Robert Tanitch reviews two books
MOTOWN THE SOUND OF YOUNG AMERICA (Thames & Hudson £ 39.95) is the definitive visual history of the Detroit-based independent record company. A small family business turns into a popular music powerhouse. If you are a fan of Motown look no further. The book begins with a dramatic conflagration and goes on a journey through the 60s, 70s and 80s. Here you will find Stevie Wonder, Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, Temptations and many more. This magnificent collection, an invaluable cornucopia of photographs and graphics, is a spectacular celebration and at the same time a tribute to Berry Gordon and Barney Ales. If you are fan, you probably want to see (or have already seen) Motown The Musical, which is repeating its Broadway success on the London stage. Its run has just been extended. This book would make a wonderful companion and souvenir.
THE RICHARD RODGERS READER by Geoffrey Block (Oxford £36.99). Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) was one of the most successful composers on the 20th century musical stage. When you went to a Rodgers musical you always came out of the theatre humming the songs. His work with Lorenz Hart included On Your Toes, Babes in Arms and Pal Joey (long overdue for revival). His work with Oscar Hammerstein Included Oklahoma! (a major turning point in the Broadway musical), Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music, all regularly revived. The book, a mixture of criticism, anecdote, biography and interviews, is aimed at the serious musical theatre scholar but it is totally accessible to the non-academic reader. The Sound of Music was much criticised at its premiere, not least for its sentimentality. But as Rodgers pointed out vast numbers of the public like sentimentality; and paid no attention to the critics..