cover image Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music

Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music

Jerry Wexler. Alfred A. Knopf, $25 (334pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40102-5

Veteran record producer Wexler, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member who coined the term ``rhythm and blues,'' spent the Depression as an adolescent in the Washington Heights section of New York City, hanging out in pool halls, hunting for rare records, hungering for excitement. Wexler took journalism courses at a college in Kansas but spent years as a window washer in Manhattan. After a stint in the wartime Army, he joined the staff of Billboard. In 1952 he became a partner in Ahmed Ertegun's Atlantic Records, recording such jazz, blues and folk greats as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Solomon Burke, Joe Turner, Betty Carter, the Drifters, Etta James and Bob Dylan. This spirited memoir, written with freelancer Ritz, crackles with career highlights and swings breezily through five decades of record-making, focusing especially on the 1950s and 1960s. Readers will enjoy accounts of Wexler's seminal encounters with gifted musicians, but they may wish for deeper development of this hip-merchant's life story. Photos not seen by PW. (May)