Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (And What the Neighbors Thought)

by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993

When I was in my early twenties, I had a very sweet single friend who wished she wasn’t single. I offered to introduce her to a nice guy I knew from school, but her reaction threw me: “But—well, you know.  He’s a musician.” I only partially understand why that’s an automatic count against a person, seeing as musicians come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. But I think as a group they often bear the burden of being "different".

The older I get and the more people I meet, the more I am convinced that everybody is both more ordinary and more strange than one might expect, once you get to know them. There are fascinating stories everywhere you turn. Musicians and other "creative types" though, by nature of their work, do seem to have more than their share of interesting stories.  How often do you find yourself thinking, “Wow, that (insert name of extraordinary person here) lived a really mundane life!”, anyway? 

Kathryn Krull does a beautiful job of capturing the extraordinary aspects of the 20 musicians in this book, but she also portrays them as people. Highlighting musicians as varied asVivaldi, Clara Schumann, Stephen Foster, Tchaikovsky, Nadia Boulanger, Stravinsky, and Woody Guthrie, each biographical sketch covers a lot of ground in a brief 3-5 pages.  She hits all the essentials of what each person did, but also digs in to who each person was.  That approach makes fascinating reading, and I love having that extra insight into the music they produced.


  1. I really like Krull--we have her Lives of the Artists and it's just fun. The library has the Musicians and we've checked it out before. And I agree with you--what's NORMAL anyway?! :)

  2. I don't know what normal is, but I was a lot happier when I stopped trying to BE it! :) I definitely want to take a look at Lives of the Artists, too.


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