Books

 

Chapter 9 of Love and War includes: The Sound of the City, Talking Heads, War Correspondents, and Doggy Style.

The Sound of the City

Sounding Salsa: Performing Latin Music in New York City by Christopher Washburne (Temple University Press, $26.95)—This book about salsa and the musicians who play it goes in wildly different directions. There are stories of death threats at rehearsals, of the role of cocaine and the drug cartels in the scene, of Ruben Blades calming a crowd in Venezuela by singing about his deceased parents after a front row shooting, of the bassist who says he killed Charlie Parker by getting him drugs...

Talking Heads

How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop: The Machine Speaks by Dave Tompkins isn’t just about a piece of gear called the Vocoder. It’s about separating and connecting the mind, the body, speech, and music. Anything that does that in full or in part—music, literature, movies, machines—is in Tompkins’ sights. To most people, the Vocoder might only mean Roger Troutman or Peter Frampton. Turns out it was invented in World War II and became part of an experiment in which the first use of turntables in tandem was by the Pentagon for spy games...

War Correspondents

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln had a meeting in the White House with Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. “So you’re the little lady who wrote the book that made this great war,” Lincoln said to her.

 

Lincoln wasn’t kidding. As noted Civil War historian James McPherson writes: “When first published in weekly installments in the antislavery newspaper National Era from the summer of 1851 to the spring of 1852, the story attracted little attention outside antislavery circles. But when it appeared between hard covers in 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin suddenly became the publishing phenomenon of all time. With little advance notice and no reviews, it sold three thousand copies the first day, twenty thousand in the first three weeks. Then sales really took off...

Doggy Style

Hound Dog, written with David Ritz, is the autobiography of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote not only that “title track” but a whole string of classics--“There Goes My Baby,” “Young Blood,” “Stand By Me,” “Love Potion Number 9,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Kansas City,” “On Broadway,” “Poison Ivy,”  “I (Who Have Nothing),” “Framed,” “Spanish Harlem,” “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care.” Their famous declaration that “We don’t write songs, we write records” is literally true—they produced and arranged most of the records, with Leiber creating the scratch vocals as a guide and with Stoller on keyboards.

 

Although they were native New Yorkers who were a key part of the Brill Building scene, they met and began to collaborate in Los Angeles while in high school, this opened up their sensibilities to Pachuco styles and much more. “I liked Belmont High School,” Stoller writes. “Half the kids were Mexicans. Then there were Chinese and Japanese kids, black kids and kids from the South Sea Islands. All the hipsters in New York warned me that LA was really square, but they were wrong...”