Nice Work If You Can Get It: My Life in Rhythm and Rhyme

Overview

Looking back on his beginnings as a performer, one of America's most popular cabaret singers pays tribute to the Gershwins and the other composers who inspired him, reflecting on what made their music great. Tour.

America's most beloved cabaret artist tells his own story. As a starstruck 20-year-old, Feinstein lit out for L.A., and became the protege, friend, and keeper of the flame for Ira Gershwin--a relationship that propelled him into performing. Here are his ...

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Overview

Looking back on his beginnings as a performer, one of America's most popular cabaret singers pays tribute to the Gershwins and the other composers who inspired him, reflecting on what made their music great. Tour.

America's most beloved cabaret artist tells his own story. As a starstruck 20-year-old, Feinstein lit out for L.A., and became the protege, friend, and keeper of the flame for Ira Gershwin--a relationship that propelled him into performing. Here are his thoughts on the Gershwins, as well as explorations of many other artists of the era, from Berlin to Porter. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1977, Feinstein, who had since childhood been a passionate collector of records, sheet music and other material relating to classic American popular music, went to work for Ira Gershwin, cataloguing his private collection of rare recordings. This led to a close relationship with the aged lyricist during which he acted as the older man's archivist and formed a friendship that lasted until Gershwin's death in 1983. In his entertaining book, Feinstein tells of those years, his reverence for Gershwin and his subsequent career as a cabaret artist specializing in the interpretation of the music of the Gershwins and other American songwriters. He includes the story of the 1982 discovery, in a warehouse in Secaucus, N.J., of a cache of unpublished music manuscripts that included works by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart and Jerome Kern. Feinstein also relates the saga of his friend Harry Warren, a prolific songwriter who suffered lack of name recognition; and he offers a chapter on the art of writing song lyrics and a description of life as a piano-bar performer. Feinstein's enthusiasm for the music of the golden age of American popular songwriting is infectious. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Prior to emerging as a popular tuxedoed cabaret artist, Feinstein worked as Ira Gershwin's personal archivist. This book affords a fascinating glimpse into the bizarre Gershwin household late in Ira's life. We get a picture of Ira as a sweet, insecure, and weary old man, still obsessed with, and devoted to, his more famous, long-dead brother George. Ira's wife, Leonore, appears as a pill-popping and manipulative former flapper. It is strange that in this work, ostensibly an autobiography, we learn far more about the Gershwin family than about the author. Still, Feinstein's love of the American songbook is evident, and even if he is cagey about his personal life, the book is literally stuffed with interesting anecdotes about Harry Warren (for whom he also worked briefly), Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Irving Caesar, and others. And there is an insightful chapter on the art of writing and singing lyrics. Recommended for public libraries.-Michael Colby, Univ. of California, Davis
Ilene Cooper
Feinstein is well known as a pianist and a singer, but at his essence, he is an archivist and the keeper of a flame. Perhaps the foremost interpreter of the golden age of popular music, Feinstein worked closely with Ira Gershwin during the last years of the lyricist's life, cataloging and organizing his oeuvre. The anecdotes about daily life at the Gershwin home with the gentle, dying Ira and his fractious wife, Lee, as well as the story of how a young kid out of Columbus, Ohio, got such a dream job in the first place, are fascinating enough, but there's much more. Through Feinstein's association with Gershwin, he met many of the great songwriters of the 1930s and 1940s--and he heard plenty about the ones he was unable to meet. This wonderfully entertaining book is filled with stories about almost all the musical greats: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Jerome Kern, to name a few. Although a bit of dirt is dished, what shines through on every page is Feinstein's deep affection for these men and his absolute love for the music they wrote. It's impossible for readers (of a certain age, anyway) not to read this book without a rich, toe-tapping soundtrack playing in their heads. An absolutely essential addition that will have as long a shelf life as the music it chronicles.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786860937
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 10/28/1995
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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