Hoagy Carmichael was one of that remarkable group of songwriters who created the American popular song in its great age from the 1920s to the 1930s. Unlike most of the other leading songwriters of the period - such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, among others, all of whom were strongly New York based and directed - Carmichael's origins were in the Midwest, and his music, as one writer describes it, reflected the 'sounds of summer in a small-town America that is long ago but still longed for'. The American popular song developed and reached its peak in the same years that jazz extended its hold on America's music. Hoagy Carmichael has the strongest jazz roots of all America's great songwriters. He was intimately involved with the legendary jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, who was the dominant influence on his music. He sang and played piano in jazz groups well into the 1930s, and many of his songs greatly reflected these jazz roots - among them, 'Riverboat Shuffle', 'Washboard Blues', 'Georgia on my Mind', 'Lazy Bones', and 'Skylark'.
Carmichael wrote 'Star Dust' - one of the most famous and popular American songs - which could be heard everywhere in the 1930s. In the late 1930s Carmichael began composing songs for Hollywood musicals, among them 'Two Sleepy People', 'I Get Along Without You Very Well', 'Ale Buttermilk Sky', and 'In the Cool, Cool of the Evening'. Carmichael also had a successful career in Hollywood as an actor, singer, and piano player. He appeared in 'To Have and Have Not' (with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall), 'The Best Years of Our Lives', and 'Young Man With A Horn'. Throughout his career, Carmichael never lost his early affinity for, and deep love of, the dynamic jazz music of his youth. And some of the most majestic moments in the career of Louis Armstrong, jazz's preeminent figure, occur in performances of Carmichael's songs. And as Richard Sudhalter brilliantly reveals in this perceptive and moving biography, Carmichael and his music represent a special vision of America: 'open and decent, worldly but appreciative of simple pleasures, pragmatic yet principled, secular yet deeply moral.'
Sudhalter understands Carmichael's music and its jazz roots, but he has an equally deep feel for this extraordinary man. He has written one of the great biographies of an American musical figure.show more