“Dancing in the Dark.” “That’s Entertainment.” “By Myself.” “You and the Night and the Music.” They are part of the American Songbook, and were all composed by Arthur Schwartz, the elusive father at the center of his son’s beautifully written book.
Imagine a childhood in which Judy Garland sings you lullabies, Jackie Robinson hits you fly balls, and yet you’re lonely enough to sneak into the houses of Beverly Hills neighbors and hide behind curtains to watch real families at dinner.
At the age of nine, Jonathan Schwartz began broadcasting his father’s songs on a homemade radio station, and would eventually perform those songs, and others, as a pianist-singer in the saloons of London and Paris, meeting Frank Sinatra for the first time along the way. (His portrait of Sinatra is as affectionate and accurate as any written to date.)
Schwartz’s love for a married woman caught up in the fervor of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and his other relationships with both lovers and wives, surround his eventually successful career on New York radio.
The men and women who have roles to play include Richard Rodgers, Nelson Riddle, Carly Simon, Jimmy Van Heusen, Bennett Cerf, Elizabeth Taylor, and, of course, Sinatra himself.
Schwartz writes of the start of FM radio, the inception of the LP, and the constantly changing flavors of popular music, while revealing the darker corners of his own history.
Most of all, Jonathan Schwartz embraces the legacy his father left him: a passion for music, honored with both pride and sorrow.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||3 MB|
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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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jonathan Schwartz's memoir could come off as incredible name-dropping, except as the son of a songwriter and later a DJ he really did meet a lot of famous people. I'm not a fan of his mannered radio style or of the standards he adores, so maybe I shouldn't have been reading this book.
I was of the impression that a memoir was a book written about a certain event, or a limited period of time in the author¿s life. Mr. Schwartz¿s memoir begins prior to his birth, and ends five or six decades later. Fortunately, he was still around to write about it, but this book is technically an autobiography. I¿m hoping he writes a sequel.I have written a review of his first book of short stories, Almost Home, after having re-read it almost forty years since the first reading. I assumed that many of those stories were autobiographical in their conception, and literary license was heavily applied in the telling of the tale. Apparently, I shouldn¿t have. I recognized large chunks of each of those stories in All in Good Time.I used to listen to Jonathan Schwartz on the FM radio back in the 60s and 70s. As it is difficult to find anything published by him, I was floored to come across this book in a used-book store (one of several I visit on a regular basis), and began reading it as soon as I could get to a coffee shop.He doesn¿t hide anything. There were parts of his life that, frankly, I¿d have been very happy not knowing about. Yet, if he had left those things out, and I (somehow) found about them later, I would then have to question the validity of the memoir. In short, he¿s brutally honest about his life, and if nothing else, you have to respect him for that.There is a pervasive theme throughout the book where it seems, with rare exception, he doesn¿t know anyone who isn¿t famous. Most of the people he knew were friends/associates of his father, songwriter Arthur Schwartz. As a result, pretty much half of the people in the Hollywood phone book (for several decades) are mentioned throughout. Some might think he¿s trying to draw your interest by name-dropping, but these celebrities were as much a part of his life as Zung (a stuffed monkey doll) was to my youngest son.This was a good book to read. Most of it doesn¿t leave you feeling uplifted, but overall; it is as honest a self-examination of a life as I¿ve ever read ¿ and with more details than I would feel comfortable about revealing about myself.So, would I recommend it? Sure, I would. Just keep in mind that although the book ends on a happy note, it¿s a story of loneliness and tragedy, and demons. You have to respect him for laying it all out there.
This book is as good as jonathan Schwartz is on the radio. It is honest and funny and melancholy and beautifully written, just what you'd expect from America's number one music radio voice . It read like a novel and contains the feeling of the supberb radio work that he's been doing for 35 years. It's the best book I've read this year. William Penson
The steady voice of Jonathan Schwartz on AM and FM radio in New York and now on XM Satellite Radio everywhere in the continental USA has provided intelligence on music and almost every other subject since Jonathan's debut in 1958 (on then commercial WBAI). This extraordinary and literate memoir takes us back farther to WKCS, 'The Voice of 94th Street', his teenage broadcasts on an Electronic Baby-Sitter to the family apartment and environs, and earlier to Beverly Hills with his parents Composer Arthur Schwartz ('Dancing in the Dark', 'That's Entertainment') and Actress Katherine Carrington. This is a life worth knowing and 'All in Good Time' provides us Jonathan's unique looks at Frank Sinatra, Carly Simon, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Jackie Robinson, Paris, New York, Boston, Beverly Hills, Radio, Baseball, Paine Whitney, the Betty Ford Center and much more. Not just for fans of Jonathan's radio shows but for anyone who enjoys a well written biography.
Jonathan Schwartz still graces the airwaves with his passion for music and stories only he can spin with such eloquence. The book takes the spirit of his love of music and tells a story that flows like a well spun vinyl record. The only thing missing after each chapter is a musical interlude that takes the listener of his shows in to a peaceful other world. The reverance for his family represents a special quality that gets lost in our modern world where celebrities scream foul at every turn. There are fewer and fewer radio personalities who represent the quality of good music with a good story. Vin Scelsa of WFUV.FM in New York City comes to mind. What Schwartz does is display his heart on his sleeve and we are all asked to accept that sometimes the music can cure everything, everywhere for everyone. Back in those hey-days of early FM radio in the late 1960s, voices on the radio were many times the voices of reason and purpose for understanding so much in a changing world. The true value of one man's story to be openly shared with a reader is without question a rare treat indeed.