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One of the most original, influential, and commercially successful American songwriters, Jerome Felder, aka Doc Pomus (1925-1991), gave the world a dazzling legacy of musical hits during rock 'n' roll's first decade. A role model for generations of writers and performers, Doc was renowned for his mastery of virtually every popular style, from the gutbucket rhythm and blues of "Lonely Avenue" to the symphonic soul of "Save the Last Dance for Me" to the pure pop of "Viva Las Vegas." His songs-"This Magic Moment," "A Teenager in Love," "Hushabye," "Little Sister," "Turn Me Loose," and many others-have been recorded by everyone from Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, and B. B. King to Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, and Bruce Springsteen, with sales exceeding 100 million. Doc was ready-made for literature. His collaborator Mort Shuman once described him as an "entire rollicking soul neighborhood rolled into one man." Garrulous, profane, hilarious, and Rabelaisian, Doc was never inhibited about offering his opinions and his friendship. His confidants, collaborators, and discoveries included Duke Ellington, John Lennon, Dr. John, Jimmy Scott, Bette Midler, and Lou Reed. In the words of renowned producer Jerry Wexler, "If the music industry had a heart, it would be Doc Pomus." Despite, or more likely because of, his successes, few acquaintances knew that this writer of jukebox hits led one of the most dramatic and unlikely lives of his time. Spanning extravagant wealth and desperate poverty, suburban domesticity and the depths of New York's underworld, worldwide fame and near-total obscurity, enduring love and persistent loneliness, Doc's story remains one of the great untold American lives. Its chapters comprise a back-room history of rock 'n' roll, touching on more than a half-century of American popular music-from the blues Doc performed with Lester Young to his collaborations with the luminaries of New York's punk scene, shot through with vivid portraits of virtually every major player. Lonely Avenueis the first biography of this American original, so elegantly rendered that it reads like a novel, and fortified by full, exclusive access to Doc Pomus's family, friends, voluminous journals, and archives.
One of America's most popular songwriters was Jerome Felder, better known as "Doc Pomus." For decades he wrote big hits ("Save the Last Dance for Me," "This Magic Moment," "A Teenager in Love") for such artists as Dion, Fabian, the Drifters, Elvis and Dr. John. Pomus (1925 1991) himself was more of a blues story than anything he could have written. Halberstadt, who writes on music and pop culture, can be awkward writing about Pomus's intimate life, although he definitely knows his music history. The son in a New York working-class Jewish family, Pomus contracted polio when he was seven and lost the use of his legs. From then on, his life was all about music; he started bands, wrote music and promoted artists until the day he died. Halberstadt's understanding of how Jewish and African-American "hipster" subcultures fit together in the music world is particularly sharp. He takes readers to 1940s nightclubs where Pomus was the only white man around; hotel lobbies where Pomus spent afternoons listening for "the random brilliance of overheard speech"; and Pomus's hotel room when Bob Dylan came calling. This strangely affecting biography follows a straight chronology, including wonderful excerpts from Pomus's own diaries and a great selection of rarely seen photos.