All in Good Time is a luminous memoir about growing up in the shadow of the golden age of songwriting and Sinatra, from the celebrated radio personality and novelist Jonathan Schwartz.
"Dancing in the Dark." "That's Entertainment." "By Myself." "You and the Night and the Music." They are part of the American Songbook, and were all composed by Arthur Schwartz, the elusive father at the center of his son's beautifully written book.
Imagine a childhood in which Judy Garland sings you lullabies, Jackie Robinson hits you fly balls, and yet you're lonely enough to sneak into the houses of Beverly Hills neighbors and hide behind curtains to watch real families at dinner.
At the age of nine, Jonathan Schwartz began broadcasting his father's songs on a homemade radio station, and would eventually perform those songs, and others, as a pianist-singer in the saloons of London and Paris, meeting Frank Sinatra for the first time along the way. (His portrait of Sinatra is as affectionate and accurate as any written to date.)
Schwartz's love for a married woman caught up in the fervor of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and his other relationships with both lovers and wives, surround his eventually successful career on New York radio.
The men and women who have roles to play include Richard Rodgers, Nelson Riddle, Carly Simon, Jimmy Van Heusen, Bennett Cerf, Elizabeth Taylor, and, of course, Sinatra himself.
Schwartz writes of the start of FM radio, the inception of the LP, and the constantly changing flavors of popular music, while revealing the darker corners of his own history.
Most of all, Jonathan Schwartz embraces the legacy his father left him: a passion for music, honored with both pride and sorrow.
Fans of Schwartz, a fixture of New York-area radio, will instantly recognize his voice resonating through each page of this memoir, especially in the ironic downbeats on which many of his mininarratives end. As might be expected from the son of Broadway composer Arthur Schwartz (who wrote the music to "Dancing in the Dark," among other songs), the story is equal parts pop standards and family drama; his terminally ill mother dominates early sections, and though the obsession with song has already begun in these chapters, it kicks into high gear after her death in memorable passages such as Schwartz's telling of the first time he heard Frank Sinatra's "Birth of the Blues" in a Manhattan bar. The role of keeper of the musical canon functioned as a barrier behind which Schwartz could hide much of his emotional trauma, akin to other secret identities recounted here, but raw pain leaks out in increasing amounts, especially in brutal passages depicting his voluntary commitment for psychiatric evaluation and a later stay at the Betty Ford clinic. Glancing swipes at former radio colleagues drip with venom, while fights with his stepmother are recreated in visceral dialogue including many words he couldn't utter on radio. Although filled with celebrities, from childhood playmate Carly Simon to adult father figure Sinatra, the memoir succeeds best on its most intimate levels, revealed in the most paradoxical of measured tones.
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Random House Trade Paperbacks
June 12, 2005
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Excerpt from All in Good Time by Jonathan Schwartz
Chapter 1 There’s a photograph of me with the family dog, maud. a wire haired terrier who seems to be laughing, Maud sits to my right on the brick stairs leading up to our front door. The house on La Brea Terrace has been rented for a year. It’s a snug little place with a front lawn and no backyard, atop La Brea, just a bit into the Hollywood Hills. It is December 7, 1941. In short pants, suspenders, a white short-sleeve shirt, and black high shoes, I look bathed and scrubbed for the Sunday to be. It is morning, perhaps ten. My father, ever the photographer, is taking his time. “No, hold it right there. Hold it. Now. One more.” My face does not reflect irritation. That would come years later. In fact, I appear to be happy, smiling in the sunshine, with Maud, the “smartest dog who ever lived”—my mother’s view of Maud, always—right there next to me. The smartest dog, the smartest boy—me. The best movie, the most delicious piece of pie, the most succulent pear, the most wonderful, the most beautiful, the most thrilling, the greatest. Katherine Carrington Schwartz, a natural hyperbolist, was also inclined to the malaprop. “My, how time passes so fly.” And always that strong clear speaking voice, with a song inside. Katherine had been an ingenue on the Broadway stage. Arthur Schwartz had spotted her in Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s Music in the Air singing “I’ve Told Every Little Star” to a young Walter Slezak. My father had attended the opening on election night 1932, a secondary event to FDR’s first plurality but not secondary to the composer of “Dancing in the Dark.” He sought out the ingenue almost before the curtain went down. I’ve occasionally imagined him, oh so eager, leaping upon the stage midway through the second act. “Good evening, I’m Arthur Schwartz,” he might have said. Katherine, still in character, might have attempted to incorporate him. “Well, hello,” she might have replied. “We’ve all been waiting for you.” She might have extended her arm to the rest of the bewildered cast. The orchestra, trying to cover the disruption, would almost certainly have struck up “The Song Is You,” a ballad in the score, while Arthur was hustled away by stagehands, his friends and peers Kern and Hammerstein in the back of the theater, burying their faces in their hands. In the year to follow, Arthur leapt upon every stage that Katherine traversed. Here was a blond woman with a white round face, a curvaceous form, a delightful laugh, and a clarion voice with a song inside. Arthur played her everything he’d ever written. He began to compose for her. She sang his songs, to his great satisfaction. Upon occasion, at George Gershwin’s Riverside Drive apartment, George would play the piano and then invite Kay and Arthur up. My father at the keyboard was fluent and unafraid, and always generous to other composers, especially Richard Rodgers, who was frequently present. Kay sang “Lover,” her favorite Rodgers. Dick was greatly satisfied. Kay sang “With a Song in My Heart,” Rodgers’s favorite of his own making—he told me that, many years later. Arthur played Gershwin and then some of his own things, melodies that Kay had inspired. It turned out that she had been first married as a very young woman. The boy, Clifford Dowdey, whose name is still recognized by scholars, wrote voluminously (and I mean voluminously) on the Civil War, a man possessed, pausing momentarily to marry a girl from Toms River, New Jersey, just about twenty-two years old, a looker, but oh, the noise! Poor Dowdey, who was onto new material, fascinating brand-new stuff ab