From the Publisher
“Here is a prose blues full of many things: a much-loved father; wives and children; lovers and other strangers; solitude and fear; booze and remorse; along with the Boston Red Sox, avocados, Beethoven string quartets, dark laughter, Sinatra, lost highways, the Western desert, pianos in empty ballrooms, Paris, friends, the endless search for home, and the spooky music of time.”
“It’s impossible to classify Jonathan Schwartz. In the way the phrase ‘disc jockey’ doesn’t begin to describe his work on the radio,
‘memoir’ doesn’t do justice to All in Good Time, which is a haunting, beautifully written, and desperately funny account of a supposedly privileged childhood and the tools a solitary child creates to survive. His voice is as wry and hypnotic on the page as it is on the air.”
“If you love America, you’ll love this memoir by a unique man. He reminds us of our creative traditions: of baseball, of our golden age of music, and of family. This is a very honest book.”
“Jonathan Schwartz has taken the odd, less-than-ideal cards he was dealt—a celebrity songwriter father who was never home, a stepmother who didn’t want him around, and a yen for self-destruction almost as strong as his passion for music—and fashioned the compelling life he recounts here. How a melancholy and eccentric little boy grew up into the much-loved cultural presence he is today makes for a read that is by turns haunting and hilarious. All in Good Time is written straight from Schwartz’s large, eloquent (and unexpectedly modest) heart. ”
“‘Nothing ever goes away.’ Not for Jonathan Schwartz in his All in Good Time. Everything is here: Sinatra, the Red Sox, women, and music. And truth. I absolutely loved it.”
The New York Times
Behind every monstrous ego, of course, is a small, trembling, damaged one. And Schwartz's somber new memoir -- with its blandly upbeat title, All in Good Time -- explains a lot about what made him the way he is. Spare, elegantly written and scrupulously free of pomposity, it's hardly recognizable as the work of the man on the radio.
The New Yorker
New Yorkers of a certain age are familiar with the plummy and erudite voice of Jonathan Schwartz, radio’s champion of the golden age of American song and Frank Sinatra’s most passionate advocate. He is also the son of Arthur Schwartz, the composer of “By Myself,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and other pages in the songbook. The son’s warm but intensely painful memoir of growing up lonely in rarefied company, of discovering an identity for himself and encountering idols like Sinatra, is engaging and original. Schwartz has published novels and, on the radio, he is an intimate storyteller; the narrative here is strangely unforgettable, like a haunting ballad heard in the middle of the night.
Fans of Schwartz, a fixture of New York-area radio, will instantly recognize his voice resonating through each page of this memoir, especially in the ironic downbeats on which many of his mininarratives end. As might be expected from the son of Broadway composer Arthur Schwartz (who wrote the music to "Dancing in the Dark," among other songs), the story is equal parts pop standards and family drama; his terminally ill mother dominates early sections, and though the obsession with song has already begun in these chapters, it kicks into high gear after her death in memorable passages such as Schwartz's telling of the first time he heard Frank Sinatra's "Birth of the Blues" in a Manhattan bar. The role of keeper of the musical canon functioned as a barrier behind which Schwartz could hide much of his emotional trauma, akin to other secret identities recounted here, but raw pain leaks out in increasing amounts, especially in brutal passages depicting his voluntary commitment for psychiatric evaluation and a later stay at the Betty Ford clinic. Glancing swipes at former radio colleagues drip with venom, while fights with his stepmother are recreated in visceral dialogue including many words he couldn't utter on radio. Although filled with celebrities, from childhood playmate Carly Simon to adult father figure Sinatra, the memoir succeeds best on its most intimate levels, revealed in the most paradoxical of measured tones. (Mar. 9) FYI: Schwartz's radio audience has expanded in a recent move to satellite radio. Blurbs from Pete Hamill, John Guare and Tony Bennett will help garner other audiences. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Son of the late theater and film composer Arthur Schwartz (Dancing in the Dark), Schwartz seems to have spent his time trading on his father's renown; he has already had careers as a singer/pianist, radio show host, and short story writer/novelist. Here he provides sketches of his father's professional and personal triumphs, chiefly as they relate to his own growing up. The younger Schwartz details his own experiences at radio stations and in clubs; his love affair with baseball; his difficulties with alcoholism; his encounters with Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and other luminaries; and his relationships with his parents, step-relatives, and various women. Given Schwartz's social status, this should be a fascinating read, but instead it is surprisingly tedious (no thanks to numerous obscenities), with only brief glimmers of the author's talent surfacing. Libraries in the New York City and Boston areas where Schwartz has spent most of his time may experience demand; others can easily skip. What would have been far more welcome is a real biography of Arthur Schwartz to accompany chief collaborator Howard Dietz's autobiography, Dancing in the Dark (o.p.).-Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The disc jockey known for his eclectic, innovative program, first on WNEW in New York and now on NPR, chronicles a life shaped by his passion for "the American Songbook." The author comes by his affection for golden-age American popular music naturally, as the son of Arthur Schwartz, composer of "Dancing in the Dark" and other standards. Born in 1938, Jonathan was enough of a baby boomer to wind up at WNEW in 1967, just as it made the influential switch to free-form programming of rock that briefly liberated FM radio from the tyranny of Top 40. His current program mingles the best from both worlds, but it's the years in between that mostly concern Schwartz in this memoir, notable for its elegant, if occasionally rather elliptical prose and its frankness about the author's heavy drinking and tortuous personal relationships. (His two children, ex- and current wife, however, get only brief, circumspect mentions.) By his own account, Schwartz was an odd, intense kid. When the family lived in Beverly Hills, he sneaked into other people's houses just to sit in the closet and observe them; when they moved to Manhattan he used a baby monitor to broadcast his own radio station. His mother, gravely ill throughout his childhood, died in 1953; Schwartz did not, to put it mildly, get along with his stepmother, and relations with Arthur were strained. He drifted into adulthood unsure how to translate his worship of Sinatra and other classic interpreters of American song into a viable career. The various radio stints are here, along with the girlfriends (some married) who kept wearily asking him to turn down the stereo and Schwartz's modestly successful efforts as a fiction writer and a cabaret singer.The author settles a few personal scores but avoids seemingly unduly self-serving; even the famous spat with Sinatra over his on-air comments about the Trilogy album is recounted in fairly measured tones. The touching finale, after an Arthur Schwartz celebration at Lincoln Center in 2001, affirms Jonathan's love for his father and the American Songbook. Mannered but ultimately moving.
Read an Excerpt
There’s a photograph of me with the family dog, maud. a wire haired terrier who seems to be laughing, Maud sits to my right on the brick stairs leading up to our front door. The house on La Brea Terrace has been rented for a year. It’s a snug little place with a front lawn and no backyard, atop La Brea, just a bit into the Hollywood Hills. It is December 7, 1941. In short pants, suspenders, a white short-sleeve shirt, and black high shoes, I look bathed and scrubbed for the Sunday to be. It is morning, perhaps ten. My father, ever the photographer, is taking his time. “No, hold it right there. Hold it. Now. One more.” My face does not reflect irritation. That would come years later. In fact, I appear to be happy, smiling in the sunshine, with Maud, the “smartest dog who ever lived”—my mother’s view of Maud, always—right there next to me. The smartest dog, the smartest boy—me. The best movie, the most delicious piece of pie, the most succulent pear, the most wonderful, the most beautiful, the most thrilling, the greatest. Katherine Carrington Schwartz, a natural hyperbolist, was also inclined to the malaprop. “My, how time passes so fly.” And always that strong clear speaking voice, with a song inside. Katherine had been an ingenue on the Broadway stage. Arthur Schwartz had spotted her in Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s Music in the Air singing “I’ve Told Every Little Star” to a young Walter Slezak. My father had attended the opening on election night 1932, a secondary event to FDR’s first plurality but not secondary to the composer of “Dancing in the Dark.” He sought out the ingenue almost before the curtain went down. I’ve occasionally imagined him, oh so eager, leaping upon the stage midway through the second act. “Good evening, I’m Arthur Schwartz,” he might have said. Katherine, still in character, might have attempted to incorporate him. “Well, hello,” she might have replied. “We’ve all been waiting for you.” She might have extended her arm to the rest of the bewildered cast. The orchestra, trying to cover the disruption, would almost certainly have struck up “The Song Is You,” a ballad in the score, while Arthur was hustled away by stagehands, his friends and peers Kern and Hammerstein in the back of the theater, burying their faces in their hands.
In the year to follow, Arthur leapt upon every stage that Katherine traversed. Here was a blond woman with a white round face, a curvaceous form, a delightful laugh, and a clarion voice with a song inside. Arthur played her everything he’d ever written. He began to compose for her. She sang his songs, to his great satisfaction. Upon occasion, at George Gershwin’s Riverside Drive apartment, George would play the piano and then invite Kay and Arthur up. My father at the keyboard was fluent and unafraid, and always generous to other composers, especially Richard Rodgers, who was frequently present. Kay sang “Lover,” her favorite Rodgers. Dick was greatly satisfied. Kay sang “With a Song in My Heart,” Rodgers’s favorite of his own making—he told me that, many years later. Arthur played Gershwin and then some of his own things, melodies that Kay had inspired.
It turned out that she had been first married as a very young woman. The boy, Clifford Dowdey, whose name is still recognized by scholars, wrote voluminously (and I mean voluminously) on the Civil War, a man possessed, pausing momentarily to marry a girl from Toms River, New Jersey, just about twenty-two years old, a looker, but oh, the noise! Poor Dowdey, who was onto new material, fascinating brand-new stuff about Robert E. Lee’s father, Henry; and in the other room in a small New York City apartment, the soprano rang out with pop songs, not the Bach of Dowdey’s delight. “Jerome Kern is a trifle,” he told his wife. Kern was the reason that Kay had crossed the Hudson River to where the songs were written. Instead she had been diverted by the historian and had accepted his proposal of marriage. Perhaps it was his erudition; Kay had none. Perhaps his reputation; Kay had none. It doesn’t seem possible that it was his humor: look him up, Dowdey, Clifford.
Kay and Arthur were married in 1934 amid the theater’s elite. A photograph from around that time reveals a slim young man, dark-complexioned, dark-haired, handsome, sitting on the grass in front of a country house with his arm around a beautiful round-faced, light-skinned girl—young woman—exhibiting a thoughtful smile. I can only imagine that Dowdey’s arm was never so comforting. As a matter of fact, I know of no photo of the two, though many years later, picking out one of his books at the Strand Bookstore, I found the inscription “For my darling Katherine.” Dowdey had written those words in blue ink, possibly, I felt, with a quill pen. And how odd, I thought, to imagine my mother as someone else’s darling.
Maud, laughing and leaping that Sunday, must have seen the commotion as some sort of game. The phone rang nonstop. My mother went upstairs to bed, where she was supposed to be most of the time. My father roamed the front lawn, holding my hand. Restlessly, I broke away and ran across the grass to fetch my blue tricycle.
Don Loper came over, a pale man in a white suit, a wisp of a guy, as soft as a pillow, a prominent interior designer; the Beverly Hills Hotel was a Loper marvel. I loved it when he came around. It was as if a white leaf had blown into our house. I called him “Don in the sky,” and it stuck. Guess who’s coming for dinner. Don in the sky, that’s who.
Yipper was there that day, tossing me around a little and then “meeting” with Arthur and Loper in the study. Yipper was Yip Harburg, the lyricist, his Wizard of Oz only two years old. I could get him to sing “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” anytime I wanted.
But now Yipper was in a meeting behind closed doors, discussing Pearl Harbor. When they all came out, Don in the sky looked ashen. So haunted were his eyes, so radically altered, that he scared me. The white leaf had flown away, and I cried. Arthur gathered me up in his arms. “What’s the matter, Jonno boy?” he asked. “Don in the sky’s killed,” I said.