Thomas Brothers is the author of Help! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans; and Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A professor of music at Duke University, he lives with his family in Durham, North Carolina.
Thomas Brothers picks up where he left off with the acclaimed Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, following the story of the great jazz musician into his most creatively fertile years in the 1920s and early 1930s, when Armstrong created not one but two modern musical styles. Brothers wields his own tremendous skill in making the connections between history and music accessible to everyone as Armstrong shucks and jives across the page. Through Brothers's expert ears and eyes we meet an Armstrong whose quickness and sureness, so evident in his performances, served him well in his encounters with racism while his music soared across the airwaves into homes all over America.
Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism blends cultural history, musical scholarship, and personal accounts from Armstrong's contemporaries to reveal his enduring contributions to jazz and popular music at a time when he and his bandmates couldn’t count on food or even a friendly face on their travels across the country. Thomas Brothers combines an intimate knowledge of Armstrong's life with the boldness to examine his place in such a racially charged landscape. In vivid prose and with vibrant photographs, Brothers illuminates the life and work of the man many consider to be the greatest American musician of the twentieth century.
The Beatles and Duke Ellington’s Orchestra stand as the two greatest examples of collaboration in music history. Ellington’s forte was not melody—his key partners were not lyricists but his fellow musicians. His strength was in arranging, in elevating the role of a featured soloist, in selecting titles: in packaging compositions. He was also very good at taking credit when the credit wasn’t solely his, as in the case of Mood Indigo, though he was ultimately responsible for the orchestration of what Duke University musicologist Thomas Brothers calls "one of his finest achievements." If Ellington was often reluctant to publicly acknowledge how essential collaboration was to the Ellington sound, the relationship between Lennon and McCartney was fluid from the start. Lennon and McCartney "wrote for each other as primary audience." Lennon’s preference for simpler music meant that it begged for enhancement and McCartney was only too happy to oblige, and while McCartney expanded the Beatles’ musical range, Lennon did "the same thing with lyrics."
Through his fascinating examination of these two musical legends, Brothers delivers a portrait of the creative process at work, demonstrating that the cooperative method at the foundation of these two artist-groups was the primary reason for their unmatched musical success. While clarifying the historical record of who wrote what, with whom, and how, Brothers brings the past to life with a lifetime of musical knowledge that reverberates through every page, and analyses of songs from Lennon and McCartney’s Strawberry Fields Forever to Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge.
Help! describes in rich detail the music and mastery of two cultural leaders whose popularity has never dimmed, and the process of collaboration that allowed them to achieve an artistic vision greater than the sum of their parts.