Tag Archives: Duke Ellington

Petrucelli’s Picks: 2018 Gift Guide: The Year’s Best Celebrity (Auto)Biographies, Part Two

We always knew how brilliant she is. Now the 2 people who have never heard of her need to listen up.

Stevie Nicks (as a solo performer) will be inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks (St. Martin’s press, $18.99) details her rise into stardom; author Stephen Davis details her her equally sexy work and life, unearthing fresh details from new, intimate interviews and interpreting them to present a rich new portrait of the star.


Rose McCowan’s Brave (HarperOne, $27.99) is her raw, honest and poignant memoir/manifesto—a no-holds-barred, pull-no-punches account of the rise of a millennial icon, fearless activist, and unstoppable force for change who is determined to expose the truth about the entertainment industry, dismantle the concept of fame, shine a light on a multi-billion-dollar business built on systemic misogyny, and empower people everywhere to wake up and be Brave.


Every Day Is Extra is John Kerry’s passionate, insightful, sometimes funny, always moving account of his life. Kerry tells wonderful stories about colleagues Ted Kennedy and John McCain, as well as President Obama and other major figures. He writes movingly of recovering his faith while in the Senate, and deplores the hyper-partisanship that has infected Washington.

Few books convey as convincingly as this one the life of public service like that which John Kerry has lived for fifty years. Every Day Is Extra shows Kerry for the dedicated, witty, and authentic man that he is, and provides forceful testimony for the importance of diplomacy and American leadership to address the increasingly complex challenges of a more globalized world.

If he’d only run for President . . .


When Jackie Kennedy Onassis died in her Fifth Avenue apartment on tk, her younger sister Lee Radziwill wept inconsolably. Then Jackie’s 38-page will was read. Lee discovered that substantial cash bequests were left to family members, friends and employees—but nothing to her. “I have made no provision in this my Will for my sister, Lee B. Radziwill, for whom I have great affection, because I have already done so during my lifetime,” read Jackie’s final testament.

Drawing on the authors Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberge’s candid interviews with Radziwill, The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters: The Tragic and Glamorous Lives of Jackie and Lee (Harper, $28.99) explores their complicated relationship, placing them at the center of twentieth-century fashion, design and style. For the first time, here is the complete story of these larger-than-life sisters.

Drawing on new information and extensive interviews with Lee, now 84, this dual biography sheds light on the public and private lives of two extraordinary women who lived through immense tragedy in enormous glamour.


The relationship between Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt, superbly portrayed in Terry Golway’s Frank and Al: Frank and Al: FDR, Al Smith, and the Unlikely Alliance That Created the Modern Democratic Party, is one of the most dramatic untold stories of early 20th Century American politics. It was Roosevelt who said once that everything he sought to do in the New Deal had been done in New York under Al Smith when he was governor in the 1920s.

It was Smith who persuaded a reluctant Roosevelt to run for governor in 1928, setting the stage for FDR’s dramatic comeback after contracting polio in 1921. They took their party, and American politics, out of the 19th Century and created a place in civic life for the New America of the 20th Century.


John Wayne predicted that Michael Caine would become a star. He was right, and Caine, now 85, has made more than 100 films in his six-decade career.  In Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life (Hachette Books, $28), Caine shares wisdom and stories from his remarkable career.

We love his take on aging: He bittersweetly acknowledges that many of his pals are dead; truths that keep Caine going. Even the dishy dirt is told with charm, the charm that still can be heard in his accent.


it seems like there’s no place anymore for optimism, integrity and good old-fashioned respect. Enter “America’s Dad”: Tom Hanks. Whether he’s buying espresso machines for the White House Press Corps, rewarding a jovial cab driver with a night out on Broadway or extolling the virtues of using a typewriter, Hanks lives a passionate, joyful life and pays it forward to others.

In The World According to Tom Hanks: The Life, the Obsessions, the Good Deeds of America’s Most Decent Guy (Grand Central Publishing, $26), Gavin Edwards takes readers on a tour behind the scenes of Hanks’s life: from his less-than-idyllic childhood, rocky first marriage, and career wipeouts to the pinnacle of his acting career and domestic bliss with the love of his life, Rita Wilson. Hanks is, indeed, the role model we all crave.


Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein IIstand at the apex of the great age of songwriting, the creators of the classic Broadway musicals Oklahoma!Carousel, South PacificThe King and I and The Sound of Music, whose songs have never lost their popularity or emotional power. Even before they joined forces, R&O had written dozens of Broadway shows, but together they pioneered a new art form: the serious musical play. Their songs and dance numbers served to advance the drama and reveal character, a sharp break from the past and the template on which all future musicals would be built.

Todd S. Purdum’s portrait of these two men, their creative process, and their groundbreaking innovations will captivate lovers of musical theater, lovers of the classic American songbook, and young lovers wherever they are.


Lorraine Hansberry was a force of nature. Although best-known for her work A Raisin in the Sun, her short life was full of extraordinary experiences and achievements, and she had an unflinching commitment to social justice, which brought her under FBI surveillance when she was barely in her twenties. While her close friends and contemporaries, like James Baldwin and Nina Simone, have been rightly celebrated, her story has been diminished and relegated to one work—until now.

Though she married a man, she identified as lesbian and, risking censure and the prospect of being outed, joined one of the nation’s first lesbian organizations. Hansberry associated with many activists, writers, and musicians, including Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Imani Perry’s Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry (Beacon Press, $26.95) is a tad academic, but it’s a powerful insight into Hansberry’s extraordinary life—a life that was tragically cut far too short. (She died at 34.)


In the revelatory Arthur Ashe: A Life (Simon & Schuster, $37.50), Raymond Arsenault chronicles Ashe’s rise to stardom on the tennis court, but much of the book explores his off-court career as a human rights activist, philanthropist, broadcaster, writer, businessman and celebrity. In the ’70s and ’80s, Ashe gained renown as an advocate for sportsmanship, education, racial equality, and the elimination of apartheid in South Africa.

From 1979 on, he was forced to deal with a serious heart condition that led to multiple surgeries and blood transfusions, one of which left him HIV-positive. In 1988, after completing a three-volume history of African-American athletes, he was diagnosed with AIDS, a condition he revealed only four years later. After devoting the last 10 months of his life to AIDS activism, he died in February 1993 at the age of forty-nine, leaving an inspiring legacy of dignity, integrity, and active citizenship.

Based on prodigious research, including more than 100 interviews,  Arsenault’s insightful and compelling biography puts Ashe in the context of both his time and the long struggle of African-American athletes seeking equal opportunity and respect.

“HELP!: The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration” is the fascinating story of how creative cooperation inspired two of the world’s most celebrated musical acts

The Beatles and Duke Ellington’s Orchestra stand as the two greatest examples of collaboration in music history. Now, Duke University musicologist Thomas Brothers delivers music to our ears (and eyes):  HELP!: The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration (W. W. Norton & Company, $27.95), the fascinating story of how creative cooperation inspired two of the world’s most celebrated musical acts. It’s 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 photos, anecdotes, and more than thirty years of musical knowledge that reverberates through every page, and analysis of songs from Lennon and McCartney’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” to Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge.” HELP! describes in rich detail the music and master 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.

June is busting’out all over, and PBS releases a slew of must-see, must-own DVDs

June will be bustin’ out all over, and when it does, get ready for some exciting new DVD releases from PBS Distribution. Let us share some of the news . . .

Nature: Natural Born Rebels (available June 5)
From a promiscuous prairie dog to a kleptomaniac crab and an alpha chimpanzee who reigns with an iron fist, this three-part series introduces the most rebellious animals in the natural world. But are these creatures really breaking bad?

Across the world, new studies are uncovering an astonishing variety of rebellious animal behaviors, and despite how it appears on the surface, researchers are discovering the complex and fascinating science behind why these animals behave the way they do. In fact, being a rebel could be the key to success in the wild.

Secrets of the Dead: Hannibal in the Alps (available June 5)
Hannibal, one of history’s most famous generals, achieved what the Romans thought to be impossible. With a vast army of 30,000 troops, 15,000 horses and 37 war elephants, he crossed the mighty Alps in only 16 days to launch an attack on Rome from the north.

For more than 2,000 years, nobody has been able to prove which of the four possible routes Hannibal took across the Alps, and no physical evidence of Hannibal’s army has ever been found until now. In this program, viewers will follow a team of experts–explorers, archaeologists and scientists–combine state-of-the-art technology, ancient texts, and a recreation of the route itself to prove conclusively where Hannibal’s army made it across the Alps – and exactly how he did it.

Chinese Exclusion Act (available June 5)
On May 6th, 1882, on the eve of the greatest wave of immigration in American history, President Chester A. Arthur signed into law a unique piece of federal legislation.  Called the Chinese Exclusion Act, it singled out as never before a specific race and nationality for exclusion–making it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America–and for Chinese nationals already here to become citizens of the United States.

A deeply American story, this program examines the economic, cultural, social, legal, racial and political dimensions of the law; the forces and events that gave rise to it; and the effect it had, and continues to have, on American culture and identity.

The Jazz Ambassadors (available June 19)
The Cold War and Civil Rights movement collide in this remarkable story of music, diplomacy, and race. In 1955, as the Soviet Union’s pervasive propaganda about the U.S. and American racism spread globally, African-American Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., convinced President Eisenhower that jazz was the best way to intervene in the Cold War cultural conflict. For the next decade, America’s most influential jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck, along with their racially-integrated bands, traveled the globe to perform as cultural ambassadors.

But the unrest back home forced them to face a painful moral dilemma: how could they promote the image of a tolerant America abroad when the country still practiced Jim Crow segregation and racial equality remained an unrealized dream? Told through striking archival film footage, photos, and radio clips, with iconic performances throughout, this program reveals how the U.S. State Department unwittingly gave the burgeoning Civil Rights movement a major voice on the world stage just when it needed one most.

Nova: Decoding the Weather Machine (available June 26)
Disastrous hurricanes. Widespread droughts and wildfires. Pervasive heat. Extreme rainfall. It’s not hard to conclude that something’s up with the weather – and many scientists agree this trend in the weather is not just a coincidence. It’s the result of the weather machine itself–the earth’s climate changing, becoming hotter and more erratic.  Climate change is arguably the defining challenge of this century, yet widespread misunderstanding and misinformation has hampered the public’s ability to understand the science and address the issue. In this program, viewers will cut through the confusion and help define the way forward.

Why do scientists overwhelmingly agree that the climate is changing, and that human activity is causing it? How will it affect the world through the weather we experience, and when? And what will it take to bend the trajectory of planetary warming toward more benign outcomes? Join scientists around the globe on a quest to better understand the workings of the weather and climate machine we call Earth and discover how they are finding that we can be resilient – even thrive – in the face of enormous change.

Going to War
War is the ultimate paradox. Filled with terror, pain, and grief, it brings exhilaration, and a profound sense of purpose. This program provides an insight that helps viewers make sense of this paradox and get to the heart of what it’s like to be a soldier in times of war. The film illuminates the experiences of training, battle, and coming home for soldiers across conflicts, revealing the universals of the warrior’s journey.

Leading the exploration are Sebastian Junger, bestselling author and director of the Academy Award-nominated film Restrepo, and Karl Marlantes, decorated Marine officer and author of the bestselling novel Matterhorn and the fearless memoir What It is Like to Go to War. Both men bring firsthand experience, hard-won wisdom, and an abiding commitment to telling the warrior’s story with insight and unflinching candor.

Martin Torgoff’s “Bop Apocalypse: Jazz, Race, the Beats, and Drugs” is an addictive look at America’s early drug use . . . and the music that went with it

A few pages into this book got us addicted. That’s a good thing. To fully understand national discussions on drugs—whether it’s the legalization of marijuana or the use of Naloxone for heroin overdoses—we must look at how the American drug culture was born: With herbal jazz cigarettes (think joints) at the Savoy Ballroom and the Beats high on Benzedrine in Times Square. In Bop Apocalypse: Jazz, Race, the Beats, and Drugs (Da Capo, $25.99), Martin Torgoff explores the early days of America’s drug use and marries it with our counter culture history taking us back to the beginning of the 20th century when modern drug law, policy, and culture were first established, and when musicians, writers and artists came together under the influence.

The narrative of Bop Apocalypse encompasses:

  • the birth of jazz in New Orleans
  • the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger and his “Marijuana and Musicians” file which included Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and others
  • Louis Armstrong and Chicago in the ’20s
  • “Reefer Madness” and the Marihuana Tax Act of ’37
  • Kansas City and the birth of swing
  • Bebop and the arrival of heroin to the streets of Harlem in the ’40s
  • the con­joining of principal Beat Generation characters in New York—Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and William Burroughs; their journeys and the creation of the three jazz-imbued masterworks (On the Road, Howl and Naked Lunch)
  • the birth, by 1960, of a new bohemian culture in cities and on college campuses across America

    The last known photo of Billie Holiday, snapped during a Verve recording

The juxtaposition of genius and addiction is notable throughout. Billy Holiday’s heroin addiction is discussed candidly with revealing new details from bebop hooker Ruby Rosano who shot up with Holiday’s help in a basement apartment while Charlie Parker played a blues nearby. Other vignettes like the engagement of the Miles Davis Quintet at the Café Bohemia in ’56 introduced John Coltrane’s brilliance to an audience of adoring fans as he spiraled into addiction and Davis reemerged clean.

A book that lays bare the ways in which race, drugs, and music collided to create a culture of both creative ingenuity and, at times, self-destruction, Bop Apocalypse tracks the impact of music’s long love affair with illicit substances.