Matt Evans's Reviews > When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man

When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead by Jerry Weintraub
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Jul 28, 2010

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** spoiler alert ** Jerry Weintraub is the man who packaged and marketed John Denver. Depending on your preference, this is either the best thing in the world or unforgivable. Me: I like John Denver. A lot.

What's weird is that about a year ago I delved rather deeply into Denver's music, life, etc., and was surprised to find out that (a) his real name is John Deutschendorf, Jr. (b), that he grew up in just about anywhere but the country (i.e., in a lot of cities -- which makes him a city slicker), (c) that both of his parents were German. The German ancestry thing figures prominently in Denver's music. If you know anything about Germans, you know that they love their "volkmusik" -- folk music. If you know anything about John Denver, you're thinking to yourself, "What's he talking about? There aren't accordions in Denver's music; he doesn't yodel." Correct. But what Denver does is sing a lot about home and mountains, the spirit of home and mountains, the near-attainment of an idealized woman, the "eternal-feminine" (das Ewig-Weibliche) whose mere presence suffices to draw upward to heaven the debased (and singing) male, grasping at her hem. These are also the themes of many if not most German folk songs, and thus the point of the comparison. (Of course, an idealized woman -- an idealized anyone, for that matter -- is also an objectified woman [or anyone:]; but that's a discussion for another Goodreads review.)

My point: it's not too gross a simplification, I believe, to say that John Denver's music is nothing but Americanized German folk music. Weintraubs genius was, I think, to recognize this fact, and to know how to market John Denver's volkmusik to a patriotic American mass audience. Which he did. To great acclaim. And it's not just marketing, Weintraub is quick to point out.

Moreover, it was Weintraub's connections with Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley/Colonel Parker (so close they were almost the same person) that helped get John Denver's career off the (musical) ground and up and soaring into the resplendent blue sunshine of American pop stardom -- rather unlike the short and tragic and barely-airborne, drunken-hummingbird flight of the technically-deficient experimental plane that Denver piloted to his gruesome death.

Which is a sad note to end this review on. But a similar note to the one Mr. Weintraub ends his own memoirs on. Writing of his mother's death, which happened a few years ago, Weintraub says, "A man without a mother is a man without a country, an exile.... You never recover from it.... The world should come to an end but it doesn't; it goes on, carries you with it."

Weintraub pauses and then adds this: "But death is necessary. It makes the rope taut. Without it we would have no stories, no meaning."


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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Craig (new)

Craig heard him on Wait Wait, uniquely entertaining and funny.

Matt Evans He was on Wait Wait? Awesome. I'll have to hunt that down.

message 3: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle Wow, what a review! You should do this professionally. This was very helpful, thanks.

Matt Evans Michelle wrote: "Wow, what a review! You should do this professionally. This was very helpful, thanks."

Thanks. It's a great audiobook. I hope you like it!

message 5: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle I'm a big John Denver fan and I was born in Germany, so I think I'm going to enjoy this. I love your reviews--very intellectual, Keep 'em, comming! =)

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