FINE AND DANDY: The Life and Work of Kay Swift

Vicki Ohl, Author . Yale Univ. $30 (294p) ISBN 978-0-300-10261-1

Kay Swift (1897–1993) lived a glorious life as a pianist and composer, companion to George Gershwin and the first woman to write a Broadway musical, Fine and Dandy . Ohl, who teaches piano at Heidelberg College in Ohio, provides an exhaustive, sometimes dense first biography of the composer. Using Swift's unpublished memoirs and interviews with her grandchildren, Ohl chronicles the pianist's breathless and charmed life, from her precocious childhood as a musical prodigy who was memorizing lyrics from operas at five years old, to her marriage to banker James Warburg and her later years of composing for Balanchine ballets and shows for Radio City Music Hall. Swift flitted through the show business world of the 1920s, '30s and '40s, and Ohl recreates this heady time in musical theater. Ohl engages in a close reading of Swift's Fine and Dandy , helping to bring the Broadway show first produced in 1930 back to our attention. As Ohl demonstrates, Swift found herself as a part of a society in which women's worth was perceived through their husband's success. Yet Swift's publications secured her membership in the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, joining the company of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers and George Gershwin. While Ohl's academic tone slows her narrative at times, she deserves credit for bringing Swift back to our attention and for producing what surely will be the definitive biography of this fascinating woman. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 329 pages - 978-0-300-13039-3
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