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The Band That Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  503 ratings  ·  92 reviews
The movies, the documentaries, the museum exhibits. They often tell the same story about the "unsinkable" "Titanic," her wealthy passengers, the families torn apart, and the unthinkable end. But never before has "that glorious band"--the group of eight musicians who played on as the "Titanic" slipped deeper and deeper into the Atlantic Ocean--been explored in such depth. S ...more
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published March 21st 2011 by Thomas Nelson (first published January 1st 2011)
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May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Almost everyone, with any awareness of the story of the Titanic, have heard about the band that played on while the ship was going down. It is a story enshrined with heroism and self sacrifice. However, very little is known about the men themselves and I doubt many, but real Titanic enthusiasts, could name the musicians. Steve Turner does a wonderful job of bringing these men vividly to life: Wallace Hartley, Percy Taylor, Wes Woodward, Fred Clarke, Roger Bricoux, Theo Brailey, Georges Krins and ...more
Aug 14, 2020 rated it liked it
How sad and ironic that the eight musicians on the Titanic are famous for their deaths but not their lives even though they were clearly skilled, accomplished musicians.
I remember being intrigued by this book when I downloaded it four years ago but expected more narrative in this work of nonfiction. I was not overly engaged with the early chapters detailing the lives of these musicians, but I guess since their own words could not be used expect letters that makes sense.
It took me way longer than
3.25 stars

This book tells the biographies of the eight musicians on the Titanic. They were split into two groups on board, playing in different areas of the ship, but it seems that they joined together to play on deck as the ship sank.

I usually like biographies, but this one had eight. That’s a lot, and it was a small amount of information on each one, so as we continued on in the book, it was easy to forget who was who. It was more interesting once they boarded the ship to read about that. Muc
I know that when the Titanic tragedy occurred things were quite different, but I had no idea how different. Some of the things that happened as a result of the sinking of the ship were despicable.

Most people know of the Titanic and many have seen the movie. The sad tragedy was clearly depicted in the movie, but many people don't realize that there were musicians on that ship that were heroes in their own right: W. Hartley, J.L. Hume, R. Bricoux, W.T. Brailey, C. Krins, J. Woodward, J.F. Clarke,
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have read a lot about the Titanic but this is the first book that I've read devoted to the musicians. W. Hartley, C. Krins, R. Bricoux, W.T. Brailey,
J. Woodward, J.F. Clarke, J.L. Hume, P.C. Taylor

I learned some things that shocked me. Families actually had to pay to get their family member back. If they were lucky enough to be found and identified! Families had to pay for embalming and transportation of the body home. Since the Titanic did not finish it's voyage, full pay was not sent, deduc
Oct 18, 2013 rated it liked it
This was an interesting and very detailed read. The book starts by giving a biography of each of the 8 musicians and I have to admit that by the fifth or sixth I was having a hard time keeping track. It definitely slowed my reading down, mid-book. The most eye opening thing to me in reading about their lives growing up was how the world looked when being a musician was considered a viable career option. To hear about a time when professional musicians were in demand and every establishment had t ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
When I spotted this in the window of a second hand bookstore I knew I wanted it, but I always hesitate with a store I don't go into much; what would the prices be like? How pleasantly surprised I was to find it was priced reasonably at $9.50! Sold!

I admit to being a Titanic nut. I read every book I can find, and I've had this on my recommendation list for a while, although I never bothered marking it as to-read. I found it well researched, surprisingly free of opinion and bias. There was plenty
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think it was the best-written book I've ever read, and the material the author had to work with was pretty skimpy, but I found it fascinating. The 8 musicians who went down with the Titanic were just normal working musicians, not famous artists, so the details of their lives were quite basic. They would have been complete unknowns to the world at large if they hadn't died playing while the ship went down. Still, Turner managed to make the limited material into an interesting book. As a m ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
The Titanic is a disaster which has captured the public imagination. It wasn't a wartime disaster and others have been more colossal and with more casualties. The reason is that the majority of passengers died and their reckoning with death took a few hours to play out. Character comes to the fore when you only have a few hours before your probable death. This book on the Titanic covers an angle of the Musicians that played music to calm the passengers as the ship went down and who went down wi ...more
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An in-depth look at the lives of the 8 hired musicians on board Titanic when it sank. Never before has so much information been collected in one volume concerning these 8 men -- the most well-known of them being Wallace Hartley, the bandleader.

"They were famous for their deaths, not their lives" (The Band That Played On", page 16). They were simple men, just striving to make a living while playing their favorite instruments. And yet, over the course of the next two years following the maritime d
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating book about the 8 musicians who played onboard the Titanic. While most of us have seen the movie and/or read books about the ill-fated cruise, very little has been written about the eight men who played on until the very end. The book takes us through each of their upbringing, how they became interested in music, their goals and aspirations. The book also gives us a behind the scenes look at the world of musicians in the early 1900s, life on a cruise ship for the musicians, ...more
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
“In articulo mortis (At the moment of death)
Caelitus mihi vires (My strength is from heaven)
Deo adjuvante non timendum (God helps, nothing should be feared)
In perpetuum (For ever).”
‘Nearer, My God, to Thee,’ Sarah Flower Adams
Elizabeth B
May 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Focusing on the band from the Titanic, this book is a fresh look at that ill-fated voyage. Most people will recall the band from the movie playing as the ship went down and this book delves into those men – who they were, where they came from and the characteristics that made them choose to continue to play. The research on the men is impeccable and even for serious Titanic readers (I admit I am not one of these) I believe you will find something new that you didn’t know before. Outside of the T ...more
Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
WOW!!! It has been a while since I have read a book that I didn't want to put down. The story of the 8 bandsman on the Titanic that played while the ship was sinking, working tirelessly to calm passengers during a very traumatic event was captivating. I have always been fascinated with the sinking of the Titanic, the lives of the people that were lost and those that survived. I have always heard about the men that continued to play as the ship sunk. Survivors even said they saw the water up to t ...more
C.C. Thomas
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Just when you think you've read all the books on the Titanic, here come one with new information and a completely different slant. It is told from the viewpoint of a musical historian and focuses on one of the best loved myths surrounding the Titanic.

It is a story of eight regular guys turned heroes. A story of working band members who took up their instruments in a moment of tragedy and panic to bolster the spirits of their fellow shipmates. And, they kept playing and playing. Even as the ship
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
In "The Band that Played On" many questions are asked about the stories of the musicians who played and subsequently died as the result of the sinking of the Titanic. Who were these men? What do we know about their family histories? Did they voluntarily play music while the great ship sank? What songs did they play? What happened to the families that were left behind? This is what the author has set out to reveal in this thoroughly researched telling of this tragic event that shocked the world.
Stephen Escalera
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Any discussion of the sinking of the Titanic will usually include a mention of the heroic band of men who, even though facing certain death, played their instruments to the last, providing some measure of comfort and serenity to their fellow passengers. As a band, their last act lives on in fame, but as individuals very little is known about them. Steve Turner, in his book The Band That Played On, attempts to delve into the little that is known about each of the eight musicians, chronicling the ...more
Mar 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
As a musician, I have always been drawn to the heroic tales that involve any type of artist. This book, which I received from Booksneeze, provided all of that and more.
The fate of the members of the chamber orchestra aboard the Titanic is well know, ingrained in our memories by the James Cameron film and by the many accounts we might have come across throughout our lives. None, however, have focused on who these poor men were, why they were together on the ship, what and whom they were leaving
Adam Gray
May 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
This book was particularly dry, even for someone like my self who loves history. It was more indepth look at their families, and guessing what the musicians did, then actually knowing what happened. It's not the authors fault that he couldn't find this information, as of course people who are in the midst of a tragedy like the sinking of the Titanic might not be the best reporter of songs played by the band. And speaking of that, the author spends pages going over not only what song they played ...more
Apr 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Very good book.

Initially, I was disappointed because of the testimony of the four men. I guess it was always in the back of my mind that these 8 men were men of extraordinary character; superheroes, if you will. As it turns out, they had multiplied troubles, debts, divorces, out-of-wedlock relationships, etc... Their lives were, in large part, a mess. Superheroes they were not!

Mr. Turner did a great job of making the scraps of history fit together in such a way that my mind could almost interpre
Mandi Jayne
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I finished this because it was interesting information, and I hate not finishing books. But it was So. Very. Dry. The introduction was the most interesting part!
Lorraine Montgomery
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
We all know about the 8 musicians who continued to play their instruments as the Titanic sank, but how many of us know their stories, or even their names?  Steve Turner has done the research, spoken to their descendants (where there were any), and followed the trail of monuments of these 8 heroes — and make no mistake, they were heroes — and their legacy.

Theo Brailey — William Theodore Brailey, born in Walthamstow, Essex, England, 25 October 1887, father a clairvoyant, he was a pianist on the Ti
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have always been intrigued about the tragedy of the Titanic disaster ever since I saw the traveling exhibit as a seven-year-old at the COSI museum back in 2010. I was obsessed, reading every encyclopedia about it that I could get my hands on. So when I learned that there was the largest Titanic museum in the area where our family went on vacation this year, I just had to go. Going through the exhibit was literally like stepping back in time, not just traveling back to the Edwardian period of E ...more
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Being a fan of all things Titanic I was looking forward to reading this. It started out good and I could tell that a lot of research went into this book. I learned some things that I didn't know which is always good. After the first 3 or 4 musicians backgrounds, they all started to run together and I couldn't keep them straight. The book started reading like a report, so and so lived here and moved there and moved again. There are a lot of assumptions made which took away from the reality of the ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
So I struggled with half of this book, but starting at the legal claims chapter, I got much more into it. Unfortunately, I only had about 3 chapters left after that. I considered DNFing at one point because I felt like some of the chapters were just repeating the same information that was already relayed. To write a book on the musicians that went down with the ship is obviously tough because there just isn't a lot more to know seeing how none of them survived to expand any more on the story. Th ...more
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every Titanic buff knows the stories - the wealthy couple that died in each other's arms rather than be separated, the crew that struggled valiantly to get women and children into unfamiliar lifeboats, the venerable captain that bravely went down with his ship and, of course, the band that kept playing until they were drowned out by the noises of tearing metal, shattering glass and the screams of the dying. The problem is, nobody knows too much about that band as a collection of individual music ...more
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Some interesting parts of the text:

'A letter from the White Star Line auctioned in 2002 revealed that at least one of the passenger's relatives was asked to pay 20 pounds to ship a body back to England.'

Was also horrified to learn that discrimination was rife between the passengers even in death - the rich were put into coffins straight away when found, while lower class passengers were placed in bags. Even poorer passengers, who could not be identified, were thrown back into the sea.

Nancy Boyd
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book delving into the history of the greatest band in the world. Well-researched and well-written. I learned quite a bit about the families and background of the band members of the ill-fated steamer. Honestly, I went into it expecting to know pretty much everything because of how much I've researched this topic, but I not only learned, I was drawn in to the stories. I found myself on the brink of tears multiple times. I highly recommend this book to all Titanic scholars, young & ol ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author gave voice to individuals who are really just known as a group and as a symbol of western heroics. The telling got a bit tedious and was hard to follow because of it, but the overall treatment in the context of history is enjoyable and illuminating. I most appreciate that he helps us see that the story of the band was a part of the myth because of the political necessity in shaping the narrative of the hubris-fed disaster
Eric Hollister
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I found this book interesting, however the understandable but ever-present speculation grew wearisome, and some things seemed to be included just to make the book longer (such as the descriptions of what happened to their families post-titanic, to include parents, siblings, siblings children, etc. etc. etc.).
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Steve Turner is an English music journalist, biographer and poet, who grew up in Northamptonshire, England. His first published article was in the Beatles Monthly in 1969. His career as a journalist began as features editor of Beat Instrumental where he interviewed many of the prominent rock musicians of the 1970s. He subsequently freelanced for music papers including NME, Melody Maker and Rolling ...more

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