SOMEWHERE FOR ME: A Biography of Richard Rodgers

Meryle Secrest, Author . Knopf $30 (480p) ISBN 978-0-375-40164-0

"Whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens," sings Maria to a lighthearted melody in Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, but this sentimental, carefree imagery was hardly the stuff of which composer Rodgers's life was made. This deeply researched and moving critical biography covers the composer's long life and career (he died in 1979), with astute analysis of his work and sympathetic, but not hagiographic, insights into the man. Born in 1902 to an upper-middle-class Jewish family in New York City, Rodgers copyrighted his first song, "Auto Show Girl" when he was 15. After he teamed up with Lorenz Hart in 1919, they turned out a series of shows and songs that made them world famous and well-off (by the mid-1930s, at the height of the depression, they were each making more than $100,000 a year). When Hart died in 1943, Rodgers partnered with Oscar Hammerstein and went on to produce some of the most popular and important musicals in the second half of the 20th century, including The King and I and No Strings. Secrest, who has penned critically acclaimed biographies of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, has a good eye for detail and neatly integrates important personal details such as the impact of Dorothy's homophobia concerning her husband's relationship with the gay Hart or the increasingly debilitating effect that Rodgers's alcoholism had on his work. Based on extensive interviews (and the help of Rodgers's children) as well as comprehensive research in the sociology of the music and theater industry, this is a wonderful addition to the literature on American popular culture. (Nov.)

Forecast:Bookstores with music sections would be wise to stock this title. Expect strong sales from both theatergoers and lovers of song standards.

Reviewed on: 10/01/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
Paperback - 478 pages - 978-1-55783-581-9
Hardcover - 457 pages - 978-0-7475-5216-1
Hardcover - 480 pages - 978-0-7475-5825-5
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