This is a wonderful biography by Alex Halberstadt of a man who co-wrote so many great songs. I always knew little bits about Doc - born in New York, Jewish and crippled by polio, sang the blues in black clubs as a youth, wrote songs with Mort Schuman for The Drifters and Elvis, later wrote songs with Dr John and Willy DeVille, always great songs - this book evocatively fleshes out Pomus's life, his struggle not to be neglected due to his injuries, his great love of black music and absolute immersion in it, the poverty he endured for so many years and then the riches that poured in when he wrote hit after hit (Save The Last Dance For Me is about his wife dancing with men as he obviously couldn't dance with her but she always came back to him!). Such an imaginative writer - he wrote Viva Las Vegas without having travelled further west than New Jersey! Then back to poverty and living off hosting poker games, all the time a courageous, warm, generous man. As with Obama, this is one of those great American lives you couldn't make up!
Glad to see this book noted here... I'd been intending to do that myself for the last year!
Certainly one of the very best music books I've ever read. Truly an amazing -- and as the title states "unlikely" -- life. A great life, a great story, excellently written. Just a few of the highlights I recall:
- The young, short, overweight and crippled Jerome Feldman first hears Joe Turner on radio. "The singer shouted out the lyrics with such stupendous, effortless force that Jerome imagined him to be eleven feet tall, six hundred pounds and powered by a steam engine".
- That eventually leads to the scene in 1943, where "Doc Pomus" is born, when he gets up on stage in a Greenwich Village club, and propped up on his crutches belts out Turner's "Piney Brown Blues". (He becomes a blues shouter for the next dozen years, often as the only white in the club).
- The people stories. One of my favourites is about a young Phil Spector, whom Doc takes to one of his favourite restaurants, where the two of them witness another patron take three gunshots to the back of the head.
[quote]Spector refused to set foot in the Spindletop again. Doc nudged him back: "The place is incredible, right, the salads, I mean how about the service in that restaurant? Babe, you always got to look at the upside." But what about the guy who got murdered, Spector protested. "Well," Doc explained in a bit of philosophy that Spector never forgot, "the murder â€” thatâ€™s the downside of the restaurant, you understand, thatâ€™s the downside.â€™â€