Now, it takes a lot for me to excoriate a fellow author. I mean, no one appreciates how much work goes into getting the right thoughts down on a page than I do. But you know what: when a scribe gets lazy and doesn’t do the research that his/her writing merits, then I come out swinging. Let me explain…
My friend, singer Alex Pangman, recently turned me on to a book about Frank Sinatra: “All Or Nothing At All” by a Donald Clarke. Alex knows I’ve written the definitive story about Ruth Lowe (“Until I Smile At You” - untilismileatyou.com), the Canadian girl who wrote the song that launched Sinatra’s career into the stratosphere, “I’ll Never Smile Again”. I was selected by Ruth's family to write the book. In fact, Alex had me as a guest on her podcast/radio show “Swing Set” to talk about this story. She’s also aware that I spent three years compiling the story, doing countless interviews, researching, checking and cross-checking details. So she knew I’d blow a gasket when I learned about Mr. Clarke’s ”story”. Why? The guy has the impertinence to say this: “'I’ll Never Smile Again' had been written by pianist Ruth Lowe, a native of Toronto, who played on the radio in Canada and later in the American all-girl band of Ina Ray Hutton; she wrote it supposedly after the death of her husband, though that story seems to have been a piece of press-agentry”. This guy then goes on to say that Tommy Dorsey “allowed” Glenn Miller to record “I’ll Never Smile Again” and that Sinatra and the Pied Pipers had been a part of Dorsey’s first attempt to record the song.
Wonder what else is wrong in this book?
Because that stuff is just piffle. Imagine having the effrontery to suggest Ruth Lowe did not write her famous song after the death of her husband. “Press-agentry”? Just where the hell did the guy dig up the research to support this wild-ass claim? And while we’re at it, where did he discover that supposedly Sinatra and the Pied Pipers participated in the earlier attempt to record Ruth’s song when there is zero evidence to suggest this at all. (Yes, Dorsey had tried to nail the tune in the waning moments of a previous recording session, no question, but Sinatra and the singers were not a part of this failed venture.)
Those of us who believe in research when writing books know that’s it’s often painstaking work. But rewarding too. I spent a delightful session talking with 96 year old Muriel Cohen (“Mickey” to her friends), Ruth’s sister, who told me in great detail how her older sibling was so devastated after losing her husband. “One day she looked at me and said, ‘Mickey, I’ll just never smile again’,” she explained to me. “It was heartbreaking. But that evening, she sat down at the piano and suddenly the song just poured from her soul. “I’ll Never Smile Again” – words and music.”
It poured from her soul. There were no press agents involved. And where Mr. Clarke got that malarkey from is anyone’s guess. But I know where my information came from and I’ll bank on it anytime.
Shame on you Donald Clarke!