Sunday, May 23, 2010
Heaven Before I Die
I've been reading Michael Oliver-Goodwin off and on since the 1970s. He's written for a variety of periodicals, and has a handful of books to his credit, including a biography of Francis Ford Coppola. His most recent work is an excellent and perceptive book on New Orleans, entitled Heaven Before I Die- A Journey to the Heart of New Orleans. Weighing in at nearly five hundred pages, it's arguably the most evocative book to be written about music in the Crescent City since John Broven's Walkin to New Orleans. In many ways, it's better than Broven's influential and ground-breaking book, because Goodwin here has a much larger remit, which is to explore not only the city's live music scene, but to investigate the roots and branches of the culture itself. In describing what it was like to live in the city from the 1970s to the post-Katrina years, one gets a good idea of Goodwin's relationship to the city and the music, as well as the connection between New Orleans and Trinidad, the intricacies and joys of second line dancing and rhythms, and portraits of local personalities and musicians, many of whom, like Danny Barker, Tuts Washinton, Jon Cleary, Tom McDermott, Willie Tee, Davell Crawford, etc., are often relatively unknown outside the city. Heaven Before I Die is available at Lulu.com and on Amazon (Kindle edition), and essential reading for anyone interested in what has always been the lifeblood of the city. But a word of warning: it'll make you fork out some hard earned cash on cds, not to mention wanting to purchase a ticket on the next plane to the Crescent City.