IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: Michael Feinstein shines in book on the brothers Gershwin

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

For me, the highlights of any Michael Feinstein concert don’t come from his vocal renditions of Great American Songbook songs or from his keyboard skills.

Instead, they come in between the numbers, when the cabaret and concert star—and artistic director of the Center for the Performing Arts—shares anecdotes and insight about the composer and lyricists who crafted the tunes. You can find more effective interpreters of Gershwin, Kern and Porter, but you won’t find anyone who can tell a sharper story about them.

ae-gershwins-book-hres-1col.jpg (Cover image courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

That storytelling style translates nicely to the printed page in Feinstein’s new book, “The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs” (Simon & Schuster).

Feinstein’s experience working as an assistant to legendary lyricist Ira Gershwin anchors the memorabilia-filled volume. Each chapter not only gets a title (“Why Some Songs Survive and Others Don’t,” “Performing and Interpreting the Song”) but also a Gershwin theme song to inspire it (“They All Laughed,” “Someone to Watch over Me.”) And those same songs are conveniently available on a CD accompanying the book.

Breezily filling the book with stories about the creation of Gershwin classics,

Feinstein also masterfully takes readers on side trips into the writing processes of other composers, the history of Tin Pan Alley, the evolution of the Broadway musical, and the treatment of composers in Hollywood. With passion palpable, Feinstein never comes across as show-offy or name-dropping. He’s sharing something he loves, respects and values.

That doesn’t mean everything is positive. He admits to being bored with “Night and Day,” and not connecting with “All the Things You Are” and “Blues in the Night.” He’d also be perfectly happy never hearing “Over the Rainbow” again (that being the case, he should steer clear of the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, where it seems neck-and-neck with “Moon River” for most overplayed tune).

We do learn that he doesn’t care for Brian Wilson’s Gershwin covers or shows like “American Idol.” (“It’s not teaching them how to interpret a lyric or the essence of what the music is about; it’s telling them that a high note at the end of the song will cause people to stand up and scream.”)

But this isn’t a book that dishes. It’s a book that celebrates. And inspires. After reading Feinstein’s knowledgeable, engaging section on “Porgy and Bess,” for instance, I realized that it’s been 20 years since I’ve listened to a version from beginning to end. Time to get on that.

FYI: Feinstein introduces a showing of “An American in Paris” at the Palladium on Nov. 16, kicking off a series of classic movie musical screenings. He’s also signing copies of “The Gershwins and Me” in the gift shop that day, with proceeds going to his educational Great American Songbook Initiative.


____________

Another new biography, Wes D. Gehring’s “Robert Wise: Shadowlands” (Indiana Historical Society Press), looks at the native Hoosier whose two Best Director Oscars haven’t kept him out of the shadows of his less accomplished peers.

Wise’s story is a fascinating one, beginning with his work as editor for Orson Welles, both on his masterpiece “Citizen Kane” and his troubled follow-up, “The Magnificent Ambersons.” It was his role in the cutting of that film—against Welles’ wishes—that set the groundwork for his reputation as a get-the-job-done moviemaker without a singular vision. You can admire and even love “The Sound of Music,” “The Sand Pebbles,” “The Haunting,” “I Want to Live!” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” but you’d be hard-pressed to find connectivity between them.

Unless you are Gehring, who steadfastly searches for patterns in this crazy quilt of a career, it is a stretch to make the case for Wise as an auteur (the theory that credits the director as the central author of a film) akin to Welles, Capra and Scorsese.

Gehring doesn’t need to work so hard. There’s interesting stuff here about the “Ambersons” mess and some of Wise’s lesser-known films. Even hardcore Turner Classic Movies watchers may not be familiar with “So Big,” “Destination Gobi” or “House on Telegraph Hill.” And it seems like there would be more to say about his late-career duds, including “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and “Rooftops.”

But even a flawed Wise book helps fill some gaps in movie history. And helps point toward some not-to-be-missed films that even this film buff seems to have missed. When I’m done listening to “Porgy and Bess,” maybe I should get around to watching “Born to Kill.”•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
thisissue1-092914.jpg 092914

Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Here are a few candidates for this new group, "ripped from the headlines." First up, that bizzaro State Senator Brent Waltz; secondly, the unethical Todd Huston, and his contractual arrangements scheme; Finally, but not least of all, the dishonorable Eric Turner. What sayeth you Greg Zoeller?

  2. Good day. I can't hide this great testimony that take place in my life I will love everyone to know it and be partaker that is why I always place it on answer, I am Mrs,Natalie Cuttaia by name, I live in Texas, United State Of America, I want to thank (Mr.Bruce Brandon) for his kindness upon my family life. I never knew that there is still nice lender like this on internet and earth here. Just some Months Back, I was in search for a loan of $100,000,00 as I was running out of money for feeding and rent. I was scammed $6,800 Dollars and I decided not to involve my self in such business again but a Friend of my introduced me to a loan firm due to my appearance and doings. And I told him that I am not interested of any loan deal anymore but he told me that there is still a nice lender who he will recommend me to, and I made a trial and I am most grateful lucky am I today, I was given a loan amount of $100,000.00usd, by this great Company (Bruce Brandon Loan Company) managed by (Mr.Bruce Brandon) If you are in need of a genuine or legit loan or financial assistance and you can be reliable and trusted of capable of paying back at the due time of the funds I will advice you to, contact him via: ( bruce.brandon071@gmail.com ) And you will be free from scams in the internet. All thanks to Mr.Bruce Brandon You are the one who remove me and my family out of poverty. The reason why i am doing this is that, i promise Mr.Bruce Brandon that if i truly got my loan, i will advertize his company and bring customers to his company. Contact him via ( bruce.brandon071@gmail.com )for the Loan you have been looking for..

  3. Hello, We are firm Organization formed to help people in needs of helps,such as financial help. So if you are going through financial difficulty or you are in any financial mess,and you need funds to start up your own business,or you need loan to settle your debt or pay off your bills,start a nice business, or you are finding it hard to obtain capital loan from local banks,contact us today via email mrsroseberrywilkinsfunds.usa@gmail.com So do not let these opportunity pass you by because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever more. Please these is for serious minded and God fearing People. Your Name: Loan Amount: Loan Duration: Valid Cell Phone Number: Thanks for your understanding to your contact as we Await Regards Management Email:mrsroseberrywilkinsfunds.usa@gmail.com

  4. The question is, where could they build a new stadium? It seems in the past year, all the prime spots have been spoken for with potential projects. Maybe in the industrial wasteland area a block past Lucas Oil? I think it needs to be close to the core, if a new stadium is built.

  5. Aldi is generally a great shopping experience. Still, I'm sure YOU wouldn't want to shop there, which I consider a positive.

ADVERTISEMENT