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Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music

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Rhythm and the Blues: The Life in American Music

Current Status:
In Season
David Ritz, Jerry Wexler
Memoir, Music, Nonfiction

We gave it a C+

Jerry Wexler deserves a book. As a partner in the pioneering Atlantic Records label from 1953 to ’75, Wexler by his own modest account ”sailed under the flag of impassioned fandom” through the formative years of rhythm and blues (a term he coined as a Billboard reporter in 1949) — producing such giants as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Solomon Burke. His autobiography, Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music, crackles with the fly-on-the-wall thrill of witnessing mundane steps-songwriting, recording sessions, payola, promotion — that led to legendary performances. But Wexler’s alternately breezy and breathless voice, unleavened by either telling description or historical analysis, cuts a shallow wake, reducing his kaleidoscopic life to little more than a slide show. C+