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Rock & Roll Books

By Shawn Badgley, Fri., June 1, 2007

Rock & Roll Books

Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life & Times of Doc Pomus

by Alex Halberstadt

Da Capo, 254 pp., $26

This linear but novelistic biography of pop phenomenon Doc Pomus (né Jerome Felder) reads like a book that had to be written, much as his songs have always sounded like they had to be. The Brill Building beauties – "Teenager in Love," "This Magic Moment," and "Viva Las Vegas" among them – that Pomus provided lyrics for in his partnership with Mort Shuman came bubbling up from a kid in love with the blues, a Jewish hipster with polio, and Alex Halberstadt writes with measured admiration of his "authentic" and "genuine" life. "Beethoven had been a man of his time," explains the author, "and Jerome decided that he, too, had to be true to his era." That the era in question would include the formation of rock & roll as we know it makes for a life story stacked with adventure and legendary encounters, not to mention great old photographs. The real story, though, is Pomus' search for love – and the struggle to hold on to what he loved – which feels awfully familiar when you hear one of those great old tunes. "I write for those who stumble in the night," Pomus once said. Fifteen years after his death, Halberstadt lights a candle for him.

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