Welcome to Fast Forward Friday, where we review resources to help you relax, refresh, and power up for next week. That will include recommendations for Listening, Reading, Viewing and Researching that will sometimes amuse, sometimes instruct, but always help you to focus on lifelong learning and recharge your batteries over the weekend!
Listening: If you like or love Jazz, you will love Count Basie Live at Newport 1957, available in full on YouTube. Books have been written about Basie and his lineups over the decades, but note for note, this group has to be the best of them all. Recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival, this concert gives us one last time to hear the saxophone of the incomparable Lester Young and features vocalists Joe Williams and Jimmy Rushing, virtuoso trumpet playing by Roy Eldredge, and the always brilliant piano of Count Basie himself. Highlights include the introduction of band members by producer John Hammond, a romping rendition of “Lester Leaps In,” and a transcendent version of “One O’Clock Jump” that must be heard to be believed. That version is so good that adjectives do not do it justice!
Reading: Churchill: Walking with Destiny, by Andrew Roberts. Roberts is arguably the finest historian writing in the English language today, and this biography of Winston Churchill is arguably the finest one-volume biography of Churchill ever written. As with any good history, Churchill: Walking with Destiny provides readers with dozens of stories from Churchill’s long and storied life to illustrate his character, conduct and courage, leavened with examples of Churchill’s ever-present wit. Roberts adds another layer of context not available before 2018 due to his access to private papers of King George VI that tell a story previously hinted at: that the King had more than serious misgivings about Churchill’s ability to lead the United Kingdom at its hour of greatest peril. Churchill has had a much deserved and serious revival as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. However, as Roberts deftly points out, the Churchill we know and credit with providing “the lion’s roar” of a victorious United Kingdom was anything but a safe bet when he became Prime Minister in May 1940—following the Norway disaster that Churchill himself had a large hand in bringing about.
Roberts is a gifted writer whose meticulous research supports his narrative of the life of the most consequential leader of World War II—the one who faced down the Nazi menace alone for a year before Hitler was stupid enough to first invade the Soviet Union in June 1941 and then follow Japan into war with the United States in December 1941. If you want to be inspired by the story of a leader who lived the courage of his convictions at the most critical juncture of world history, read Churchill: Walking with Destiny.
Viewing: In 1961, journalist David Susskind sat down for an interview with former President Harry S Truman. The result is a free-wheeling, amusing, informative and entertaining program entitled “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry.”
Students of American history will enjoy this session with Harry Truman, who famously said that “The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know.” At the time of the interview, Truman had been out of office for 8 years and had famously participated in campaign events speaking in behalf of John F. Kennedy, who won the 1960 presidential election over a man Truman thoroughly loathed, Richard M. Nixon. (Truman told at least one 1960 campaign audience that they would all “Go to Hell!” if they did not vote for Kennedy.) Truman was renowned for his direct manner and forthright speech, and this interview is no exception.
Susskind brings out Truman’s respect for the office of the presidency, his deep knowledge of United States history, and his common touch that would be so evident years later in Merle Miller’s “Plain Speaking,” which was published after Truman’s 1972 death). Listening to the plain-spoken Truman having a conversation with Susskind, it is easy to picture Truman picking up the phone at the front desk of the Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri and answering it himself when no one else was around—which he was known to do. At a time when former presidents make upwards of $250,000 for a single speech and are treated like potentates, it is refreshing to watch Harry Truman doing what he did best—connecting with the ordinary Americans who responded so well to his straightforward manners and message.
Researching: The Word of the Week for you to research is Hyperbole. If you think at first glance that hyperbole and “hype” are similar, you are correct! As you research the word, its origins and its uses, be sure to consider how many times a day you encounter hyperbole. If you dare, count the uses of hyperbole between here and Monday morning!
We will be back next Friday with more resources to Fast Forward you into the following week!
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