Tag Archives: Music

Jarmila Novotná: Singer, Actress, Icon, Ambassador

“Glamorous yet sensitive, Novotná believed and proved that any kind of
music, any kind of art, can bring people together for the common good:
to resist tyranny, to celebrate freedom, to heal and to nurture.”
—Joyce DiDonato, Grammy Award winning mezzo-soprano

A legendary beauty, hailed as one of the greatest si9780813176116nging actors of her time, Jarmila Novotná (1907–1994) was an internationally known opera soprano from the former Czechoslovakia. She began her opera career as a teenage soprano and debuted at the National Theater in 1925. After leaving her homeland, she began performing all across Europe and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Best known for her performances in Der Rosenkavalier, The Marriage of Figaro, and La Traviata, including over 200 performances at the Met, Novotná was an accomplished singer. Jarmila Novotná: My Life in Song offers Novotná’s perception of these great achievements, as well as with her ventures into modeling, theater, film, television, and radio. She continually defied the “sex siren” role that everyone from Franz Lehár to Louis B. Mayer wanted her to play. From the beginning of her career, she ignored the fascination that adoring men had for her uncommon beauty, choosing to embody her artistry in a variety of forms, including notable films like The Bartered Bride (1932), Frasquita (1934), and The Search (1948), which won her critical acclaim for her performance as a mother in search of her young son. She also used her fame to dame her a national heroine among the Czech people, serving as a cultural ambassador.

Editor William V. Madison brings Novotná‘s own English-language version of Jarmila Novotná: My Life in Song to readers for the first time. Throughout the memoir, Novotná shares stories of those she worked, her experience in the “unending party” that is Hollywood. She attended parties hosted by Mayer, co-founder of MGM Studios, who repeatedly offered her a movie contract. Novotná also offers profiles on the notable artistic figures who surrounded her, including singer Bing Crosby, Montgomery Clift,  composer Cole Porter, and conductor Arturo Toscanini, as well as dignitaries like Dwight Eisenhower and Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia.

Lavishly illustrated with photos from her personal collection, her memoir not only recounts her remarkable life and career, but also shares stories of her interactions with other artistic luminaires whom she worked with in a variety of settings. She also witnessed and recorded her thoughts on the birth of an independent Czechoslovakia, the country’s takeover by the Nazis, and its fall to the Soviets. With a foreword by late opera critic Brian Kellow, the autobiography sheds light on the fascinating life of one of the greatest opera singers of the twentieth century.

An event celebrating the exclusive English-language release of her best-selling memoir will be held at 7 pm Wednesday, October 10 at the Bohemian National Hall in New York City. William V. Madison will speak at the celebration, which will also feature Novotná’s granddaughter, violinist Tatiana Daubek, and the ensemble House of Time. An exhibition of archival images and memorabilia, courtesy of George Daubek, will be on display in the Hall’s Dvořák Room. Hosted by The Dvořák American Heritage Association, the event is free and open to the public, with limited seating.


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5 Unforgettable Gene Kelly Dance Numbers

Suffering from the rainy day blues? We’ve got you covered!

As told by Cynthia and Sara Brideson in the new biography, He’s Got Rhythm, Gene Kelly was one of the brightest stars in the world of Hollywood dance musicals. From tap dancing on roller-skates, to creating rhythms with a squeaky floorboard, to collaborating with dance legend Fred Astaire, Gene was a creative genius and a master of his craft.

These iconic song and dance numbers are guaranteed to put a “smile on your face” and have you “laughing at the clouds”:

1. “I Like Myself” from It’s Always Fair Weather (1955)

In this unforgettable number, Gene provides one of his most energetic and entertaining performances, and proves that he can hoof it even when wearing roller-skates!

2. “The Babbitt And The Bromide” from Ziegfeld Follies (1946)

Two legends of American dance go head-to-head in this Gershwin brothers number from Ziegfeld Follies. In a classic sketch of friendly one-upmanship, the technical perfection of Fred Astaire meets the easy grace of Gene Kelly. This was the only time Astaire and Kelly appeared together on film in the prime of their careers.

3. “I Got Rhythm” from An American in Paris (1951)

Gene oozes charm in this clip from the Academy Award winning An American in Paris, as he taps and sings a classic jazz tune while teaching French children a few words of English.

4. “Squeaky Floor Routine” from Summer Stock (1950)

In what Kelly himself would later call his favorite solo routine, he creates a dance inspired by the environment in which it takes place. Employing a squeaky floorboard and an old newspaper as the basis for his rhythm, Gene displays his remarkable ability to explore a space through dance.

5. “Singin’ In The Rain” from Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

“From where I stand the sun is shining all over the place.”

In perhaps the most iconic number in any Hollywood musical, Gene taps and splashes his way through a California downpour and right into film history.

UKY06 He's Got Rhythm Selected.inddTo read the stories behind these and many other iconic Gene Kelly films, check out the newly released He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly. In the first comprehensive biography written since the legendary star’s death, authors Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson disclose new details of Kelly’s complex life. Not only do they examine his contributions to the world of entertainment in depth, but they also consider his political activities—including his opposition to the Hollywood blacklist. Drawing on previously untapped articles and interviews with Kelly’s wives, friends, and colleagues, Brideson and Brideson illuminate new and unexpected aspects of the actor’s life and work. He’s Got Rhythm is a balanced and compelling view of one of the screen’s enduring legends.

Get Crafted at The Market this Weekend


Where can you find some of your favorite Kentucky/Regional books, fine arts and crafts, live music, specialty food, and much, much more? The 35th annual Kentucky Crafted: The Market 2017 will be held April 22-23 at the Lexington Convention Center. Stop Mommy Goose final front coverREV.inddby our booth #102 to check out some of our new titles, and meet Mike Norris, who’ll be signing copies of Mommy Goose, from 12 – 2 pm on Saturday, April 22.

More than 200 exhibitors will be on hand at the event, which was chosen as the No. 1 Fair & Festival by readers of AmericanStyle Magazine four years in a row, and also named a top 10 event by the Kentucky Tourism Council and a top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society.

Here’s a sampling of some of our new releases that will be available at our booth during Kentucky Crafted:


Martha Raye: A Big Talent with a Big Mouth


Martha Raye publicity photo, early 1940s. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Loud, brash and bawdy, multi-talented performer Martha Raye (1916-1994) was known as one of the world’s best comediennes. She sang, danced, and joked her way into the spotlight of the entertainment world with a career that spanned seven decades and encompassed everything from vaudeville to television commercials to entertaining U.S. troops.

Her career began when she joined the family act at age three on the tough vaudeville circuit. Determined to have a better life, she taught herself to sing and dance, mimicking the voice of Ethel Merman. Raye got her big break when she caught the attention of a film director as she kidded with audience members Joe E. Lewis and Jimmy Durante during an engagement at the Trocadero in Hollywood.

In the late 1930s, Raye appeared in a number of films, and the press heralded her as a “stridently funny comedienne with a Mammoth Cave mouth.” From there her career soared. She landed a role in Charlie Chaplain’s film Monsieur Verdoux, and the New York Post commented that Raye was the only one who could hold her own with the comic master. By the 1950s she hosted her own highly rated television show, reaching millions with her clowning.

Behind the huge smile and raucous laugh, though, there was a darker side to Martha Raye. She found solace from her insecurities and a frenzied schedule in the use of drugs and alcohol. Her seven rocky marriages, the last to a man 33 years her junior whom she had known less than two weeks, fueled headlines and gossip columns. Particularly painful was her turbulent relationship with her only daughter, Melodye.

Despite her personal instability, Raye’s enduring love affair with the American military never wavered. She was passionately committed to entertaining troops abroad during World War II, and she worked tirelessly as both entertainer and nurse in the remote jungles of Vietnam. Bob Hope commented that “she was Florence Nightingale, Dear Abby, and the only singer who could be heard over the artillery fire.” The Green Berets designated her an honorary lieutenant colonel, and she later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

After her death in 1994, “Colonel Maggie” became the only civilian laid to rest among the Green Berets at the Fort Bragg military cemetery.

In honor of the talented artist, who passed away 22 years ago today, here’s an excerpt from Take It from the Big Mouth: The Life of Martha Raye, the first full-fledged biography that explores Raye’s life and career with candor and insight:

martha-raye-coverThe hourlong Martha Raye Show debuted on December 26, 1953, under Nat Hiken’s direction with Norman Lear as writer. Herb Ross choreographed for Martha as well as for the Martha Raye Dancers. Rocky Graziano returned as a regular. Actress Irene Dunne appeared on the show, as did singer Perry Como, comedic duo Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, and Maggie’s old friend from vaudeville days, Donald O’Connor. The guest list was studded with names that attracted viewers who were amused by Maggie’s rollicking humor and boisterous energy.

With her gorgeous legs and thighs molded in the fishnet stockings that had become a kind of trademark for her, Maggie pranced tirelessly around the set. Torch songs, rhythm numbers, blues — Maggie did them all with equal skill. “That Old Black Magic” and “Blues in the Night” were favorites of her fans. She continued to close each show with a fervent thank-you to the nuns who staffed St. Francis Hospital at the time of her recent collapse. “Good night, Sisters.”

Never had Nick been more accurate than when he had predicted, five years previously, that television would be the medium in which Maggie was destined for success.

[. . .]

Although Maggie and Nick had fought violently for nine years, Maggie confided to acquaintances that since their divorce they got along beautifully. What she did not confide was that if Nick displayed any affection for their daughter, complimented her appearance, or praised her for her grades, Maggie flew into a rage. Nick invariably retreated in the face of what seemed to him to be such unjustified anger. He did not grasp the reason for this jealousy. But it was clear that his praise for the excellence of his daughter’s schoolwork touched a nerve because Maggie had never attended school. She felt inferior to her mother, because of Peggy’s superior knowledge, and now could not bear that her only child — as much as she loved the girl -– would also grow up to be superior to her. “There’s only one star in this family, and that’s me,” she frequently would declare to her daughter, and even to Nick, who knew her so well, as a scarcely veiled reminder that his support was entirely dependent upon her talent.

Singing the Summer Southern Harmony

There’s something about music during the summertime—outdoor concerts, guitar-playing on the porch, festivals across the globe. One of the oldest and most popular southern singing traditions is that of “Shape Notes.”

Shape notes have been in use by classrooms and congregations for more than two centuries, and arose to simplify the notation, teaching, and arrangement of songs. Rather than traditional musical notation heads, shapes are substituted that correspond to different sounds:

Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do

William Walker’s Southern Harmony and Musical Companion was first published in 1835. During the nineteenth century, when advertising was mainly by word of mouth or relatively sedate ads in weekly and monthly papers and pamphlets, Southern Harmony sold about 600,000 copies, and is perhaps the most popular songbook ever printed.

9780813118598 As far as is known, Benton, Kentucky, is the only place where the Southern Harmony is still used regularly. The Big Singing, usually held on the fourth Sunday in May, has been an annual event since 1884. Before World War II it is said that many thousands attended; as many as four extra trains in each direction were added to bring in the crowds.


Preface to the 1835 edition:


The CD included with Southern Harmony and Musical Companion contains more than 300 tunes, hymns, psalms, odes, and anthems, including “New Britain (Amazing Grace),” “Happy Land,” “O Come, Come Away,” “Wondrous Love,” and many, many more. The recordings were made at the Big Singing in Benton, Kentucky, between 1966 and 1992. We’ve included two of the more popular tunes, “New Britain” and “Newburgh” below.

“Tell Me, [about] Mommy Goose”

Raccoon_Car_WmkdThe 82-year-old renowned folk artist Minnie Adkins usually sits in her easy chair at her home in Elliott County and whittles. “Folk art is from the heart,” she recently told Rich Copley for The Lexington Herald-Leader. “Fine art is from the knowledge. Folk art you make from what you love and what you want to create.”

Mike Norris, former Communications director at Centre College, is a musician with a flair for rhymes.

Together they’ve created the charming new children’s book, Mommy Goose, featuring fifty original Appalachian rhymes by Norris and more than one hundred new hand-carved and -painted works by Adkins.

With colorful characters like the Speckled Hen, June Bug, and Clete, the Parakeet, the Song_Buttonnursery rhymes and carvings in Mommy Goose honor Appalachian tradition and speech. Accompanying the rhymes is a new original song and sheet music by Norris, “Tell Me, Mommy Goose.”


Mommy Goose_smallAbout MOMMY GOOSE

Mommy Goose is an Appalachian bird.

Like cows love corn, she loves words.

She says,

“Corn can be yellow, blue, or white,

And words change colors in different light.

To talk like your flock is no disgrace.

Just use the right word in the right place.”

Read the feature on Adkins and Norris in the latest issue of Kentucky Monthly, or buy the book.

inthisissueMommy Goose final front coverREV.indd

Sunday FUNday: Music Trivia

In honor of the 57th annual Grammys tonight at 8/7c we are going to switch things up a bit! We’ve provided some music trivia questions down below (as well as an answer sheet for you to check your work). Send this to your co-workers, friends, family, etc and make a game out of it! Whoever gets the most correct gets an honorary Grammy!


1. Which of these is nominated for Best Country Song?
a. Automatic – Miranda Lambert
b. Invisible – Hunter Hayes
c. We Dem Boyz – Wiz Khalifa

2. What Kentucky born musician is nominated for Best Americana Album?
a. John Hiatt
b. Rosanne Cash
c. Sturgill Simpson

3. ‘Into My Own’ album by Bryan Sutton is nominated for which of these Grammy awards:
a. Best Country Album
b. Best Rap Album
c. Best Bluegrass Album

4. Miranda Lambert is nominated for how many Grammy nominations?
a. 6
b. 4
c. 2

5. Who is hosting this year’s Grammy Awards?
a. Taylor Swift
b. LL Cool J
c. Iggy Azalea

6. Which of these songs is nominated for both Best Rap Song and Best Rap Collaboration?
a. Bound 2
b. Anaconda
c. 0 to 100 / The Catch Up

7. Which of these artists IS NOT nominated for Best New Artist?
a. Sia
b. Haim
c. Bastille

8. Which of these artists are performing at the Grammys this year?
a. Ariana Grande
b. Keith Urban
c. Miley Cyrus

9. Which of these movies was nominated for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media?
a. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
b. Gone Girl
c. Wolf of Wall Street

10. And lastly, where is this year’s Grammy Awards taking place?
a. Atlanta, GA
b. New York, NY
c. Los Angeles, CA

answers: 1. a, 2. c, 3. c, 4. b, 5. b, 6. a, 7. a, 8. a, 9. b, 10. c
That’s it for our music-filled week! Stay tuned for other fun weeks ahead!

Featuring: Festival of the Bluegrass

Photo courtesy of the Festival of the Bluegrass website.

Photo courtesy of the Festival of the Bluegrass website.

Here in the Bluegrass we are Kentucky proud – our sports teams, our derbies, and even our music. Not only do we have musicians like Jean Ritchie and Sturgill Simpson, but we have wonderful music festivals too.

Photo courtesy of the Festival of the Bluegrass website.

Every year the Cornett family hosts the Festival of the Bluegrass which includes not only great local music, but activities such as camping, shopping, and workshops! There’s even a beautiful horse park  for you to visit during your stay which includes a museum. Who could ask for more, right?

Photo courtesy of Festival of the Bluegrass website.

No matter what you choose to do, learn to play the banjo at one of the workshops or take a gander at some of the food and local shops, we know you’ll have a great time. Though the festival is known for its wonderful music, it includes so much more than that. We hope you’ll find your way to the music festival this June 11-14th!

To learn more about the festival visit their website at: http://www.festivalofthebluegrass.com. To join the waitlist click here.

Tell us your thoughts in the comments section – have you been to the Festival of the Bluegrass? Do you plan on going this year?

Coming Spring 2015: MELLENCAMP: AMERICAN TROUBADOUR by David Masciotra

It’s Friday everybody! We’ve been working hard here at the press on our upcoming books and we just couldn’t wait to share one of them with you!

Mellencamp_final.inddThis post features one of our new favorites, Mellencamp: American Troubadour by David Masciotra. This book gives you an insider’s perspective on the life and music career of John Mellencamp and his path to fame. This book is an absolute must-read for music enthusiasts who are interested in the development of roots rock and Americana music.

We’ve including an excerpt here at the bottom for you to check out and tell us your thoughts. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our music related posts we’ve been doing all week, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.

You can order the book here. Have a great weekend!

Introduction: No Pop Singer

From the American heartland came a voice as strong and restless as a tornadic
wind blowing up dust devils on a wide open prairie. In the beginning
that voice was given the unfortunate moniker of Johnny Cougar, and
its possessor would spend nearly a decade, from the late 1970s to the late
1980s, fighting to define himself as a man and as an artist, crawling out
of the shadow of his record company’s limited vision for his talent. His
manager and record company—Tony DeFries of MainMan Management,
which had a close relationship with MCA Records—found a brash, handsome,
and hungry young man from Indiana and offered him a record
contract because they liked his demo, but first and foremost because they
liked the way he looked. They envisioned a pop star brat who would make
girls swoon with his James Dean swagger and cause radios to light up
with the sonic styling of another Neil Diamond. When the record company
executives told the young man their plans and punctuated it with the
demand that he change his performance name from John Mellencamp,
his birth name, to Johnny Cougar, he protested. “No one’s ever called me
Johnny in my life,” he said before addressing the humiliation of a tag like
“Cougar.” The conversation ended abruptly when an executive brought his gavel down on the table: “You can be Johnny Cougar or you can go back to
Indiana and do whatever it was you were doing there.” What Mellencamp
was doing was making minimum wage working for the phone company in
his hometown of Seymour, Indiana. He’d come to New York City to get a
record contract and, in the spirit and tradition of the explorer, adventurer,
and artist, he was determined to meet the challenge of the task—a challenge
that ends with many people forced, without ceremony or even farewell,
to return to their hometowns to do whatever it was they were doing
there. Mellencamp signed the deal, and Johnny Cougar was born.
Fourteen years later, in 1989, after selling millions of albums and scoring
several top ten hits as both John Cougar (Johnny became John by the
early 1980s) and John Cougar Mellencamp (his surname first appeared
on a record in 1983), Mellencamp released a single called “Pop Singer.”
The song is a stimulative and hypnotic blend of funk and folk—the funk
foaming from a Sly Stone bass line and a Stax sisterhood of backup vocalists,
and the folk fomenting from the fiddle, imported from Ireland, and a
beach accordion. Mellencamp’s voice—car wheels on a gravel road of confidence—
begins a biography and commences a confession:
Never wanted to be no pop singer
Never wanted to write no pop songs.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Just wanted to make it real
Good, bad, or indifferent
That’s the way that I live and the way that I’ll die, as a
Pop singer

Gems of the Backlist: FOLK SONGS OF THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS by Jean Ritchie

Here at the University Press of Kentucky, we’re in the middle of a program to digitize all of the books that we’ve published since our founding in 1943. It’s a lot of work going through over 1300 books, but it’s been a process full of fun surprises and astounding discoveries. Best of all, every now and then, there’s a book that we just can’t put down—a book so good we just can’t resist sharing it with you again:


It’s Throwback Thursday here at UPK which means a Gems of the Backlist post. Today we’re rediscovering our love for Jean Ritchie and folk music. In her book, Folks Songs of the Southern Appalachians, Jean Ritchie shares the rich cultural and musical history of southern Appalachia and shares with us some remarkable photographs as well.

Almost all of the songs begin with a little background information or a story that Jean Ritchie shares from her personal history. Not only do readers get a sense of Jean Ritchie, herself, but they see the music through her eyes. Readers see the pastoral landscapes that embody Kentucky, and the greater sense of community established in Appalachia. All in all, the book feels like a one-of-a-kind reading experience. Even if you’ve never been to the places she has described, you will feel at home with Jean Ritchie, while she shares her stories and sings along with them.

The book Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians As Sung By Jean Ritchie is available for purchase here. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below! How did you like this Throwback Thursday?


Photos courtesy of Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians