cover image Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life and Times of Doc Pomus

Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life and Times of Doc Pomus

Alex Halberstadt, . . Da Capo, $26 (254pp) ISBN 978-0-306-81300-9

One of America's most popular songwriters was Jerome Felder, better known as "Doc Pomus." For decades he wrote big hits ("Save the Last Dance for Me," "This Magic Moment," "A Teenager in Love") for such artists as Dion, Fabian, the Drifters, Elvis and Dr. John. Pomus (1925–1991) himself was more of a blues story than anything he could have written. Halberstadt, who writes on music and pop culture, can be awkward writing about Pomus's intimate life, although he definitely knows his music history. The son in a New York working-class Jewish family, Pomus contracted polio when he was seven and lost the use of his legs. From then on, his life was all about music; he started bands, wrote music and promoted artists until the day he died. Halberstadt's understanding of how Jewish and African-American "hipster" subcultures fit together in the music world is particularly sharp. He takes readers to 1940s nightclubs where Pomus was the only white man around; hotel lobbies where Pomus spent afternoons listening for "the random brilliance of overheard speech"; and Pomus's hotel room when Bob Dylan came calling. This strangely affecting biography follows a straight chronology, including wonderful excerpts from Pomus's own diaries and a great selection of rarely seen photos. (Mar.)