Book cover, 25.5kThe Producer
John Hammond
and the Soul of American Music

by: Dunstan Prial
publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York
ISBN number: 0-374-11304-1


"The extraordinary John Hammond has long needed a good biography. This is it."
Pete Seeger

"John Hammond must be grinning in his grave, because Dunstan Prial has brought back to life for twenty-first-century readers the man who animated much of the twenty-first-century's greatest music. To read this book is to bask, once again, Hammond's toothy smile and marvel at his enthusiasm and insight."
Ken Emerson, author of Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era.

John Hammond was one of the most charismatic figures in American music. A pioneering producer and talent spotter, Hammond discovered and championed some of the most gifted musicians of early jazz - Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman - and staged the legendary "From Spirituals to Swing" concert at Carnegie Hall in 1938. Then, as jazz gave way to pop and rock, Hammond repeated the trick, discovering Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan in his life's extraordinary second act.

Dunstan Prial's biography shows Hammond's life to have been an effort to transcend his privileged upbringing. A Vanderbilt on his mother's side, Hammond grew up in a mansion in Manhattan. As a boy, he would sneak out at night and go uptown to Harlem to hear jazz in speakeasies. As a young man, he crusaded for racial equality in the music world and beyond. And as a Columbia Records executive - a dapper figure in a tailored suit - he saw music as the force that brought whites and blacks together.

This first biography of John Hammond is also a vivid account of great careers in the making: Bob Dylan recording his first album with Hammond at a cost of just $402; Bruce Springsteen showing up at Hammond's office carrying a beat-up acoustic guitar without a case. The Producer is a story of American music in all it's rough-edged vitality.

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