Christmas Gift Books 2021: Music

“I saw something” one of the damnedest things anyone can imagine,” writes Peter Duchin in his memoir “Face the Music.” mr. Duchin, the pianist and bandleader, looks back on his glamorous highs and irritating lows. He was a privileged child, but he saw little of his father, Eddy, the famous musician of the swing era, and nothing of his mother, Marjorie, an heiress, who died days after his birth. Starting his own orchestra in his twenties, Mr. Duchin on the most stylish features appear. Deep within society, he enjoyed himself at Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball and attended the party profiled in Tom Wolfe’s “Radical Chic”. A stroke he suffered in 2013 caused Mr Duchin to rethink his past, especially his relationship with his parents. A battle with Covid-19 last year left him intubated for over a month, an ordeal that gave him new appreciation for life and the gift of music.

Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” is a landmark in American journalism. It was published in Esquire in April 1966 and remains an intriguing look into the world of the singer known simply as The Voice. The magazine had arranged an interview, but Sinatra was unwell. (“Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint.”) Mr. Talese was notified that the interview was canceled. The writer remained undaunted by his task, making connections with those in the singer’s inner and outer orbits, even some far beyond his appeal. The resulting portrait reveals many sides of a highly mercurial performer. This beautiful book presents the original story alongside a series of photographs of Sinatra, most in black and white and taken by Phil Stern. Included are facsimile pages of Mr. Talese in different stages of composition. So are his short-sighted observations about the state of contemporary journalism.


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