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If you attended public school in the United States between 1973 and today, odds are you’ve heard Dave Frishberg’s songs—just see if any of these Schoolhouse Rock classics ring a bell: “The Number Cruncher,” “Seven Fifty Once A Week,” “Dollars and Sense,” “Walking On Wall Street,” “Hardware,” and, of course, the classic “I’m Just A Bill.” Isn’t it time you put a name—and personality—to these iconic tunes? The internationally known jazz pianist, songwriter, and lyricist’s new memoir, My Dear Departed Past, presents an opportunity to do just that.
Of, course, Frishberg is much more than the writer of beloved civics-minded ditties—he’s also the brilliant lyricist and composer behind well-known songs including “Peel Me a Grape,” “I’m Hip,” “My Attorney Bernie,” “Blizzard of Lies,” and “Van Lingle Mungo,” a top-flight jazz pianist, and, sardonic wit in tow, an exemplar of American ideals. From his boyhood and university days in St. Paul, Minnesota, to his Air Force service in Salt Lake City, and then on to his life as a pianist and songwriter in New York City and Los Angeles, My Dear Departed Past is a pointed, poignant, sagacious look back on both a fascinating career in music at the height of the jazz scene and a storied life flush with jocularity and imagination.
For Frishberg, it all began in his WWII elementary school days when he discovered the music of Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bing Crosby while listening to his older brother Mort’s 78-rpm records. For good measure, Mort also taught Dave how to play boogie-woogie and blues on the piano—a musical indoctrination that perfectly sharpened the younger Frishberg’s musical tastes and laid the foundation for a lifelong love of music and the camaraderie of musicians.
In this book populated with colorful characters—especially the brilliant jazzmen and women he played with in iconic clubs and studios during the scene’s heyday—Dave brings his stories of being on the road and his experiences in the music business vividly to life. While My Dear Departed Past is a must-read for jazz aficionados, it’s just as suitable for anybody who ever wondered about the composer behind those classic tunes singing the praises of active citizenship and financial security.
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