty payments which would be necessary. I would hope that such a project would come to fruition.

As always your comments are welcome below

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All in Good Time by Jonathan Schwartz

March 31st, 2011 — 2:59am

Buy now on Amazon: The Alchemist

All In Good TimeI have probably been listening to Jonathan Schwartz play Frank Sinatra and his genre of  music on the radio for more than 30 years originally in New York and now on satellite radio in LA. His intimate understanding of the music ,the song writers and the singers was matched by his warm personal style of chatting with the audience. I guess I felt that he was one of my friends and I spent many  weekend afternoons listening to him. I knew he was a well respected expert in this music, had been a singer himself and that his father was a well known song writer who wrote Dancing in the Dark and some other songs that were part of the American Song Book. Therefore I was very pleased when a dear cousin of mine presented me with this book as a gift. After reading it I feel that I now know  “my friend” much better  and as a psychiatrist I particularly understand  some of the pain suffering that he has gone through in his remarkable life. Growing up he was surrounded by show business stars and has to be one of the few people on earth who can recall as a small child having Judy Garland come into his room and sing him “Over the Rainbow.”    Unfortunately he had to also suffer the death of his mother while he was little kid. He also encountered a step mother who treated him much worst than was the case in the Cinderella story. He shared the sad story of his childhood excursions of sneaking into neighbors homes in Beverly Hills to hid behind  their couches just to listen to their family interactions  He did inherit his father’s musical ability, developed a wonderful ear for music and insight into  the popular music of his early years and the genre which was built upon it.  His desire to play music on the radio was manifested as an early teenager as he rigged up his own radio station when living in Manhattan which could be picked up in his apartment house on many radios. This well written  memoir ( he is also an accomplished writer) is an intimate one in which we learn of his encounters with girls and young women and his hardy drinking. He paints a full rich picture of the nature of many of his difficult relationships with women. He seems to pull few punches as he tells of his flirting with suicide, his psychiatric admission and his time at Betty Ford Hospital. for his alcoholism. While I would not venture a psychiatric diagnosis, I will say that I do believe that the five years or so that he had with his mother and a connection with his father that while certainly rocky and tested at times allowed him  to ultimately develop a warm mature personality. He seems  to be a caring father with a very good relationship with his children. Perhaps the vignette which stands out most in my mind from the book is the story how Frank Sinatra ( certainly a symbolic  father figure to him )  whom he did meet several times, arranged to have  him fired from his radio job because he made  some negative critique of one of his albums. Despite this traumatic event Jonathan Schwartz never faltered in his love for the man and his music. Although we are the same age, I am very grateful that he continues to be on the  radio with no sign of slowing down  and to be “my friend” and companion as I enjoy my favorite music.

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