You Call it Madness: The Sensuous Song of the Croon by Lenny Kaye
If you know the name Lenny Kaye count yourself lucky, he is one of the short list of people who kept Rock and Roll alive in the early 70s. First by compiling the Nuggets compilation (a must own for any music fan) and then by playing with Patti Smith off and on since the early 70s. long the way he helped Waylon Jennings write Waylon: An Autobiography and penned today's riday Forgotten Book You call it Madness.
The Sensuous Song of the Croon tells the true story of Russ Columbo his strange death, and the age of croon that he was part of at the end of the 20s. Here is what Publishers Weekly (via Amazon) had to say about the book:
In this ambitious narrative of a moment in music history, Kaye, a musician and coauthor of Waylon, highlights the age of crooning in early 1930s New York City. Prohibition is coming to an end, the Ziegfeld Follies are on their last leg, but radio is stronger than ever, and three singers battle for attention: Rudy Vallee (the WASPy Yalie who sings through a megaphone); the drink-loving Bing Crosby; and the mysterious Russ Columbo. It's on the latter that Kaye focuses until Columbo's untimely death at the age of 26. Kaye takes a novelistic approach, a style that gets in the way of an otherwise good and detailed history. His present-tense narrative forces a sense of immediacy, and his literary attempts to bring the sounds and feel of the decade to life undermine his story ("Yoo hoo. Boo hoo. The double o of crooning. A circle squared. Times two, or should we say too"). But Kaye has done his research, and his characterizations of each singer are clever, with such insightful observations as "At the New York Paramount, Bing Crosby is riding out over the audience on a giant mechanical crane.... Russ doesn't have that luxury.... For him, seduction is serious business."
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I read this one a couple of years back and found it to be challenging, but worth the effort. I really liked how I could see the parallels the age of croon had with the music world of today. It is one if a handful of books that I need to reread, and it inspire me to order a CD of Russ Colombo's recordings. Here is a link to an NPR about the book for anyone interested.
More on the Friday Forgotten Book Project can be found at Patti Abbot's Blog pattinase