BY LAURA ROESCH; PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICK COOPER
“I am Music. And Music is the connection of human souls, speaking a language that needs no words.” So counsels the mystical narrator in the fictional story of Frankie Presto, the most brilliant guitar virtuoso the world has ever known.
Frankie, an orphan born in war-torn Spain in 1936, fortuitously comes under the care and tutelage of El Maestro, a blind guitar teacher. El Maestro, a father figure who recognizes Frankie’s exceptional gift, guides Frankie’s journey to perfecting jazz, flamenco, and classical guitar skills. Frankie is exposed to the music of Segovia, Tarrega, Schuman, Vivaldi, and Corelli, and thus begins his lifelong love affair and struggle. Frankie is forced to flee Spain and travels to America at the age of nine, huddled in the bowels of a cargo ship. He is alone except for his beloved acoustic guitar and its six magic blue strings. He does not yet appreciate the power or significance of the blue strings, and the strings come to be a gift as well as a burden. He eventually learns each string has the power to change a life, all within his control.
The book opens at the end of Frankie’s life as Music comes to Frankie’s funeral to claim the lifetime gift it loaned him at birth. The book then moves between past and present over six decades of Frankie’s life and his encounters with musical geniuses of the 20th century. Mitch Albom convincingly describes Frankie’s interactions with and influence upon contemporary music legends Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Tony Bennett, Lyle Lovett, Wynton Marsalis, Carol King and even KISS. Frankie becomes a
world-renowned legend himself, only to burn out and disappear for years. He eventually returns to exhaust the exquisite magic of the remaining blue strings.
A musician in his own right, Albom skillfully intertwines his love of music to show the dedication and skill required to be the best in the context of what is ultimately a tragic story. Yet, the story is surprisingly uplifting, especially if the reader is a music lover. The book poetically reveals the value of music in life. To quote the book’s narrator, “…no other talent gives your life a sound track. I am Music. I mark time.”
About LAURA ROESCH
Laura Roesch is an avid reader, ever mindful that there are so many books, yet so little time. She happily plays ukulele and percussion with the wonderfully diverse and quirky Ukulele Orchestra of St. Andrews. She and her husband also collect vintage cars and motorcycles.
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