The Fan Who Knew Too Much: Aretha Franklin, the Rise of the Soap Opera, Children of the Gospel Church, and Other Meditations

Anthony Heilbut, Author
Anthony Heilbut. Knopf, $30 (368p) ISBN 978-0-375-40080-3
Paperback - 354 pages - 978-1-59376-528-6
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-09893-0
Open Ebook - 259 pages - 978-0-307-95847-1
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Full of contagious enthusiasm, razor sharp wit, and stunning insights, Heilbut’s affectionate fan’s notes range brilliantly over topics as diverse as gospel singers Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, and Marion Williams, novelists Thomas Mann and Joseph Roth, and soap operas, homosexuality, and opera. A Grammy Award–winning record producer and cultural historian, Heilbut (The Gospel Sound) readily acknowledges his consummate fandom, and admits that “an old fan knows a few things—that his fandom has been a major portion of his self, a source of as much pleasure as his love or his work.” In these meditations, he continues to reconsider his great loves—especially gospel music, a thread that weaves its way through this colorful quilt of cultural reflections—dignifying both himself and his subjects through his elegant prose. For example, his musings on Aretha Franklin alone are worth the price of the book, for they not only carry us from her early days of singing gospel in her father’s church, her ascent as the queen of soul, and her return to gospel after a series of personal setbacks, but also through a labyrinth of considerations of race, the role of women in the black church, sexual abuse, and the healing, transcendent power of music. Recalling Keats, Heilbut reminds us that “immersion in sensation can be a fan’s highest bliss,” and the sensations of spending a few moments in Heilbut’s company provide great bliss indeed. (June)
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