Friday, January 22, 2016

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom can tell a story!  His fiction and nonfiction writing has been warmly received and widely read.  He tells another good one in The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto.  Frankie, a Spanish orphan, becomes the star pupil of a reclusive, blind guitar player.  With the aid of some magic strings, a gift from a band of gypsies, he becomes one of the world's greatest guitar players and a top rock and roll star in the early days of the genre.

Frankie's life and times read like a guided tour of music history in second half of the twentieth century.  He jams with jazz greats, stands in for Elvis (fooling the crowd), parties with the Beatles, plays a legendary solo at Woodstock, and becomes teacher and guitar guru to other great guitar players.

But the magic strings are about more than music.  They teach Frankie how his life touches others.  After his inauspicious beginnings, his erratic lifestyle moves from continent to continent, with seemingly random meetings and coincidences shaping his life.  Albom doesn't dwell on the unlikely--no one can live like that (Can they?)--but delves into Frankie's character and the people and music that shape him.

Magic Strings primarily narrated by Music, the personified, omniscient entity.  Music shares plenty of musical wisdom and speaks lovingly of Music's disciples.  Throughout the book, other musicians who knew Frankie and played with him give their perspectives, as well.  I enjoyed the way Albom makes me believe Frankie was a real person, as real musicians make their cameos and tell their stories.

I was inspired by the music, which is weird to say since it's a book.  Albom's descriptions of Frankie's playing and performing brings the music alive, in away.  I was also moved by Frankie's life and love affair with music.  I have never loved music the way Frankie did, but I have been the beneficiary of that love as I have enjoyed the music of the Frankies of the world.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

2016 Reading Challenge: A book about music

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