Set in early 1970s Detroit, a racially divided city still reeling from its violent riot of 1967, Beautiful Music is the story of one young man’s transformation through music. Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio–loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence.
But after tragedy strikes the family, Danny’s mother becomes increasingly erratic and angry about the seismic cultural shifts unfolding in her city and the world. As she tries to hold it together with the help of Librium, highballs, and breakfast cereal, Danny finds his own reason to carry on: rock ‘n’ roll. In particular, the drum and guitar–heavy songs of local legends like the MC5 and Iggy Pop. In the vein of Nick Hornby and Tobias Wolff, yet with a style very much Zadoorian’s own, Beautiful Music is a touching story about the power of music and its ability to save one’s soul.
Michael Zadoorian is the author of five works of fiction. His second novel, The Leisure Seeker was recently made into a feature film starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.
His most recent novel is The Narcissism of Small Differences. Set in bottomed-out 2009 Detroit, it’s the story of Joe Keen and Ana Urbanek, an unmarried Gen X couple with no kids or mortgage, as Midwestern parents seem to require. Now on the cusp of forty, both work at jobs that they’re not sure they believe in anymore, yet with varying returns. Ana is successful, Joe is floundering—both caught somewhere between mainstream and alternative culture, sincerity and irony, achievement and arrested development. The Narcissism of Small Differences tells of an aging creative class, doomed to ask the questions: Is it possible to outgrow irony? Does not having children make you one? Is there even such a thing as selling out anymore? By turns wry and ribald, kitschy and gritty, poignant and thoughtful, The Narcissism of Small Differences is the story of Joe and Ana’s life together, their relationship, their tribes, their work, and their comic quest for a life that is their own and no one else’s.
His third novel was Beautiful Music. Set in 1970’s era Detroit, Beautiful Music is about one young man’s transformation through music. Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio–loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence. When tragedy strikes the family, Danny’s mother becomes increasingly erratic and angry about the seismic cultural shifts unfolding in her city and the world. As she tries to keep it together with the help of Librium, highballs, and breakfast cereal, Danny finds his own reason to carry on: rock ‘n’ roll. Beautiful Music is a funny and poignant story about the power of music and its ability to save one’s soul.
Zadoorian’s second novel, The Leisure Seeker was an international bestseller and translated into over 20 different languages worldwide. John and Ella, two eighty-somethings, decide to kidnap themselves from the doctors and grown children who run their lives for a final adventure in their ancient Winnebago. In a starred review, Booklist wrote "The Leisure Seeker is pretty much like life itself: joyous, painful, moving, tragic, mysterious, and not to be missed." The L.A. Times said: Zadoorian is true to these geezers. He draws them in their most honest light. I hoped for a book that would make me laugh during these tight times, and I was rewarded." And the Sydney Morning Herald stated: "This is a sad, sweet love letter to a fading America… sharp humour about aging and a quietly shocking ending.”
Michael Zadoorian's first novel, Second Hand is about love and loss for a Detroit-area junk store owner. The New York Times Book Review said “Second Hand may be a gift from the (Tiki) gods” and called it "a romantic adventure that explores what Yeats called 'the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.'" Selected for Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Program, Second Hand also received the Great Lakes Colleges Association prestigious New Writers Award. Translated into Italian, Portuguese and French, it's still a cult favorite.
His short story collection The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit follows characters coming to terms with the past and the present in a broken city. Lansing Journal called them "…stories that grab you, shake you and slap you upside the head." The Ann Arbor Observer called the stories “sometimes wildly funny and more than a little crazy, yet they have a heart-breaking affection for the battered lives they portray."
Zadoorian is a recipient of a Kresge Artist Fellowship in the Literary Arts, the Columbia University Anahid Literary Award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, the GLIBA Great Lakes Great Reads award, and two Michigan Notable Book Awards. He lives in the Detroit area.
Early 1970's Detroit. A city experiencing a racial change in its landscape, and this is where Danny is growing up, amongst the music and a less than ideal home life. Close to his father, a father who loves music, Danny is excited when his dad brings home the family's first record player. Trips to buy albums with his dad, he experiences his first look at sound. Things will change quickly in his life, and so will his taste, though not his love for sound.
Danny is our narrator, and in many ways he seems younger than his years. He is a different, quiet sort of boy, contemplative, and doesn't easily fit in. Some of his observations are sad, but some are downright hilarious. He is an endearing young man, and I wanted good things to happen for him. He has his music though, and this is his salvation. Leads him to his first friend, the first noable thing he does in school. The seventies were a great time in music, and it was easy for me to identify with boy to whom music was his safety zone and a way to escape.I too felt my teenage years were lived around various soundtracks. Can remember exactly where I was when I hear different songs from back in the day.
There is both an ease and a energy to the way this author writes. He shows a great deal of empathy,not only with his characters but in the situations in which they find themselves. A racially changing city and it's challenges eventually directly affects Danny and his school. It was a wonderful, insightful story with some great music woven without.
As a longtime fan of Michael Zadoorian, and a lifelong Detroiter, I couldn't wait to read his latest book, BEAUTIFUL MUSIC. This novel is not only filled with the rockin' jams that propelled Motown to become known as Detroit Rock City, but it also swells with the beautiful music of a lively soul. Danny, Zadoorian's protagonist, is a lowly teenager that we follow from his early teens through driving age (a very monumental time for any Detroiter). After a heart-wrenching family tragedy forever alters Danny and his home life, Zadoorian gives us an incredibly intimate peek into the life of a youngster slowly becoming a man. Through it all, there's plenty of heart and humor, as well turmoil, both inside and out, as the Motor City is still reeling from the 1967 riot during the early '70s when the book is set.
It is this Nixon-era setting also gives BEAUTIFUL MUSIC a very timely thread to weave through its story: African American urban uprisings, race riots, and white flight that are sadly making headlines once again in cities across America in modern times, but have remained commonplace in Detroit for over half a century. Through the eyes of young Danny, the reader receives a firsthand account of what it was like to be living in a rapidly changing metropolis during a time of great civil unrest. Zadoorian expertly crafts a narrative that allows the racial calamities to play a prominent role within his novel, all while not losing focus on the engrossing personal story of loss, determination, and familial bonds.
It is in this personal narrative that Zadoorian truly shines. Danny is the epitome of a thoughtful young man struggling to understand his place in the universe after tragedy, and in many ways, he encompasses the emotions that readers will instantly sympathize with: fear, angst, anxiety, desire, love, memory, and yearning. I found myself connecting with Danny throughout so many wonderfully detailed scenes within this novel, and in that sense, I could hear the music of my soul blaring loudly over my mind's loudspeakers.
Oh, and on that note: some books need to have a soundtrack included, because Zadoorian knows rock 'n' roll like few other writers. Have YouTube on standby whenever you come across a song in the text named in the story, because trust me: you're gonna wanna hear it.
Kids today have no idea how things used to be. There was no Spotify, no playlists, no walking around with 6,000 of your favorite songs available at a moment’s notice. No downloading from the internet. There was a time when radio was king and your moods, your senses, all revolves around what was lined up next to play. And, there were only a couple of decent stations if you were within range. And, records were always rare finds. You flipped through the album covers and hoped you picked something cool cause you probably didn’t have the cash for another record for another week or so.
Beautiful Music takes us back to another time - the early seventies - and a young boy discovering the joy of music and dreaming of someday becoming a DJ. His father is nuts over the latest stereophonic equipment. His mother is either drunk or nuts and often doesn’t get out of bed. It’s Detroit in the early seventies with hippies and race riots, even in the high schools.
And, it’s Danny coming of age, navigating his difficult way through junior high and high school. But somehow with the music on the radio in the background and so omnipresent it’s almost another character, the author has given us an incredibly hard to put down story. Really well done.
“Don’t you ever listen to the radio when the big bad beat comes on?” ---Bob Seger
‘Beautiful Music’ by Michael Zadoorian will appeal to music aficionados, especially of the 1960s and 70s, audiophiles, and those who just love music in general. The appeal for me was the ‘wicked’ aural experience I engaged in as I listened to dozens of the songs (on Spotify) as I was reading about them. The story begins in 1969 in Detroit, Michigan as ten year old Danny Yzemski calls in a song request to Canadian radio station CKLW. Danny wants to hear ‘A Boy Named Sue’ by Johnny Cash. After three tries, Danny is able to say his name and the song he wants to hear with enough enthusiasm that DJ Ed Mitchell is happy to record it. A couple of hours later, Danny hears his voice come across the radio airwaves of powerhouse radio station CKLW and his request is played.
A major backdrop for ‘Beautiful Music’ is the race riots that occurred in July of 1967. So many buildings burned down that it seemed like the entire city of Detroit was on fire and 43 people died. Because she’s afraid of what might happen out on the streets, Danny’s mother likes for him to stay inside the house. His father thinks he needs ‘fresh air’ but Danny is content to be in the house. His friend Jim’s family moves away because of the fear of another riot. Spending all his time building model cars and listening to the radio, Danny is isolated from everyone but his parents during the summertime. Music is a huge bond between Danny and his father. Danny grows to connect everything good in his life with music. When his father listens to the Beautiful Music radio station and it signs off at the end of the day, the air is suddenly empty of music and vibration, something Danny feels deeply and fears.
This is a beautiful coming of age story that rekindled some of my memories about growing up in the late 60s and 70s just like Danny. My parents were strict; my music playlist was pretty short. I was allowed to listen to ‘Johnny Cash’, ‘Peter, Paul, and Mary,’ ‘Simon and Garfunkel,’ and ‘The Carpenters.’ Zadoorian writes about Danny’s father purchasing a stereo system and creating a family room. This brought back my memories of my Dad’s stereo cabinet; my sister and I were not allowed to ‘mess’ with it at all. Dad had some beautiful gospel albums, which he always played on Sunday morning, whistling as we got ready for church. In ‘Beautiful Music’ a tragedy will change the course of Danny’s life; his music playlist changes too. Even though Danny’s playlist changes, music remains his north star, helping to define his path. Watching Danny become a bit rebellious, mostly in his music choices, reminded me of how much I missed of the music that was 1970s rock and roll. I got to catch up on all that with Danny. It was a blast!
I love the beautiful relationship Danny has with his father. Harold Yzemski shows interest and pride in whatever Danny is doing, and when he’s a little older, he teaches him how to drive. He asks him about his day and when Danny talks about being bullied, his father gives him good advice, “Look him in the eye.” He shelters Danny from the fallout of his mother’s depression. There is such warmth from this book character, it makes my heart ache. For all his warmth, however, Danny’s father as well as his mother accept the racial prejudice of their time.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when Danny asks his Dad what he likes about music. Danny says, “It just makes me happy.” His father talks about the daily grind, how he goes to work and comes home day after day, about how everything seems so routine and the days just go by without much to distinguish them from one another.
But, his father says, “when I’m here with you, like right now, listening to something on the stereo? Or just listening to it while I read the paper? Or work in my shop? I don’t know, it makes me feel different. Almost like a different person, I know that sounds crazy, I mean I’m here listening to it, but it’s like I’m not here. Does that make sense? It takes me somewhere, changes something, slows things down…”
Connection, whether it's with another person, the world we live in, or something deep inside ourselves is a major part of the alchemy of music. I love it! 4.5 stars
Every once in awhile, a book comes along that makes you happy as you read it. This new novel by Michael Zadoorian was that book for me. It's a fantastically written coming of age story by the author of The Leisure Seeker but it's also a book full of musical references and took my memory back to happy times in my youth when I listened to the same music. An added plus for me is that the book takes place in Detroit, where I grew up and there were numerous references to people and places that I have forgotten over the years. Even if you aren't from Detroit, this is still a fantastic book that needs to be added 'to your to be read' list.
Beautiful Music is set in Detroit in the early 70s, several years after the Detroit riots as the city is still trying to deal with racial unrest. Danny is just getting ready to start high school and is very nervous about it. He is a loner, often picked on and hides in music to handle high school and his very dysfunctional family. After Danny's dad dies unexpectedly, his mom becomes hooked on alcohol and Valium and his family life is only held together because he takes care of his mom. When he is young, he starts out listening to pop music with lots of orchestra music with his dad. As he gets older, he discovers rock and roll and the music is what he lives for. When he is buried in his music, he can forget the world around him. It also helps him make friends and grow into a normal high school student.
Back in this time, radio and record albums were the only way to listen to music. DJs on the radio were superstars and everyone listened to what they had to say - they could make or break the popularity of a record album.
This is a wonderful nostalgic coming of age story - with the help of lots of music and for readers of a certain age, it will bring back plenty of memories. I highly recommend this book to any age!
Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
The first great book I’ve read published this year. Zadoorian has accurately depicts the feelings one has as a teen discovering music for the first time. Older readers will love it for the nostalgia and teen readers will love it because the feeling of hearing a tune you’ll love for life is essential to growing up. This one will sit with me for a long time.
Dunque, non solo Wim ed io possiamo affermare senza remore: “il rock mi ha salvato la vita!”, ma a quanto pare anche Michael Zadoorian (per bocca di Danny Yzemski suo alter ego narrante); il quale appartiene ad una generazione un po’ più giovane, come dimostra il fatto che la molla (il primo album rock acquistato coi propri soldini…) scatti con “Houses of the Holy” dei Led Zeppelin, benché sia noto che a quel punto (1973) il gruppo aveva da tempo sfornato i propri capolavori ed era cominciata la fase calante della carriera (e forse del rock tout-court…).
Ma mettendo da parte i dettagli e i riferimenti musicali che già pullulano in abbondanza fra le pagine del libro e nell’esistenza del protagonista, bisogna a malincuore ammettere che “Beautiful Music” non è gran cosa dal punto di vista narrativo.
Si tratta del solito romanzo di formazione dell’adolescente americano con il consueto repertorio di bulli, disgrazie familiari, madre alcoolista e, in aggiunta, tensioni razziali a profusione (d’altronde siamo a Detroit, anni ’70), una serie di ostacoli dai quali Danny riesce ad affrancarsi tramite la folgorazione di un suono mai sognato né immaginato che promana dalle stazioni FM locali, fino a culminare nell’evento epifanico del concerto live di Iggy Pop & the Stooges.
Non so, né mi interessa più di tanto, quanto di autobiografico ci sia nel romanzo di Zadoorian, che contribuisce col suo stile autoironico e accattivante a smussare gli spigoli più dolorosi di un’adolescenza difficile e produce un romanzetto che si legge senza sforzo ma non lascia nella memoria elementi memorabili, al di là del tema di fondo che per almeno un ventennio ha accomunato i giovani di gran parte del pianeta.
Zadoorian delivers every time. If you read everything he writes, you'll be a happier person for it. For those of us who grew up in Detroit and listened to the radio stations that Danny Yzemski hears in this nostalgic lookback at the late 60s, early 70s, the lookback is sublime. CKLW! I can remember when we discovered FM radio. And how much trouble we got into for changing the station buttons in my Mom's car. Shopping at Korvettes for albums in the remainders bin. Seeing these bands live. Beautiful music, indeed.
Ferndale, Michigan-based Michael Zadoorian has written what might be his best novel, and certainly one of the best ones I have read in many years.
The setting is northwest Detroit in the late '60s and early '70s, with the city undergoing social upheaval in the wake of the 1967 Rebellion. Meanwhile, timid, nerdy kid Danny Yzemski occupies his time building model cars in his basement, and rarely venturing beyond the front yard of his Stout Street house.
However, when Danny's father brings home a stereo system for the family's basement rec room, it changes Danny's life. Through awkwardly negotiating the waters of a racially tense Redford High School, enduring a family tragedy, and attempting to help his emotionally troubled mother, Danny finds calm and release through rock music; and he grows and matures along the way.
If you lived in northwest Detroit (as I did for a time, which made this book an even more joyful nostalgic experience), love music (as I do to the extreme), or simply enjoy sharply-drawn complex characters, I highly recommend this wonderful novel.
I know it’s very early in the year, but I feel sure that Beautiful Music will be one of my favorite reads of 2022. I enjoy coming-of-age stories, books with musical themes – especially rock music, and books that take place in the 1970’s. Beautiful Music combines all three of these perfectly. Danny Yzemski is basically a good kid, a late bloomer cursed by shyness. He lives in Detroit and ever since the riots a few years earlier, his mother doesn’t want to leave the house and prefers for Danny to stay indoors as much as possible. But Danny’s father pushes him to learn to drive, attend boy scout camp and learn how to swim. Danny and his father bond over music and love to spend hours shopping for records and listening to them together. When his father suddenly dies, both Danny and his mother find it difficult to cope. His mother turns to alcohol, but Danny turns to music. He goes out and gets a part time job and makes friend with another student that loves music. He takes over household chores and getting groceries since his mother spends her time either asleep or in a drunken stupor. I read a lot of books about young people that are saved by books, but Danny finds his hope and salvation in music. Zadoorian does an outstanding job describing music and albums of the 70’s. While Beautiful Music has some sad parts, it also has a great deal of humor and heart, not to mention some great rock ‘n’ roll.
j’ai débuté le roman avec la traduction un peu trop franchouillarde (titre traduit: beau repaire) et honnêtement je ne sais pas trop combien d’étoiles il aurait eu (bien que pas désagréable comme lecture).
par contre, l’audiobook en version originale (titre: beautiful music) m’a vraiment fait tripper man! ✌️💛danny est un jeune ado découvrant le rock, les injustices, le racisme et il m’a fait craquer. il me faisait parfois penser à un jeune rob du roman high fidelity de nick hornby. mc5, led zep, fleetwood mac toutes les descriptions étaient plus juste et cool en anglais. vraiment touchant, une belle découverte.
If you have ever felt the transformative power of rock and roll, Michael Zadoorian's new coming of age novel, “Beautiful Music,” is the book for you. When an author describes a 12" vinyl record as "an object of many meanings that will make amazing things happen," you know that you are reading something special.
Set in 1970s Detroit, we are introduced to Danny Yzemski, as he navigates his way through high school, his first job, and a less than ideal family situation. It's a time of confusion and upheaval, but, as Danny soon discovers, once you have found "your" music, its power can get through anything. Danny is scooped up by rock and roll and carried along on a wave of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Iggy Pop—and NOT Jim Croce (Danny's friend, John, talking about their teacher, Mr. Beckler, says “I thought he saw Iggy, man. You can't like both Jim Croce and Iggy. It's physiologically impossible!”). We are witness to social and civil unrest in school (as Danny describes several "mini race riots”) and view changes in the city’s administration (as Coleman Young becomes the first African-American mayor of Detroit) and the neighborhood through the eyes of Danny’s mother, as she complains vocally, drink in hand, at each and every news story on the TV, day after day after day.
Music becomes Danny’s refuge. As he says: “Sometimes I pull a chair up to the turntable and just watch the label in the middle of the record turn, turn, turn, until I'm in a kind of trance. There's something about that movement that makes me feel less alone. Music is my language, the blasting soundtrack in my head, there to drown out my mother's anger. It's everything I tell myself to get through my shoving, taunting, insulting day. It's my security blanket, my force field, my loud, electric screaming, bashing audio version of the bubble world.”
Michael Zadoorian’s description of how Danny feels when purchasing his first rock album (Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”) is superb, and the passage where Danny arrives home, turns on the stereo, opens up the record and places it on the turntable can only have been written by someone with a deep appreciation for music. Of course, this experience is all but now sadly lost in the age of digital streaming, where music, for most, no longer comes in the form of a tangible artifact to be treasured. Among others, another Detroit native, Jack White, is doing his part to help rekindle a love of vinyl, so maybe not all is lost!
There are many laugh-out-loud moments. Danny’s coworker, Dale, exclaiming, as a “wimpy” Gentle Giant song appears on the radio that “it's like getting kicked in the nads with music.” And Danny himself, after listening to the Who’s Quadrophenia: “I know just how Jimmy, the guy in the album, feels. Except, of course, he drinks, takes pills, gets in knife fights, belongs to a gang, and has a motorbike and a girlfriend. Other than those things, though, I think we're pretty much the same.”
Toward the end of the book, Danny writes to his father: “I know you wouldn't like rock music, Dad. It's all screeching guitars and crashing drums and singing that sounds like yelling. It's what you would call a bunch of racket. The musicians have long hair and take a lot of drugs and sometimes even die from them. You would hate it all, but I don't care. I love it. I want to be on the radio and play loud music for everyone. There's a lot of noise that needs drowning out—ugly words and nasty voices and dumb ideas. I'm sick of hearing it all. I'm going to do what I can to release something positive into the air.” The “Beautiful Music” that Danny’s father enjoyed comprised of instrumental versions of contemporary hits played by a string orchestra.
Regardless of what kind of music you like, at the end of the day, it's all beautiful, as Michael Zadoorian's modern masterpiece so brilliantly and memorably illustrates.
- hai fatto il tifo per Marcus, mentre sua madre cercava di crescerlo come un hippy disadattato, in "About a Boy" di Nick Hornby. - hai amato le vicende de "La Banda dei Brocchi" di Jonathan Coe, così ben innestate sullo sfondo delle lotte di classe degli anni '70 in Inghilterra. - ti piacciono i romanzi che hanno a che fare con la musica come "I Commitments" o "Il Gruppo".
Detto questo, ecco la trama (priva di spoiler).
Detroit, anni '70 (il '74 e il '75 per la precisione), gli scontri razziali impazzano e in città sta per essere eletto il primo sindaco di colore. Alcune famiglie bianche stanno pensando di cambiare quartiere, ma la famiglia di Danny non può permetterselo.
Danny passa la maggior parte del tempo a costruire modellini di auto in cantina, mentre suo padre, nella stanza di fianco, sta trasformando la cantina in una taverna con un bellissimo impianto hi-fi. La madre invece è sempre sul divano a guardare il telegiornale e a parlare con la TV, stordita da cocktail e dall'ansia degli avvenimenti.
Il padre è un punto di riferimento per Danny che cresce con il mito della "beautiful music" (musica strumentale hi-fi che riprende le melodie della musica pop e rock in chiave sinfonica) e delle radio mainstream: il più lontano possibile dalla musica rock e dalla cultura hippy. Ma il primo anno di liceo è in arrivo e ad Halloween un avvenimento drammatico sconvolgerà la vita di Danny (non dirò altro). Il ragazzo dovrà affrontare una serie di "sfighe" degne di Paperino, i bulli, le droghe, il lavoro, gli scontri razziali, ma per fortuna c'è chi andrà in suo aiuto: la musica rock e la passione per le radio indipendenti.
"Beautiful Music" si legge d'un fiato, fra una risata e una lacrimuccia, attraverserai temi pesanti affrontati con la leggerezza che solo la penna dei grandi autori sanno avere.
This one really resonated with me. Not because, I was a bullied loner, I was an average kid, fairly well-liked but I loved music, much like Danny and evolved much like he does, as he discovers rock n' roll, in his early teens and like Danny, I adored Led Zeppelin. The author describes the joys of music, with such insight and beauty, that I have to highly recommend this one.
If I could, I go with 3.5 Stars for this novel. I quite enjoyed the beginning of this book, but I found the middle to drag on a bit too much for my liking. There are many things that I liked about the writing, the music, and journey of Danny, so I would recommend the book, but it's not one I'd pick up again. I won this through a librarything giveaway, and these are my honest thoughts regarding this novel.
The Detroit race riots and their aftermath, from the perspective of a teenage white boy whose father has died, leaving him with his mentally unstable mother. But also with a metric ton of music references. It's a good read but I wouldn't go out of my way to find it. If you're looking for something, then go for it.
I loved that the story was so full of Detroit and things that were familiar to me. It was a difficult subject to read about at times. I kept wanting to pick the book up and read just a little bit more.
A Bildungsroman with a kid in the early '70s in a changing Detroit that is starting to face black people "living" normally together with white ones. Not easy, but still they sort of made it, in the end. Danny grows through music, thanks to it he manages to overcome his being weird, the death of his father, the depression of his mother, his hormones getting more and more preponderant. I spent a lot of time looking for SOME of the songs listed in the pages. Many I knew, more I had not even heard of. It would be great if someone could build up a playlist with all the songs as they appear in the book, for ignorant people like me. For me music has never been so important, still I sort of understand it if I change songs with books "What do you like about music, Dad?"[...] "That's a really good question, son. I guess it makes me feel something that I'm not used to. I guess—" He grabs the pack of Dorals from his shirt pocket. "I don't know. I mean, I go to work every day. I come home to you and your mother, we have dinner, I putter around down here or we watch TV and go to bed and get up and do the same damn thing all over again. I don't even think about the days going by." He lights his cigarette. "But when I'm here with you, like right now, listening to something on the stereo? Or just listening to it while I read the paper? Or work in my shop? I don't know, it makes me feel different." For me this is done by books - I'm only grateful that I still have the spunk to "get out of my world" not only with books but also with life. After more than half a century of life (as my gentle daughter likes to point out), I still like doing things I've never done before, read things I've never bumped into, see things and places I've never seen and visited, hear new things and music, meet new people. When I stop I know I'll be dead, if not physically, in all other respect.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, the radio is almost always on. I think, like me, my mother prefers things noisy. She needs to fill her self, her soul, with sound. And I think it drowns out the other voices.
This is a coming of age tale that takes place in my home town and also close to the time that I lived there. Way more dramatic than my life for sure but it was a fun trip down memory lane, including favorite soundtracks. It's almost a cliche that music soothes the soul, but this was a spot on example of it, and a true hero's journey. It's a gas.
For someone like myself who was born and raised within the city limits of Detroit (albeit on Detroit’s “eastside” while protagonist Danny Yzemski grew up on Detroit’s “westside”), Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian is a very special book. I cannot improve on the many excellent reviews by those who read Beautiful Music before me, so I will just reminisce for a few minutes.
We baby boomers grew up in a very different world. We drove cars with only AM radios (if it had a radio at all). Through word of mouth, we knew which party stores (usually in the “rough” parts of town) where we could buy beer while underage (the drinking age was 21 back in my day, unlike Danny’s friend John Tedesco who could buy beer at the right places because he “looked 18.”)
Beautiful Music follows the life of Danny Yzemski from 1969 when Danny was 10 years old to his mid-high school days in 1975. The only thing that let Danny maintain his sanity was music, of which he became quite a connoisseur. While my home life and high school experience was nothing like Danny’s, I did (and still do) share Danny’s love of music.
As I predate Danny by a number of years, I was fortunate to experience the “British Invasion” (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, etc.) and “Motown,” the “Sound That Changed America” (the Temptations, the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, etc.) during the 1960s.
Danny’s radio stations were my radio stations: CKLW-AM, WJR-AM, WXYZ-AM (What? No WKNR-AM—“Keener 13!”), WWWW-FM (“W4”), WABX-FM. (Where is WRIF-FM, featuring DJ Arthur "The Grand Poobah" Penhallow? Everyone had a WRIF “BABY!” bumper sticker on their car). What unforgettable memories!
Not to mention the stores, no longer with us, frequented by Danny (and me) and his family (and mine): Arlan’s, (E. J.) Korvettes, Kinney Shoes, S.S. Kresge dime stores (the forerunner of Kmart’s), Lasky’s Furniture Store in Hamtramck, Great Scott! supermarkets, Mr. Tony’s Sub Shops. May they all rest in peace.
What a great time to grow up in Detroit!
BTW, to the reviewer who gave Beautiful Music 10 stars, I see your 10 stars and raise you 10 stars for a rating of 20 stars!
As we all know, Danny’s dream was to attend the Specs Howard School of Broadcasting after high school and then embark on a career as a DJ. As fate would have it, while running an errand yesterday with my copy of Beautiful Music on the passenger seat next to me, I drove right past the current location of the Specs Howard School of Broadcasting (now known as the Specs Howard School of Media Arts) on Lahser Road in a Detroit suburb. Karma?
There really was a Redford High School on the westside of Detroit. Unfortunately, Redford High School, which opened in 1921, ceased operations in 2007 and was demolished in 2012. Today, a big box Meijer, Inc. store occupies the site, although the new store used some of the stonework from the former high school building.
While Danny Yzemski may now be its most famous graduate, stage and screen actor George C. Scott (Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Dr. Strangelove (1964), Patton (1970), A Christmas Carol (1984)) also graduated from Redford High School.
Finally, there really is a house at 15318 Stout Street in Detroit, Danny’s address in Beautiful Music. If you want to see Danny Yzemski’s house, you can check it out at googlemaps.com. (The house is still standing, but it is all boarded up.) Try picturing a china cabinet being pulled by “the Hindenburg” through the front door!
Danny Yzemski loves music. His life actually revolves around it. He is growing up in Detroit, during the turbulent 1960’s and 1970’s. This was a volatile time, the time and place of race riots. It was also a time of great music.
Danny finds comfort from his town’s turbulent troubles, as well as his dysfunctional family’s issues, in music. Music soothes and comforts him as he sees and learns things that worry him.
After a devastating tragedy, Danny’s life becomes even more difficult, as his mother finds comfort in alcoholism and as the world changes around them. Music is always there to make Danny feel better. When he discovers rock and roll, he feels he has found what truly speaks to him.
This is a wonderfully realistic book. Danny comes alive in the pages of this book, and the reader truly gets to know him. He is coming of age during a turbulent time both inside and outside his home. This book shows how much comfort music can provide.
I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
This was one of the most memorable books I've read in a very long time. I grew up a music geek, so I could very much relate to the main character. I also loved that, rather than JUST being about music, there was a fantastic story to back it up. The author does a fantastic job of weaving Danny's fictional story into the very realistic-feeling setting of early 1970's Detroit. By the end of the book, I felt like I wanted to be friends with several of the characters, and that's a feeling I don't walk away from a book with very often. I look forward to reading more by this author.
Loved this. So many nostalgic Detroit suburb references. Fantastic character development. My only complaint is that I wish I could continue to follow Danny and his trek into adulthood. Will he survive the end of high school? Will he attend Specs Howard and reach his goal of becoming a radio DJ? Will Danny's mom make it through her addiction, her pain, her grief? Will he? Does Danny ever listen to the Beautiful Music his father once loved and shared with him?
And finally, when will this be made into a movie because it has screenplay written all over it?
This is a snapshot of music and culture in the mid 70's in Detroit. The main themes are highlighted by the music the characters are listening to. An example of how a song can take you back to a specific moment in your own personal history.
This book was perfect. So well written and full of humor and other various emotions. I even have a huge collection of vinyl, or records/albums as they used to be called, from The Stooges all the way to the Command LPs from a remainder bin somewhere. This book even brought out the feelings I had when I listened to these and I think I should play then more often...and then my wife and 3 daughters all start screaming at one another and I quicly remember the reason they have been collecting dust.