The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom the magic strings of frankie prestoBook Review

Title: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
Author:  Mitch Albom
Imprint: Harper Paperbacks
Released: October 25, 2016
Pages: 368
ISBN-10: 0062294431
ISBN-13: 9780062294432
Stars:  5.0

Once in a very blue moon a book comes along that is so unique and wonderful, no – downright magical – that it immediately becomes one of the best books you’ve ever read. Those books are what I call five-star desert island classics; books I want to have with me for the rest of my life because I know I will read them again and again.

Recently, my client and dear friend Deborah Ledon recommended a book for me that she said she loved and was certain that I would love too. I bought the book, called The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom, whose work I had read previously and especially adored in The Five People You Meet In Heaven (which I’ve so far read twice). Albom is a maestro of the rhythm of storytelling and I believe he has created his magnum opus with The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, a book narrated by Music itself.

Francisco de Asís Pascual Presto was born in Villareal, Spain in August 1936 in a church where his mother had sought refuge from El Terror Rojo – the Red Terror – revolutionaries and militiamen who were angry with the new government. Francisco’s mother Carmencita was aided by a young nun as she gave birth to her son, and we later learn that she died after childbirth and the nun took care of the newborn, who would not cry, in his early days as an infant. Before Carmencita dies, she sings a melody to her baby, a song called “Lágrima” (teardrops) by the renowned Spanish guitarist Francisco Tárrega, and the song is immediately ingrained in baby Frankie’s memory.

On the boy’s first birthday his guardian takes him into town to its largest store where Frankie hears a song by Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia on a wind-up gramophone for the first time, and he finally cries. In fact, he continues to cry constantly and the only thing that will ease his torment is music.

Frankie is raised by a blind guitar teacher in Spain, known to him as El Maestro, who gives him six mysterious blue strings and a beautiful acoustic guitar, educates him in music, and allows Frankie’s magnificent talent to blossom.

Throughout this extraordinary story, we travel back through Frankie Presto’s illustrious history from the 1940s jazz scene to the Grand Ole Opry, to the birth of rock and roll and Woodstock, while Frankie (accompanied by his hairless dog with no name) searches for his childhood sweetheart, Aurora York. We meet some of the great artists who influenced him and were influenced by him along the way, including Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Elvis Presley, Darlene Love, Tony Bennett and Paul Stanley to name a few, who help Music to narrate the tale.

I couldn’t believe it when in Part Five of the novel, Albom wrote about Paul Stanley‘s reminiscences of Frankie Presto, at the end of which he recalled:

“It’s funny. In 1999, I got a chance to play the lead in Phantom of the Opera in Toronto. I’ve never tried anything like that. But I went for it, partly because my son at the time was about five years old. And I remember thinking, “I want him to see me in this.”

Well, I saw Paul Stanley, guitarist and founding member of KISS, in 1999, in Phantom of the Opera in Toronto, and he was absolutely brilliant!

I was mesmerized by Albom’s story from the very first chapter and found myself smiling a lot, although sometimes tearing up too while reading Music’s epic tale about Frankie’s journey to discover what matters most in life and how the power of talent can change our lives. Music, fame, true love and the inevitable fall from grace shape the melody and harmonies of Frankie’s soundtrack and like all great soundtracks, leave us thinking about our own.

Like most of us, Frankie doesn’t get through life unscathed and has to deal with more than his fair share of tragedy, but music, love, and the magic of synchronicity save him, again and again.

This passage brought tears to my eyes with its simple truth:

He recalled a conversation with his teacher.

“Why do the strings make different sounds, Maestro?”
“It is simple. They work like life.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The first string is E. It is high pitched and quick like a child.
“The second string is B. It is pitched slightly lower, like the squeaky voice of a teenager.
“The third string, G, is deeper, with the power of the young man.
“The fourth string, D, is robust, a man at full strength.
“The fifth string, A, is solid and loud but unable to reach high tones, like a man who can no longer do what he did.”
“And the sixth string, Maestro?”
“The sixth is the low E, the thickest, slowest, and grumpiest. You hear how deep? Dum-dum-dum. Like it is ready to die.”
“Is that because it is closest to heaven?”
“No, Francisco. It is because life will always drag you to the bottom.”

I love the messages in this story that tell us with perseverance, practice, and determination, we can overcome the largest of obstacles in our lives…and the loyalty of a good dog can sometimes save us. But ultimately, true love and leaving a positive legacy for our children, is what matters most in life, and for this die-hard romantic, no truer words have ever been written.

With this book, Mitch Albom has become one of my favourite authors. I hope that you will read it so that he will become one of your favourites too.

 

Son of Rock’n’Roll Icon Jackie Wilson Joins Legends Class of ’59 Tour

CLASS OF ‘59 features the early years of Rock’n’Roll… Imagine the band with Buddy Holly on guitar … Jerry Lee Lewis on piano… The Big Bopper on string bass… plus special guests… Young Elvis… The Everly Brothers… Bill Haley… Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke plus “Mr Sax” Johnny Ferreira and more!  It’s a fabulous “oldies” Rock’n’Roll show… when the music was raw, pure and simple and played the way it’s supposed to be played… Just like the old days.

Class of '59

 

Bobby Brooks Wilson has been added to the Class of ’59 2016 touring cast. Wilson, for those that haven’t had the privilege, is the quintessential Motown entertainer who has a way of becoming the undisputed hit of any musical production he is part of. And, with Lance Lipinsky and Zachary Stevenson on the same show… that is really saying something. Wilson’s story is even better…

Bobby Brooks Wilson, known as Bobby Brooks back in the 1990’s, broke into show business portraying Jackie Wilson in the original Waikiki production of “Legends in Concert.” He was discovered by a Legends in Concert talent scout who suggested he perform a tribute to Jackie Wilson because of his uncanny likeness to the 1950’s recording star. Audiences found him an unusually close natural look-alike, especially for a tribute artist, and he went on to international success portraying the legendary 1950’s entertainer.

Overcoming early foster care and personal tragedies that read like a work of fiction, Bobby Brooks never knew his father… much less that he was a famous father. Through various acts of fate, he finally met some of Jackie Wilson’s family members. After comparing family timelines, it was discovered that Brooks could be the son of the late, great R&B recording artist Jackie Wilson. With the aid of one of Wilson’s family members, it was officially confirmed through a DNA test that Jackie Wilson was indeed his biological father.  The Wilsons have since accepted Bobby as family.

Buddy Holly and The Killer… will be playing guitar and piano, respectively, in the all-star Legends Band including the “Big Bopper” on string bass plus guest performers… Young Elvis, Bill Haley, Molly Dee, the Everly Brothers and introducing Bobby Brooks Wilson as Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.

Don’t miss Class of ’59…  it’s a fabulous “oldies” rock’n’roll show… when the music was raw, pure and simple and played the way it’s supposed to be played… on tour in Canada during the fall of 2016.

More Information & Video Available at www.Classof59.info

Oct 6 – North Vancouver, BC
Centennial Theatre
Charge By Phone at 604.984.4484
Or Buy Online at www.centennialtheatre.com

Oct 7 – Victoria, BC
McPherson Playhouse
Charge By Phone at 250.386.6121
Or Buy Online at www.rmts.bc.ca

Oct 8 – Nanaimo, BC
Port Theatre
Charge By Phone at 250.754.8550
Or Buy Online at www.porttheatre.com

Oct 9 – Maple Ridge, BC
The ACT Theatre
Charge By Phone at 604.476.2787
Or Buy Online at www.theactmapleridge.org

Oct 11 – Camrose, AB
Lougheed Centre
Charge By Phone at 780.608.2922
Or Buy Online at www.camroselive.ca

Oct 12 – St Albert, AB
Arden Theatre
Charge By Phone at 780.459.1542
Or Buy Online at www.ticketmaster.ca

OCT 13 – Sherwood Park, AB
Festival Place
SOLD -OUT

OCT 14 – Fort Saskatchewan, AB
Shell Theatre
Charge By Phone at 780.992.6400
Or Buy Online at  www.ticketpro.ca

Oct 16 – Trail, BC
Charles Bailey Theatre
Charge By Phone at 250.368.9669
No Online Ticket Sales

OCT 17 – Cranbrook, BC
Key City Theatre
Charge By Phone at 250.426.7006
Or Buy Online at www.keycitytheatre.com

Oct 19 – Kelowna, BC
Community Theatre
Charge By Phone at 250.762.5050
Or Buy Online at www.selectyourtickets.com

OCT 20 – Vernon, BC
Performing Arts Centre
Charge By Phone at 250.549.7469
Or Buy Online at www.ticketseller.ca

OCT 21 – Chilliwack, BC
Cultural Centre
Charge By Phone at 604.391.7469
Or Buy Online at www.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca

OCT 22 – New Westminster, BC
Massey Theatre
Charge By Phone at 604.521.5050
Or Buy Online at www.masseytheatre.com

OCT 25 – Peterborough, ON
Showplace Performance Centre
Charge By Phone at 705.742.7469
Or Buy Online at www.showplace.org

OCT 26 – Brampton, ON
Rose Theatre
Charge By Phone at 905.874.2800
Or Buy Online at www.rosetheatre.ca 

OCT 27 – Brantford, ON
Sanderson Centre
Charge By Phone at 519.758.8090
Or Buy Online at www.sandersoncentre.ca 

OCT 28 – Lindsay, ON
Academy Theatre
Charge By Phone at 705.324.9111
Or Buy Online at www.academytheatre.ca 

OCT 29 – Oshawa, ON
Regent Theatre
Charge By Phone at 905.721.3399
Or Buy Online at www.regenttheatre.ca

OCT 30 – Guelph, ON
River Run Centre
Charge By Phone at 519.763.3000
Or Buy Online at www.riverrun.ca

OCT 31 – St Catherines, ON
FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre
Charge By Phone at 905.688.0722
Or Buy Online at www.firstontariopac.ca

When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors

Movie Review
Title: When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors
Director: Tom DiCillo
Studio: Rhino Entertainment
Starring: Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek & John Densmore; narrated by Johnny Depp
Run Time: 90 min.
Release Date: April 9, 2010
Stars: 4.0

As the imperturbable narrator Johnny Depp has already said, “As a rock n’ roll documentary, or any kind of documentary for that matter, it simply doesn’t get any better than this.” I concur.

I went to see the new, mesmerizing rock documentary When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors, written and directed by Tom DiCillo tonight with friends, my niece and her boyfriend (20 & 19 respectively) and I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of a buzz going on at the premiere screening in Kingston, hosted by K-ROCK 105.7 radio. The theatre was two-thirds full with an audience of mixed demographics and everyone sat still with rapt attention and watched for the most part in sober silence for the next 90 minutes. There were a few laughs along the way, usually at Jim’s expense, and I caught myself smiling through much of the film. There’s something about being middle-aged and having to be responsible that goes against my inner will to be weird. Watching When You’re Strange made me want to party with my friends and listen to Doors music all night long but reality had something less debaucherous in mind.

When You’re Strange opens with never-before-seen footage of Jim as a drifter in the desert in his friend Paul Ferrara’s 50-minute 1969 film HWY that is so clear and vibrant that it could have been shot yesterday. As he drives along a California highway in a slick, blue Shelby GT500 we hear reports of his death on the car radio and so begins a factual and retrospective look back at one of the most unique and influential rock bands ever to grace this planet. With Johnny Depp at the helm, we’re taken for a sail back through time to an era when counterculture was born and a gorgeous, young, very well read James Douglas Morrison was obsessed with Elvis Presley and could quote William Blake at the same time.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite”.

Jim also knowingly said, “The music can’t help but reflect things that are happening around it.” That is still true of music today although no other band has so clearly defined an era in history as perfectly as The Doors depicted the end of the 1960s and the end of the Kennedys’ Camelot vision for America. Tom DiCillo has captured this fact perfectly in his commanding film about Robby Krieger, John Densmore, Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison and he made sure to emphasize the importance of each band member’s contribution. Presented primarily in chronological order from archival footage supplied by Wolf Films and producer Peter Jankowski, When You’re Strange is not only a bittersweet love letter to the band, but a Dear John letter to the era that spawned them.

Although I knew much of what was presented about the band already, I still thoroughly enjoyed the footage that I hadn’t seen before and I loved being reminded of the band’s relevance in the history of rock’n’roll. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer because when the music was over, I didn’t want to leave, I didn’t want to turn on the lights, and I didn’t want to stop listening to the band. This is probably why people will want to go to see it over and over again.

“For the music is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
Until the end
Until the end
Until the end

What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down

I hear a very gentle sound
With your ear down to the ground
We want the world and we want it…
We want the world and we want it…
Now!”

~When The Music’s Over~

When You’re Strange can’t help but stir up emotions for anyone who lived through the time period it represents but it also gives new, younger fans the big picture as to why The Doors’ music is timeless and why it will continue to live on long past the lives of the men who dared to challenge the boundaries of rock music with intelligent, poetic lyrics and jazz, flamenco, classical and blues infused rock’n’roll. No one had done it before and no one has made music like it since.

Ray, Robby and Tom talk about When You’re Strange at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival