Mr. B.: The Music and Life of Billy Eckstine
by Cary Ginell
2013: Hal Leonard Books
Billy Eckstine was a trailblazer as well as a great artist. Ginell observes that he was "popular music's first romantic African American icon," his legacy was obscured because while he had many hits, he lacked an iconic recording like Sinatra's My Way or Bing Crosby's White Christmas. He made his mark in live performances, of which few were documented on a recording and a substantial body of his recording carer remains un-reissued. Be he deserves better. He struggled to be treated as the equal of white entertainers, which "showed a resiliency,sense of purpose and defiance that is as essential to the American experience as the efforts of Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The possessor of one of the most glorious voices in history does not deserve his anonymity." 2014 will be the centennial of his birth and it is time to reassess his talent and career "as one of the most important and essential bodies of work of the twentieth century." Gary Ginell's Mr. B.: The Music and Life of Billy Eckstine, makes a strong case for this re-assessment and is an important addition to the jazz literature.
I received my review copy from a publicist for the publisher. Here is some vintage Billy Eckstine.