The son of a Vanderbilt heiress, John Hammond listened to jazz records with his parents’ servants, went to Harlem as a teenager, and became a regular in clubs where very few white faces ever appeared. Taking a little family money, Hammond went across racial lines in pre-World War II America and came back with recordings of some of the greatest jazz musicians in history. By age 22, he had convinced Benny Goodman to integrate his band and made his first big discovery: Billie Holiday.
Later, as jazz gave way to pop and rock, Hammond championed Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan in his life’s extraordinary second act.
In Dunstan Prial’s hands, Hammond’s biography is the story of American popular music since the 1930s, a tale of a man at the center of things, with his ears wide open.
©2006 Dunstan Prial (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Dunstan Prial…has fashioned the diverse strands of Mr. Hammond’s life into a very readable narrative.” (The New York Times)
I enjoyed the book, but the audio editing was terrible. It was very distracting to hear the same recording of particular words repeated again and again in other paragraphs. Yes, you'll hear the same recording of a word multiple times in the same paragraph.
As far as I could tell, Ray Porter is a capable reader. However, the combination of his performance and the poor audio editing made listening to the book far from enjoyable. I liked the story, but the product is not professional. It needs to be rerecorded.
For anyone interested in the development of American music in the 20th century, this book is essential reading. John Hammond was a big-hearted, opinionated and fearless advocate for musicians and for the civil rights movement. What this book makes very clear is that Hammond was in the business for the music and the musicians, not for personal gain. Mind you, as a direct descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt he had the resources to make that choice. The portraits of some of Hammond's discoveries, Billie Holliday, Bennie Goodman and Bruce Springsteen, are excellent. One negative; there's some awkward audio editing on the recording. Not a big issue though.
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