I have just finished reading the galleys of Ricky Riccardi’s WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD: THE MAGIC OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S LATER YEARS (Pantheon). I am a very severe critic of biographies — where odd things happen.
Sometimes the writer gets so caught up in him / herself that the book becomes self-referential, an unintentional autobiography, the writer gazing lovingly in the mirror. Some biographies end up rancorously, with the writer deciding that after all the Great Man or Woman was really rotten. And some biographies are unoriginal compilations of what everyone else has written.
I was ready to love Ricky’s book because I love both the subject and am very fond of the author, but I was not prepared for how superb it is.
It is full of original research, new first-hand tales and evidence on every page. It is beautifully written, casual without being flippant. It is splendidly annotated but never academic. It is full of light and joy without being idolatrously adoring.
As I write this, I am surrounded by biographies of Louise Bogan and of Henry “Red” Allen, of Frank O’Connor and Pee Wee Russell. Riccardi has written a book worthy of the best ones on my shelves or on yours.
It won’t be officially published until late June, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from ordering it. It made me laugh a good deal; it made me think; it made me cry. And the energy and soul of Louis shines through every page.
WHAT WOULD LOUIS DO? ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS: CLICK HERE!