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Stardust Melody The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael by Richard M. Sudhalter

Stardust Melody The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael


Stardust Melody The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael by Richard M. Sudhalter

Georgia on My Mind, Rockin' Chair, Skylark, Lazybones, and of course the incomparable Star Dust-who else could have composed these classic American songs but Hoagy Carmichael? He remains, for millions, the voice of heartland America, eternal counterpoint to the urban sensibility of Cole Porter and George Gershwin. Now, trumpeter and historian Richard M. Sudhalter has penned the first book-length biography of the man Alec Wilder hailed as the most talented, inventive, sophisticated and jazz-oriented of all the great songwriters-the greatest of the great craftsmen. Stardust Melody follows Carmichael from his roaring-twenties Indiana youth to bandstands and recording studios across the nation, playing piano and singing alongside jazz greats Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and close friends Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong. It illuminates his peak Hollywood years, starring in such films as To Have and Have Not and The Best Years of Our Lives, and on radio, records and TV. With compassionate insight Sudhalter depicts Hoagy's triumphs and tragedies, and his mounting despair as rock-and-roll drowns out and lays waste to the last days of a brilliant career. With an insider's clarity Sudhalter explores the songs themselves, still fresh and appealing while reminding us of our innocent American yesterdays. Drawing on Carmichael's private papers and on interviews with family, friends and colleagues, he reveals that The Old Music Master was almost as gifted a wordsmith as a shaper of melodies. In all, Stardust Melody offers a richly textured portrait of one of our greatest musical figures, an inspiring American icon.


With the instinct and insights of a discerning musician, Dick Sudhalter is a sensitive researcher, he's hip to how songwriters think, and he knows how to write about history and make it sing. Even Hoagy Carmichael, salty and critical as they come, would have probably pumped the author's hand and said, 'You got it, buddy.

-Dave Frishberg Richard Sudhalter has written an elegant, carefully etched portrait of Hoagy Carmichael, his life and music, with so much history and wealth of detail in every anecdote that each one comes alive for the reader. No one but a jazz musician could have shown such insight as Sudhalter does, revealing the many secrets of the man and his music and making Hoagy's songs glow forever in the mind and heart. -Marian McPartland Sudhalter writes with the voice of a novelist, the eye of a historian, and the heart of the superb jazz musician he is known to be. Stardust Melody sets a new standard of literary excellence for all celebrity biographies to come. -Max Morath Richard Sudhalter's new book is undoubtedly the most well-researched biography of Hoagy Carmichael available. Anyone interested in this fine American composer should get hold of a copy immediately. -Artie Shaw Sudhalter's entertaining yet straightforward style propels the narrative forward, and the musical examples are a plus. The exhaustive research, including interviews with Carmichael's relatives and colleagues, makes this essential for all popular music, American culture, or Indiana collections. -Library Journal (starred review) Sudhalter is a dedicated researcher who has to admit that his hero sometimes made a few things up, tricked cold facts into a wry story and generally saw himself in a smoky light akin to that of movies. -David Thomson, Los Angeles Times Book Review Highly readable and thoroughly researched. -William F. Gavin, The Washington Times Hailed by critics as the definitive look at the Hoosier songwriter. -Indianapolis Star An apt and able bio of a singular talent. -Kirkus Reviews An engaging bio. -US News & World Report Musically knowledgeable and truly dedicated to his subject, Sudhalter writes for a general audience with passion, enthusiasm, and a fine understanding of the subtleties of the songwriter's craft. -Baltimore Sun A thorough, superb and evocative biography. -Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle Meticulous, admiring, perceptive and informative.... A first-rate job of showing that Carmichael's mind was deeper and tougher than first impressions might suggest. -Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

About the Author

Richard M. Sudhalter is a widely respected jazz trumpet player and noted critic, broadcaster and Grammy-winning historian, who has performed and recorded Hoagy Carmichael's music all over the world. His Lost Chords (OUP) won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Special Citation for Excellence, and was voted a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He was co-author of the National Book Award-nominated Bix: Man and Legend, still cited as the definitive Beiderbecke biography. A Challenge Records recording artist, he lives on Long Island's North Fork.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st December 2003


Richard M. Sudhalter

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Oxford University Press Inc


480 pages


Biography: arts & entertainment
Pop music (Children's / Teenage)



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