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The Producer: John Hammond & the Soul of American Music by Dunstan Prial

In this thorough and well-written biography of quintessential A&R man John Hammond, author Dunstan Prial firmly establishes the legacy of a man who, without playing a single note, changed the landscape of American music. Hammond signed and championed a veritable who’s who of American popular musicians in the 20th century, including Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

The heir to a rich New York family whose fortunes came from the Vanderbilt empire, Hammond was raised in the lap of luxury. Inspired by the music of African-Americans, he chose to dedicate his life to promoting jazz, blues and spirituals. A traditional jazz man, Hammond nonetheless presciently grasped the talents of a few pop artists (Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Springsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughan; Prial recounts the circumstances surrounding all of the signings and gives each a sense of historical context.

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