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And They All Sang:   Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey
By Studs Terkel
325 pp.
New Press. US$29.95
ISBN-10: 1595580034 / ISBN-13: 9781595580030

Louis "Studs" Terkel was an American icon, a national treasure, and one of the most talented and intriguing oral historians in the world. In addition to his groundbreaking works as an oral historian, he was also disc jockey at WMFT in his native Chicago for 45 years. In his book, And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey, Terkel has collected some of his most famous interviews that he conducted with the various musicians who graced his studio.

This collection of musician interviews cuts across all musical genres. Classical music, jazz, blues, folk, pop, and spiritual musicians reveal their quirks, passions, and personalities when drawn out by the charismatic and humanistic Terkel. He discusses passion, art and love with soprano Catherine Malfitano, good and evil with baritone Tito Gobbi, the Declaration of Independence with Pete Seeger, performing in Ghana with Louis Armstrong, and songwriting with Bob Dylan. The reader need not be a music aficionado to appreciate the fine tapestry woven in these interviews.

And They All Sang is a unique reading experience. The reader cannot help be moved by the struggles and accomplishments of the musicians that comes out in their interviews. After all, as Terkel quotes in his opening page, "Many say that life entered the human body by the help of music but the truth is that life itself is music" (Hafiz, fourteenth-century Persian poet).

When Terkel began his radio show in 1945, he did not let musical genre restrict his choices. It is hard to imagine a disc jockey today following a blues number with an operatic aria, but this is what Terkel did. He expected his audience to be slim, but not surprisingly, the universality of music overcame the modern tendency to divide audiences and tastes into classes and types. Terkel is a universalist and humanist. His "eclectic" tastes are all to our benefit and gave him the opportunity to meet and have discourse with a fascinating range of American and international musicians. And They All Sang includes interviews with 42 musicians, including Marian Anderson, Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Woodie Guthrie, Mahalia Jackson, Janis Joplin, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Ravi Shankar, and more.

In addition to this book, Terkel has authored fifteen others, including Working, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression, Giants of Jazz, and The Good War, for which he was awarded the coveted Pulitzer Prize. He worked well into his nineties, right up until the time of his death. In addition to his other accomplishments and honors, he was Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the Chicago Historical Society.

Sylvia Breau, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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