Seduced: The Life and Times of a One-Hit Wonder

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Derek Harper is an r&b junkie whose desire since childhood has been to be a successful songwriter in the tradition of his idol, Curtis Mayfield. Indeed, music frees Derek from the protective cocoon that his enigmatic father, an undertaker, and his devout mother created for him in their black middle-class Queens neighborhood. Derek's ambitions take him away from the comfortable predictability of his life to a tiny Times Square apartment in Manhattan. There he encounters the guts of the music industry in the ...
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Overview

Derek Harper is an r&b junkie whose desire since childhood has been to be a successful songwriter in the tradition of his idol, Curtis Mayfield. Indeed, music frees Derek from the protective cocoon that his enigmatic father, an undertaker, and his devout mother created for him in their black middle-class Queens neighborhood. Derek's ambitions take him away from the comfortable predictability of his life to a tiny Times Square apartment in Manhattan. There he encounters the guts of the music industry in the 1980s: frustrated gospel singers, nefarious record producers, captivating vocal divas, the cultural stripmining of jingle writing, rebellious rap groups, and record company executives in Atlanta, L.A., and New York. The seduction of women, music, and flash take Derek around the country, with only his parents to act as his conscience: his mother admonishes against his irresponsible lifestyle. Yet it is his father's attitude that is more troubling to Derek. In the wake of their neighborhood's steady deterioration, his bitter pragmatism shocks Derek into maturity. His odyssey comes full circle, when Derek gets what he thought he wanted from life - and maybe even more. Using his own lyrics, songs of the times, and colorful anecdotes, George shows us how the threads of love - both romantic and familial - weave into the work of an artist and into building a young black man's life.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
African American pop music may have no more eloquent champion than George (Urban Romance, 1994), but in this ambitious attempt to fictionalize two decades worth of hip music history, the author's extensive knowledge of the field crowds his storytelling. In the mid-1960s in the St. Alban's area of Queens, N.Y., Derek Harper, an aspiring songwriter, meets local legend Edgecombe Lennox, a flashy record promoter who encourages the young man's ambitions. After high school, several failed romances and some college, Derek joins Lennox and his newest singing protégé on a revealing and difficult promotional tour. Back in New York, still unable to earn a living as a songwriter, Derek takes a job as road manager for a cross-country rap tour. Jumping ship in L.A., he starts writing jingles that feed his wallet but not his soul. A more serious song, 'Black Sex,' that Derek records on his own prompts Lennox to position the tunesmith as a break-out star, but an unexpected crisis turns Derek's life in a surprising direction. Derek is a well-textured and appealing hero, but George's female characters are generally one-dimensional, sexual objects or untrustworthy schemers. The author's laborious trek through the music of the streets, with extensive insider references, seems driven by a personal agenda, moreover, and it's also overly detailed; likely, this novel will hold the interest only of those who care passionately about bop, rap and hip hop.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
African American pop music may have no more eloquent champion than George (Urban Romance, 1994), but in this ambitious attempt to fictionalize two decades worth of hip music history, the author's extensive knowledge of the field crowds his storytelling. In the mid-1960s in the St. Alban's area of Queens, N.Y., Derek Harper, an aspiring songwriter, meets local legend Edgecombe Lennox, a flashy record promoter who encourages the young man's ambitions. After high school, several failed romances and some college, Derek joins Lennox and his newest singing protg on a revealing and difficult promotional tour. Back in New York, still unable to earn a living as a songwriter, Derek takes a job as road manager for a cross-country rap tour. Jumping ship in L.A., he starts writing jingles that feed his wallet but not his soul. A more serious song, "Black Sex," that Derek records on his own prompts Lennox to position the tunesmith as a break-out star, but an unexpected crisis turns Derek's life in a surprising direction. Derek is a well-textured and appealing hero, but George's female characters are generally one-dimensional, sexual objects or untrustworthy schemers. The author's laborious trek through the music of the streets, with extensive insider references, seems driven by a personal agenda, moreover, and it's also overly detailed; likely, this novel will hold the interest only of those who care passionately about bop, rap and hip hop. Author tour. (Apr.)
Library Journal
He wants to be like Stevie Wonder, a songwriter supreme. He cherishes rhythm and blues in an age of hip-hop and rap. His name is Derek Harper, his heritage black middle-class Queens. Writing and rewriting his songs throughout a first-person narrative of his musical coming of age, Derek takes readers on the road for a tour of the black music business of the 1980s. At thirtysomething, he emerges rich but cynical, and tired of the power games, raunchy sex, drugs, and violence surrounding the music scene. Readers who want to experience the same disillusionment and burnout will find plenty of fodder here. The creative, soulful side of Derek is often lost in the morass of details that author George (Urban Romance, Putnam, 1994) heaps on the novel, and a "do-right" ending seems contrived. Buy where interest in songwriting and the music business runs high.-Keddy Ann Outlaw, Harris Cty. P.L., Houston
Benjamin Segedin
Cultural critic George's second novel is about Derek Harper--not the New York Knick" of that name, but a middle-class R & B songwriter from Queens who has the misfortune to come of age in the heyday of disco and rap rather than Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. George's vast knowledge of the ruthless machinations of the recording industry and the debauched life of musicians on the road, acquired during his years as a "Village Voice" columnist and "Billboard" editor, adds much to his novel's verisimilitude as Harper goes from driver for a pop star to road manager for a rap tour to limited success as a singer. The seventies and eighties milieu of discotheques, casual sex, recreational drugs, and gangsta rappers rings very true. Much of the story is conventional and reminiscent of George's account of his own involvement with the film industry in "Blackface" (1994). Its greatest strength lies in George's ability to convey how even the sappiest of songs can still be poignant if it's got soul.
Kirkus Reviews
Tom Jones meets Waiting to Exhale against a backdrop of the black music business: a wildly uneven examination of the dissonances within black American culture.

Former Village Voice music critic, nonfiction journalist (Elevating the Game, 1992, etc.), and novelist (Urban Romance, 1994) George hasn't got much in the way of literary chops, but he has found a subject: the devolution of black music from '70s soul to disco to rap, as experienced through the rise of Derek Harper, a middle-class, moderately talented songwriter from Queens. Son of a stern undertaker, whose business success serves as an index of the rise of crack and black-on-black murder, Derek's course is set when R&B music promoter Edgecombe Lennox recruits him: He'll drop out of college, hang around with musicians instead of taking a job, and hit on available women instead of staying true to childhood sweetheart Candi. The novel sings in these early scenes of black Queens, but then takes a bizarre and tasteless turn: a woman Derek has been having a kinky affair with is murdered with his anatomically ambitious dildo. Somehow, though, the story survives this John Irvingesque-capade. Taking over the management of an early rap tour, Derek witnesses and becomes part of a scary, violent, yet undeniably powerful new phenomenon—and he learns to cover up rape by rappers, to deal with gangbangers and drug kingpins, to hustle groupies, and to write songs. It's this material, and the portraits of Derek's more serious relationships with a group of successful black women, that elevate a novel that otherwise would be a tin-eared B-side single into a credible, if minor, hit. Derek's reunion with childhood sweetheart Candi, and his decision to start a community arts center with proceeds from his one success, shows that this is one male author who can dish out wish-fulfillment with the best of them.

Sweet, raunchy, and, when the author doesn't flinch, genuinely arresting.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399141690
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/16/1996
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Nelson George
Nelson George

Nelson George is an award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction. He has written for Playboy, Billboard, Esquire, the Village Voice, Essence, and many other national magazines, as well as writing and producing television programs and feature films.

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