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(Published: April 26, 2007)


JUST PUBLISHED: "SHOWBIZ, PIONEERS, BEST SINGERS, MUSICIANS AND ENTERTAINERS FROM 1606 TO THE PRESENT": Volume IV of the series World Who's Who in Jazz, Cabaret, Music and Entertainment.

Just imagine 800 photos, 100 charts, 6,000 names and entries and the most provocative personal histories of stars and divas in one single volume!! In addition to the history of American underground music, politics in music, artists $ market value, tips and advice on what to do before you book a show at a venue!? Hard to believe. But it is a fact. The Federation of American Musicians, Singers and Performing Artists (FAMSPA) just published the fourth volume "SHOWBIZ, PIONEERS, BEST SINGERS, MUSICIANS AND ENTERTAINERS FROM 1606 TO THE PRESENT" of its encyclopedic series of 10 volumes on Jazz, cabaret, music, entertainment and performing arts.


With great interest I read the 3 previous volumes of the World Who's Who in Jazz, Cabaret, Music and Entertainment. It took me a while to go through the 2,200 pages of this massive work, but I enjoyed it tremendously. De facto it is academic but also extremely fun and entertaining, because on one side the author analyzes in depth the fabric, roots, origin of music and its pioneers from the 17th century to the present day, and on another side, he hits you with unknown bizarre stories, lifestyles, facts and gossip about stars and headliners that could and would change the way we conceive them or think they are who they are!
For instance, did you know that Benjamin Franklin was America's earliest songwriter and lyricist? I did not know until I read about it in "Showbiz, Pioneers, Best Singers, Musicians and Entertainers from 1606 to The Present", volume IV of the World Who's Who in Jazz, Cabaret, Music and Entertainment. According to the book "in 1667, the English religious songs were largely replaced by "The Bay Psalter" when it was officially and dearly adopted by Benjamin Franklin who began to write the first American songs and ballads. In that sense, Franklin could be considered as the first American songwriter, composer and lyricist, as well as the first publisher of a book of American songs and music sheets. The publication of Franklin's book gave birth to the first "American Folkloric Operas" also referred to as "Popular Operas".


The Who's Who historical and thematic chapters are full with fascinating stories and suspense about the early days of American music. Such as the story of the Underground Movement; according to the book (Pages 1980-1981) "The Underground: The Underground Railroad organization helped a considerable number of slaves to escape to other states. The underground organization developed a "know how" for escapees, a sort of an instruction manual and a survival guide. The basic instructions were: 1-The slaves who are on the run should try to escape only by night; 2-The escapees should exclusively use hand lights. Preferably, moonlight; 2-The escapees should use swamps, rivers, lakes, water to avoid the dogs which were chasing them, because dogs could not smell them in the water and follow their tracks; 3-Trucks and preferably, wagons should be used by escapees if they were able to hide in the back of the vehicle.... This is how and why early tunes, popular songs and "Negro Spirituals" were called "The Gospel Train", "The Railroad", "Wade in the Water" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". The latest tune was directly linked to the Underground Railroad. "
Another fascinating story in the book rotates around Singing in codes. (From Pages 1980-1981): ["Another extremely interesting aspect of the early songs of the Afro-American slaves was the expression of feelings, emotions and shared concerns and places "in code". For instance, Ohio or more exactly, the northern side of Ohio river, (Their favorite place, for some reason,) was called "Jordan". A "free country", was called "the promised land", "my home" or "Sweet Canaan". Any organization or group which tried back then to help the salves was referred to as the "Underground Railroad" or just the "Railroad".]


Although the book is traditional in its concept and very academic in its biographical narrative style, Volume IV is fun! In some chapters, the contents are hilarious. For instance the story of Anna Held: The talk of the town and the milk bath gossip. (Pages 2008-2009). The story goes like this:
"Her charming, suggestive delivery and outrageous French accent made a tremendous hit, and on stage, she had to sing several encores. After the show, a wild group of admirers (no doubt paid off by Ziegfeld) unhooked her carriage from its horses and pulled her through the streets. Most critics were less than impressed by Held's performance, but she was the talk of New York. Whenever she was photographed, Held preferred poses that showcased her petite waist .Always in search of a fresh publicity angle, Ziegfeld got an idea from the milky bath mixture Held used to condition her skin. He informed the press that Miss Anna Held bathed in several gallons of fresh milk every day, and reinforced the story by saying he had returned one shipment from a local dairy because it had gone sour. The dairy owner sued Ziegfeld for libel and the hoax was eventually revealed - but Held's name made headlines every step of the way. At its time, the milk bath incident made titillating headlines for weeks and supposedly started a brief fad; an auspicious beginning for Ziegfeld's aggressive publicity blitz for Anna Held as a daring European performer. "The name of the young woman became as well known in this country as the name of the President," the New York World declared a year after her arrival."


Although it is a universal who's who of showbiz, music and entertainment, only those who made their mark are listed. How difficult is it to be listed? Inclusion in the World Who's Who is strictly by invitation. This means, if you were not invited by a member of the editorial board and an official invitation was not sent to you, your chances are null. In other words, you are not in. Shoshanna Rosenstein who compiled the roster of the listees and "invited guests" said: "We sent out 40,000 invitations to artists in 130 countries. We wanted to include the best of the best in the business from all nationalities and genres. We received 125,000 inclusion requests from artists, publicists and agents from around the globe! We can't list them all. So we chose the most accomplished ones, big names and terrific new talents as well." Germaine Poitiers who worked on the 3 previous volumes said: "We honoured everybody...stars, composers, comedians, songwriters, journalists, entertainment writers and jazz and music magazines and websites publishers. So expect the see la crème de la crème in the Who's Who." Any complaint from those who were not listed? "Sure thing!" said Carol Lexter associate editor of the Who's Who. "Not only complaints we received but very unfriendly and hostile emails. There is no way we can include 3 million artists around the world. Originally, our project consisted of 3 volumes. Now we are working on the fifth volume. We are expanding and adding more volumes just to be more comprehensive and universal. The series will consist of 10 volumes for this year and a Yearbook. In 2008, we will publish new editions and the 2008 World Who's Who. And of course, we expect to receive more complaints from artists who try to squeeze in..."


It is indeed a very informative and astonishing accomplishment, carefully and intelligently crafted by FAMSPA, the Federation of American Musicians, Singers and Performing Artists. The author, Dr. Maximillien de Lafayette deserves a lot of credits for this gigantic and meaningful effort. It enriches the universal library of music and performing arts.
I was fortunate to receive a review copy of Volume IV. I could not put the book down. It is really amazing to learn about the wealth of the world of Jazz and cabaret, musical treasures hidden from many readers and the captivating secretive history of entertainment and underground music as illustrated by the author. This volume is a gold mine. The layout and design of the book are formidable. The contents are overwhelming. The in-depth articles are astonishing; so many information, charts, biographies, comparative tables and substantial analyses. And as always, the covers of the volumes of the Who's Who are splendid and intriguing. This time, the front cover of Volume IV is more than striking. It is sublime, because the very expressive photo of the American diva Peggy Judy on the front cover is a knock out, a masterpiece. The background is mysterious, her face glowing like a goddess from a Dante's novel and her French Can Can outfit is beyond description. I was told, the mystique of showbiz and Hollywood golden era flair are part of the personality of Ms. Peggy Judy, and it shows very well. She is perfect for the cover, hand-made for showbiz drama! Flip the book and you will be taken by the gallery of photos of wonderful singers from around the world; starting with jazz diva NICHAUD FITZGIBBON in Melbourne Australia, passing by Manhattan, New York and finishing with modern Jazz star, Stephanie Jordan in New Orleans, Louisiana. The very attractive ladies who appeared on the covers of Volume IV are accomplished artists and enjoy the esteem of their peers. They are seven. Each one of the seven Jazz singers is a class act. Who are they? Here there are:


1-Zola who is originally from South Africa; she is an international singer with a multi-varied cultural background and the daughter of a comedy and theater star who performed at a Jewish Ghetto during the Nazi Occupation of Poland. Ms. Zola is an award-winning singer with many hits and first spots on international charts and music billboards
2-Nichaud Fitzgibbon, a well-known Jazz singer in Australia and the United States. She performed at prestigious concerts and festivals, and recently she was the leading star of a tribute concert to honor Doris Day. By the way, she is stunning.
3-Ms. Maria Gentile winner of numerous Jazz and Cabaret awards. One of her Albums was nominated in volume III of the World Who's Who as one of the best 300 Albums of the year.
4-A very lovely American artist by the name of Irene Soderberg appears on the back cover in a very regal and sophisticated manner, dressed like a super duper contessa from the early glorious cabaret days of Paris and Berlin. Ms. Soderberg released several albums. She is known for her perfect choice of tunes and vivacious repertoires.
5-Ms. Stephanie Jordan in her silk green dress catches your eyes. She reminds me of the flashy dashy days of Josephine Baker at the Lido in Paris. Ms. Jordan toured Europe and the United States on many occasions and enjoyed an enormous success. In a paragraph of the book, the author referred to her as the classy lady of modern Jazz.
6-Ms. Antoinette Montague who released a well crafted and heart felt album Pretty Blues is among the honorees who graced the cover of volume IV. De Lafayette, author of this magnetizing work wrote "Antoinette Montague is a treasure. She is warm...she has depth...she is powerful and she will steal your heart.

It is so refreshing to see a rainbow of wonderful female artists of a great talent gracing the cover of the book. I loved this new volume. It contains wealth of information not readily available elsewhere. It is a splendid undertaking. A treasure!
Etienne Leroux and Ruth Sielberg, Syndicated Columnists, London Monthly Herald.

More Information: http://www.federationofamericanmusicianssingersandperformingartists.org

Submitted By: Etienne Leroux

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