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Set in early 1970s Detroit, a racially divided city still reeling from its violent riot of 1967, Beautiful Music is the story of one young man’s transformation through music. Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio–loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence. But after tragedy Set in early 1970s Detroit, a racially divided city still reeling from its violent riot of 1967, Beautiful Music is the story of one young man’s transformation through music. Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio–loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence. But after tragedy strikes the family, Danny’s mother becomes increasingly erratic and angry about the seismic cultural shifts unfolding in her city and the world. As she tries to hold it together with the help of Librium, highballs, and breakfast cereal, Danny finds his own reason to carry on: rock ‘n’ roll. In particular, the drum and guitar–heavy songs of local legends like the MC5 and Iggy Pop. In the vein of Nick Hornby and Tobias Wolff, yet with a style very much Zadoorian’s own, Beautiful Music is a touching story about the power of music and its ability to save one’s soul.


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Set in early 1970s Detroit, a racially divided city still reeling from its violent riot of 1967, Beautiful Music is the story of one young man’s transformation through music. Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio–loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence. But after tragedy Set in early 1970s Detroit, a racially divided city still reeling from its violent riot of 1967, Beautiful Music is the story of one young man’s transformation through music. Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio–loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence. But after tragedy strikes the family, Danny’s mother becomes increasingly erratic and angry about the seismic cultural shifts unfolding in her city and the world. As she tries to hold it together with the help of Librium, highballs, and breakfast cereal, Danny finds his own reason to carry on: rock ‘n’ roll. In particular, the drum and guitar–heavy songs of local legends like the MC5 and Iggy Pop. In the vein of Nick Hornby and Tobias Wolff, yet with a style very much Zadoorian’s own, Beautiful Music is a touching story about the power of music and its ability to save one’s soul.

30 review for Beautiful Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Early 1970's Detroit. A city experiencing a racial change in its landscape, and this is where Danny is growing up, amongst the music and a less than ideal home life. Close to his father, a father who loves music, Danny is excited when his dad brings home the family's first record player. Trips to buy albums with his dad, he experiences his first look at sound. Things will change quickly in his life, and so will his taste, though not his love for sound. Danny is our narrator, and in many ways he Early 1970's Detroit. A city experiencing a racial change in its landscape, and this is where Danny is growing up, amongst the music and a less than ideal home life. Close to his father, a father who loves music, Danny is excited when his dad brings home the family's first record player. Trips to buy albums with his dad, he experiences his first look at sound. Things will change quickly in his life, and so will his taste, though not his love for sound. Danny is our narrator, and in many ways he seems younger than his years. He is a different, quiet sort of boy, contemplative, and doesn't easily fit in. Some of his observations are sad, but some are downright hilarious. He is an endearing young man, and I wanted good things to happen for him. He has his music though, and this is his salvation. Leads him to his first friend, the first noable thing he does in school. The seventies were a great time in music, and it was easy for me to identify with boy to whom music was his safety zone and a way to escape.I too felt my teenage years were lived around various soundtracks. Can remember exactly where I was when I hear different songs from back in the day. There is both an ease and a energy to the way this author writes. He shows a great deal of empathy,not only with his characters but in the situations in which they find themselves. A racially changing city and it's challenges eventually directly affects Danny and his school. It was a wonderful, insightful story with some great music woven without. ARC from Akashic books.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Ferro

    As a longtime fan of Michael Zadoorian, and a lifelong Detroiter, I couldn't wait to read his latest book, BEAUTIFUL MUSIC. This novel is not only filled with the rockin' jams that propelled Motown to become known as Detroit Rock City, but it also swells with the beautiful music of a lively soul. Danny, Zadoorian's protagonist, is a lowly teenager that we follow from his early teens through driving age (a very monumental time for any Detroiter). After a heart-wrenching family tragedy forever As a longtime fan of Michael Zadoorian, and a lifelong Detroiter, I couldn't wait to read his latest book, BEAUTIFUL MUSIC. This novel is not only filled with the rockin' jams that propelled Motown to become known as Detroit Rock City, but it also swells with the beautiful music of a lively soul. Danny, Zadoorian's protagonist, is a lowly teenager that we follow from his early teens through driving age (a very monumental time for any Detroiter). After a heart-wrenching family tragedy forever alters Danny and his home life, Zadoorian gives us an incredibly intimate peek into the life of a youngster slowly becoming a man. Through it all, there's plenty of heart and humor, as well turmoil, both inside and out, as the Motor City is still reeling from the 1967 riot during the early '70s when the book is set. It is this Nixon-era setting also gives BEAUTIFUL MUSIC a very timely thread to weave through its story: African American urban uprisings, race riots, and white flight that are sadly making headlines once again in cities across America in modern times, but have remained commonplace in Detroit for over half a century. Through the eyes of young Danny, the reader receives a firsthand account of what it was like to be living in a rapidly changing metropolis during a time of great civil unrest. Zadoorian expertly crafts a narrative that allows the racial calamities to play a prominent role within his novel, all while not losing focus on the engrossing personal story of loss, determination, and familial bonds. It is in this personal narrative that Zadoorian truly shines. Danny is the epitome of a thoughtful young man struggling to understand his place in the universe after tragedy, and in many ways, he encompasses the emotions that readers will instantly sympathize with: fear, angst, anxiety, desire, love, memory, and yearning. I found myself connecting with Danny throughout so many wonderfully detailed scenes within this novel, and in that sense, I could hear the music of my soul blaring loudly over my mind's loudspeakers. Oh, and on that note: some books need to have a soundtrack included, because Zadoorian knows rock 'n' roll like few other writers. Have YouTube on standby whenever you come across a song in the text named in the story, because trust me: you're gonna wanna hear it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Kids today have no idea how things used to be. There was no Spotify, no playlists, no walking around with 6,000 of your favorite songs available at a moment’s notice. No downloading from the internet. There was a time when radio was king and your moods, your senses, all revolves around what was lined up next to play. And, there were only a couple of decent stations if you were within range. And, records were always rare finds. You flipped through the album covers and hoped you picked something Kids today have no idea how things used to be. There was no Spotify, no playlists, no walking around with 6,000 of your favorite songs available at a moment’s notice. No downloading from the internet. There was a time when radio was king and your moods, your senses, all revolves around what was lined up next to play. And, there were only a couple of decent stations if you were within range. And, records were always rare finds. You flipped through the album covers and hoped you picked something cool cause you probably didn’t have the cash for another record for another week or so. Beautiful Music takes us back to another time - the early seventies - and a young boy discovering the joy of music and dreaming of someday becoming a DJ. His father is nuts over the latest stereophonic equipment. His mother is either drunk or nuts and often doesn’t get out of bed. It’s Detroit in the early seventies with hippies and race riots, even in the high schools. And, it’s Danny coming of age, navigating his difficult way through junior high and high school. But somehow with the music on the radio in the background and so omnipresent it’s almost another character, the author has given us an incredibly hard to put down story. Really well done.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Libby

    “Don’t you ever listen to the radio when the big bad beat comes on?” ---Bob Seger ‘Beautiful Music’ by Michael Zadoorian will appeal to music aficionados, especially of the 1960s and 70s, audiophiles, and those who just love music in general. The appeal for me was the ‘wicked’ aural experience I engaged in as I listened to dozens of the songs (on Spotify) as I was reading about them. The story begins in 1969 in Detroit, Michigan as ten year old Danny Yzemski calls in a song request to Canadian “Don’t you ever listen to the radio when the big bad beat comes on?” ---Bob Seger ‘Beautiful Music’ by Michael Zadoorian will appeal to music aficionados, especially of the 1960s and 70s, audiophiles, and those who just love music in general. The appeal for me was the ‘wicked’ aural experience I engaged in as I listened to dozens of the songs (on Spotify) as I was reading about them. The story begins in 1969 in Detroit, Michigan as ten year old Danny Yzemski calls in a song request to Canadian radio station CKLW. Danny wants to hear ‘A Boy Named Sue’ by Johnny Cash. After three tries, Danny is able to say his name and the song he wants to hear with enough enthusiasm that DJ Ed Mitchell is happy to record it. A couple of hours later, Danny hears his voice come across the radio airwaves of powerhouse radio station CKLW and his request is played. A major backdrop for ‘Beautiful Music’ is the race riots that occurred in July of 1967. So many buildings burned down that it seemed like the entire city of Detroit was on fire and 43 people died. Because she’s afraid of what might happen out on the streets, Danny’s mother likes for him to stay inside the house. His father thinks he needs ‘fresh air’ but Danny is content to be in the house. His friend Jim’s family moves away because of the fear of another riot. Spending all his time building model cars and listening to the radio, Danny is isolated from everyone but his parents during the summertime. Music is a huge bond between Danny and his father. Danny grows to connect everything good in his life with music. When his father listens to the Beautiful Music radio station and it signs off at the end of the day, the air is suddenly empty of music and vibration, something Danny feels deeply and fears. This is a beautiful coming of age story that rekindled some of my memories about growing up in the late 60s and 70s just like Danny. My parents were strict; my music playlist was pretty short. I was allowed to listen to ‘Johnny Cash’, ‘Peter, Paul, and Mary,’ ‘Simon and Garfunkel,’ and ‘The Carpenters.’ Zadoorian writes about Danny’s father purchasing a stereo system and creating a family room. This brought back my memories of my Dad’s stereo cabinet; my sister and I were not allowed to ‘mess’ with it at all. Dad had some beautiful gospel albums, which he always played on Sunday morning, whistling as we got ready for church. In ‘Beautiful Music’ a tragedy will change the course of Danny’s life; his music playlist changes too. Even though Danny’s playlist changes, music remains his north star, helping to define his path. Watching Danny become a bit rebellious, mostly in his music choices, reminded me of how much I missed of the music that was 1970s rock and roll. I got to catch up on all that with Danny. It was a blast! I love the beautiful relationship Danny has with his father. Harold Yzemski shows interest and pride in whatever Danny is doing, and when he’s a little older, he teaches him how to drive. He asks him about his day and when Danny talks about being bullied, his father gives him good advice, “Look him in the eye.” He shelters Danny from the fallout of his mother’s depression. There is such warmth from this book character, it makes my heart ache. For all his warmth, however, Danny’s father as well as his mother accept the racial prejudice of their time. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Danny asks his Dad what he likes about music. Danny says, “It just makes me happy.” His father talks about the daily grind, how he goes to work and comes home day after day, about how everything seems so routine and the days just go by without much to distinguish them from one another. But, his father says, “when I’m here with you, like right now, listening to something on the stereo? Or just listening to it while I read the paper? Or work in my shop? I don’t know, it makes me feel different. Almost like a different person, I know that sounds crazy, I mean I’m here listening to it, but it’s like I’m not here. Does that make sense? It takes me somewhere, changes something, slows things down…” Connection, whether it's with another person, the world we live in, or something deep inside ourselves is a major part of the alchemy of music. I love it! 4.5 stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Every once in awhile, a book comes along that makes you happy as you read it. This new novel by Michael Zadoorian was that book for me. It's a fantastically written coming of age story by the author of The Leisure Seeker but it's also a book full of musical references and took my memory back to happy times in my youth when I listened to the same music. An added plus for me is that the book takes place in Detroit, where I grew up and there were numerous references to people and places that I have Every once in awhile, a book comes along that makes you happy as you read it. This new novel by Michael Zadoorian was that book for me. It's a fantastically written coming of age story by the author of The Leisure Seeker but it's also a book full of musical references and took my memory back to happy times in my youth when I listened to the same music. An added plus for me is that the book takes place in Detroit, where I grew up and there were numerous references to people and places that I have forgotten over the years. Even if you aren't from Detroit, this is still a fantastic book that needs to be added 'to your to be read' list. Beautiful Music is set in Detroit in the early 70s, several years after the Detroit riots as the city is still trying to deal with racial unrest. Danny is just getting ready to start high school and is very nervous about it. He is a loner, often picked on and hides in music to handle high school and his very dysfunctional family. After Danny's dad dies unexpectedly, his mom becomes hooked on alcohol and Valium and his family life is only held together because he takes care of his mom. When he is young, he starts out listening to pop music with lots of orchestra music with his dad. As he gets older, he discovers rock and roll and the music is what he lives for. When he is buried in his music, he can forget the world around him. It also helps him make friends and grow into a normal high school student. Back in this time, radio and record albums were the only way to listen to music. DJs on the radio were superstars and everyone listened to what they had to say - they could make or break the popularity of a record album. This is a wonderful nostalgic coming of age story - with the help of lots of music and for readers of a certain age, it will bring back plenty of memories. I highly recommend this book to any age! Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    The first great book I’ve read published this year. Zadoorian has accurately depicts the feelings one has as a teen discovering music for the first time. Older readers will love it for the nostalgia and teen readers will love it because the feeling of hearing a tune you’ll love for life is essential to growing up. This one will sit with me for a long time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    Zadoorian delivers every time. If you read everything he writes, you'll be a happier person for it. For those of us who grew up in Detroit and listened to the radio stations that Danny Yzemski hears in this nostalgic lookback at the late 60s, early 70s, the lookback is sublime. CKLW! I can remember when we discovered FM radio. And how much trouble we got into for changing the station buttons in my Mom's car. Shopping at Korvettes for albums in the remainders bin. Seeing these bands live. Zadoorian delivers every time. If you read everything he writes, you'll be a happier person for it. For those of us who grew up in Detroit and listened to the radio stations that Danny Yzemski hears in this nostalgic lookback at the late 60s, early 70s, the lookback is sublime. CKLW! I can remember when we discovered FM radio. And how much trouble we got into for changing the station buttons in my Mom's car. Shopping at Korvettes for albums in the remainders bin. Seeing these bands live. Beautiful music, indeed.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jon Wilson

    If you have ever felt the transformative power of rock and roll, Michael Zadoorian's new coming of age novel, “Beautiful Music,” is the book for you. When an author describes a 12" vinyl record as "an object of many meanings that will make amazing things happen," you know that you are reading something special. Set in 1970s Detroit, we are introduced to Danny Yzemski, as he navigates his way through high school, his first job, and a less than ideal family situation. It's a time of confusion and If you have ever felt the transformative power of rock and roll, Michael Zadoorian's new coming of age novel, “Beautiful Music,” is the book for you. When an author describes a 12" vinyl record as "an object of many meanings that will make amazing things happen," you know that you are reading something special. Set in 1970s Detroit, we are introduced to Danny Yzemski, as he navigates his way through high school, his first job, and a less than ideal family situation. It's a time of confusion and upheaval, but, as Danny soon discovers, once you have found "your" music, its power can get through anything. Danny is scooped up by rock and roll and carried along on a wave of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Iggy Pop—and NOT Jim Croce (Danny's friend, John, talking about their teacher, Mr. Beckler, says “I thought he saw Iggy, man. You can't like both Jim Croce and Iggy. It's physiologically impossible!”). We are witness to social and civil unrest in school (as Danny describes several "mini race riots”) and view changes in the city’s administration (as Coleman Young becomes the first African-American mayor of Detroit) and the neighborhood through the eyes of Danny’s mother, as she complains vocally, drink in hand, at each and every news story on the TV, day after day after day. Music becomes Danny’s refuge. As he says: “Sometimes I pull a chair up to the turntable and just watch the label in the middle of the record turn, turn, turn, until I'm in a kind of trance. There's something about that movement that makes me feel less alone. Music is my language, the blasting soundtrack in my head, there to drown out my mother's anger. It's everything I tell myself to get through my shoving, taunting, insulting day. It's my security blanket, my force field, my loud, electric screaming, bashing audio version of the bubble world.” Michael Zadoorian’s description of how Danny feels when purchasing his first rock album (Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”) is superb, and the passage where Danny arrives home, turns on the stereo, opens up the record and places it on the turntable can only have been written by someone with a deep appreciation for music. Of course, this experience is all but now sadly lost in the age of digital streaming, where music, for most, no longer comes in the form of a tangible artifact to be treasured. Among others, another Detroit native, Jack White, is doing his part to help rekindle a love of vinyl, so maybe not all is lost! There are many laugh-out-loud moments. Danny’s coworker, Dale, exclaiming, as a “wimpy” Gentle Giant song appears on the radio that “it's like getting kicked in the nads with music.” And Danny himself, after listening to the Who’s Quadrophenia: “I know just how Jimmy, the guy in the album, feels. Except, of course, he drinks, takes pills, gets in knife fights, belongs to a gang, and has a motorbike and a girlfriend. Other than those things, though, I think we're pretty much the same.” Toward the end of the book, Danny writes to his father: “I know you wouldn't like rock music, Dad. It's all screeching guitars and crashing drums and singing that sounds like yelling. It's what you would call a bunch of racket. The musicians have long hair and take a lot of drugs and sometimes even die from them. You would hate it all, but I don't care. I love it. I want to be on the radio and play loud music for everyone. There's a lot of noise that needs drowning out—ugly words and nasty voices and dumb ideas. I'm sick of hearing it all. I'm going to do what I can to release something positive into the air.” The “Beautiful Music” that Danny’s father enjoyed comprised of instrumental versions of contemporary hits played by a string orchestra. Regardless of what kind of music you like, at the end of the day, it's all beautiful, as Michael Zadoorian's modern masterpiece so brilliantly and memorably illustrates.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Ferndale, Michigan-based Michael Zadoorian has written what might be his best novel, and certainly one of the best ones I have read in many years. The setting is northwest Detroit in the late '60s and early '70s, with the city undergoing social upheaval in the wake of the 1967 Rebellion. Meanwhile, timid, nerdy kid Danny Yzemski occupies his time building model cars in his basement, and rarely venturing beyond the front yard of his Stout Street house. However, when Danny's father brings home a Ferndale, Michigan-based Michael Zadoorian has written what might be his best novel, and certainly one of the best ones I have read in many years. The setting is northwest Detroit in the late '60s and early '70s, with the city undergoing social upheaval in the wake of the 1967 Rebellion. Meanwhile, timid, nerdy kid Danny Yzemski occupies his time building model cars in his basement, and rarely venturing beyond the front yard of his Stout Street house. However, when Danny's father brings home a stereo system for the family's basement rec room, it changes Danny's life. Through awkwardly negotiating the waters of a racially tense Redford High School, enduring a family tragedy, and attempting to help his emotionally troubled mother, Danny finds calm and release through rock music; and he grows and matures along the way. If you lived in northwest Detroit (as I did for a time, which made this book an even more joyful nostalgic experience), love music (as I do to the extreme), or simply enjoy sharply-drawn complex characters, I highly recommend this wonderful novel.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    The Detroit race riots and their aftermath, from the perspective of a teenage white boy whose father has died, leaving him with his mentally unstable mother. But also with a metric ton of music references. It's a good read but I wouldn't go out of my way to find it. If you're looking for something, then go for it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    If I could, I go with 3.5 Stars for this novel. I quite enjoyed the beginning of this book, but I found the middle to drag on a bit too much for my liking. There are many things that I liked about the writing, the music, and journey of Danny, so I would recommend the book, but it's not one I'd pick up again. I won this through a librarything giveaway, and these are my honest thoughts regarding this novel.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This one really resonated with me. Not because, I was a bullied loner, I was an average kid, fairly well-liked but I loved music, much like Danny and evolved much like he does, as he discovers rock n' roll, in his early teens and like Danny, I adored Led Zeppelin. The author describes the joys of music, with such insight and beauty, that I have to highly recommend this one.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    I loved that the story was so full of Detroit and things that were familiar to me. It was a difficult subject to read about at times. I kept wanting to pick the book up and read just a little bit more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    This is a coming of age tale that takes place in my home town and also close to the time that I lived there. Way more dramatic than my life for sure but it was a fun trip down memory lane, including favorite soundtracks. It's almost a cliche that music soothes the soul, but this was a spot on example of it, and a true hero's journey. It's a gas.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    10 stars. One of my favorite novels this year. What a great ride, a homage to the D, bad and good, with my favorite thing in the world next to books: music. Bravo, Michael Zadoorian.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    Danny Yzemski loves music. His life actually revolves around it. He is growing up in Detroit, during the turbulent 1960’s and 1970’s. This was a volatile time, the time and place of race riots. It was also a time of great music. Danny finds comfort from his town’s turbulent troubles, as well as his dysfunctional family’s issues, in music. Music soothes and comforts him as he sees and learns things that worry him. After a devastating tragedy, Danny’s life becomes even more difficult, as his mother Danny Yzemski loves music. His life actually revolves around it. He is growing up in Detroit, during the turbulent 1960’s and 1970’s. This was a volatile time, the time and place of race riots. It was also a time of great music. Danny finds comfort from his town’s turbulent troubles, as well as his dysfunctional family’s issues, in music. Music soothes and comforts him as he sees and learns things that worry him. After a devastating tragedy, Danny’s life becomes even more difficult, as his mother finds comfort in alcoholism and as the world changes around them. Music is always there to make Danny feel better. When he discovers rock and roll, he feels he has found what truly speaks to him. This is a wonderfully realistic book. Danny comes alive in the pages of this book, and the reader truly gets to know him. He is coming of age during a turbulent time both inside and outside his home. This book shows how much comfort music can provide. I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    Loved this. So many nostalgic Detroit suburb references. Fantastic character development. My only complaint is that I wish I could continue to follow Danny and his trek into adulthood. Will he survive the end of high school? Will he attend Specs Howard and reach his goal of becoming a radio DJ? Will Danny's mom make it through her addiction, her pain, her grief? Will he? Does Danny ever listen to the Beautiful Music his father once loved and shared with him? And finally, when will this be made Loved this. So many nostalgic Detroit suburb references. Fantastic character development. My only complaint is that I wish I could continue to follow Danny and his trek into adulthood. Will he survive the end of high school? Will he attend Specs Howard and reach his goal of becoming a radio DJ? Will Danny's mom make it through her addiction, her pain, her grief? Will he? Does Danny ever listen to the Beautiful Music his father once loved and shared with him? And finally, when will this be made into a movie because it has screenplay written all over it?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This was one of the most memorable books I've read in a very long time. I grew up a music geek, so I could very much relate to the main character. I also loved that, rather than JUST being about music, there was a fantastic story to back it up. The author does a fantastic job of weaving Danny's fictional story into the very realistic-feeling setting of early 1970's Detroit. By the end of the book, I felt like I wanted to be friends with several of the characters, and that's a feeling I don't This was one of the most memorable books I've read in a very long time. I grew up a music geek, so I could very much relate to the main character. I also loved that, rather than JUST being about music, there was a fantastic story to back it up. The author does a fantastic job of weaving Danny's fictional story into the very realistic-feeling setting of early 1970's Detroit. By the end of the book, I felt like I wanted to be friends with several of the characters, and that's a feeling I don't walk away from a book with very often. I look forward to reading more by this author.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nate Hawthorne

    Really a 3.5, but not a 4 for me. This is a snapshot of music and culture in the mid 70's in Detroit. The main themes are highlighted by the music the characters are listening to. An example of how a song can take you back to a specific moment in your own personal history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    T-Roy

    This book was perfect. So well written and full of humor and other various emotions. I even have a huge collection of vinyl, or records/albums as they used to be called, from The Stooges all the way to the Command LPs from a remainder bin somewhere. This book even brought out the feelings I had when I listened to these and I think I should play then more often...and then my wife and 3 daughters all start screaming at one another and I quicly remember the reason they have been collecting dust.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was a very quick read about a young man finishing high school shortly after the riots in Detroit. My neighbor Donna taught at Redford High, the school where the story is set, from the 1950's until the school closed. She was a lifelong Detroiter, and (as far as I could tell) about as unprejudiced as a white Detroiter could be who was raised at that time. The author certainly didn't sugar coat what was happening in Detroit or at Redford High, but I kinda felt like he very gingerly stepped This was a very quick read about a young man finishing high school shortly after the riots in Detroit. My neighbor Donna taught at Redford High, the school where the story is set, from the 1950's until the school closed. She was a lifelong Detroiter, and (as far as I could tell) about as unprejudiced as a white Detroiter could be who was raised at that time. The author certainly didn't sugar coat what was happening in Detroit or at Redford High, but I kinda felt like he very gingerly stepped around it as well. Perhaps hearing all of Donna's (and many other Detroiters of all races) stories of the times has given me a different view. It seemed the author, kind of like the main character, was just avoiding all confrontation. In many ways, Danny's response was pretty typical. I don't hate black people; I don't love black people, I just want to get through my day. I don't think that attitude is going to make the world a worse place, nor will make anything better. It also kind of feeds into a lot my feelings of helplessness when I see hateful things going on in the world and what can I, middle class white woman, do to make that any better? I know this book wasn't about race. It was about how music (or whatever form of art speaks to you), can be a lifesaving thing. Music does that for me, and I think I'm pretty musically literate - but honestly, except for the few huge hits mentioned, lots of the music referred to here was so far before my time, I'd never heard of it. I know who the MC5 are - you can't live here and not know who they were. I love Patti Smith (even the unpretty, very weird Patti Smith), so that love led me to try to love the MC5 (her husband was in the band, for you non-locals), and I just can't do it. Can't like the MC5. In the same vein, Jethro Tull has always struck me as simply awful ever since my junior high friend and flutist played his albums for me. But I still understood completely Danny's feelings about music, how just hearing a song in your head can change your outlook. How being in record store (be it a crappy chain store, or a specialty shop) can be the highlight of your week, were you rub shoulders with other people who understand you. That may be what I miss the most about our digital age. No record stores. No spontaneous discussions standing before the bin of obscure (or insanely popular) albums. No feeling that you 'belong.' These characters in this book did not seem as dimensional as some of his other books. Nerdy Danny, Drunk Mother, Partying Friend John, and, now that I think of it, there isn't a black character that was really more than a name. They are all kind of stock after school special characters. I think my favorite Zadoorian book was the one about the junk shop, Beautiful music was entertaining, but didn't quite rise to that level.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    If you are a music fan or just a fan of beautiful honest writing, then this book is for you!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sara Strand

    I wasn't born until 1982 so I'll be honest when I say a lot of the cultural references from the 70's went right over my head. But I think that's OK because Michael Zadoorian writes in such a way that you absorb the information, you can picture everything around him, and we can all relate to the middle school awkwardness. I don't care who you are, you were awkward. It isn't just middle school that's difficult to navigate (swimming naked in gym class? I'd rather die, thank you very much), but his I wasn't born until 1982 so I'll be honest when I say a lot of the cultural references from the 70's went right over my head. But I think that's OK because Michael Zadoorian writes in such a way that you absorb the information, you can picture everything around him, and we can all relate to the middle school awkwardness. I don't care who you are, you were awkward. It isn't just middle school that's difficult to navigate (swimming naked in gym class? I'd rather die, thank you very much), but his home life isn't always easy. His father feels distant and unaware, likely stressed out to the max. His mother is emotionally unstable and to be honest, she reminds me of me in a way. Add to this the complexity of all of these characters, you can almost picture someone in your life that could play these characters in a movie and nail it. The day his father brings home a new stereo changes Danny's life, but the book is more than that. It's about Detroit, Detroit in the 70's during the race riot time period, adolescence, mental health, it's so many real life things all balled up that you can't help but be immersed in it. You find yourself turning the pages, nodding your head, laughing out loud, all of the emotions. I just really adored this book and it feels like a perfect summer read. Maybe pack it on your way to your outdoor music festival, what a tribute. I have to also say, Danny had his coming to Jesus rock and roll moment with Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy album and I also remember the first time I heard that. Senior year of high school, my boyfriend introduced me to Led Zeppelin and I've been such a fan ever since. But that was the year that I went beyond what was on the radio and delved deep into the archives of rock and roll and reveled in the classics. Every emotion Danny spoke about? I felt it, I could identify with it. I can only imagine what life would have been like had I been introduced in middle school like Danny- I might be an entirely different person. And that's what music can do to you. Books, too.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sean Kottke

    This is a lovely coming of age story set in early 70s Detroit that does a great job of capturing the music-saturated experience of a teenage audiophile captivated with the music of his parents' age as well as his own (i.e., my experience of early adolescence a decade later). A dawning political awareness, reconciliation with family tragedy and near-dysfunction, and forging an authentic identity are classic YA themes explored here. An excellent choice to braid with "If I Ever Get Out of Here."

  25. 4 out of 5

    J Earl

    Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian is a coming of age story that highlights a very specific period in American history. This novel will appeal to many readers of all ages but will have a special place for those of us who were around Danny's age at that time. I was the class of '76 so I relate to a lot of what he is experiencing and how he experiences it. This is the time period when FM radio started growing, through album rock stations in particular for the purpose of this book. AM becomes Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian is a coming of age story that highlights a very specific period in American history. This novel will appeal to many readers of all ages but will have a special place for those of us who were around Danny's age at that time. I was the class of '76 so I relate to a lot of what he is experiencing and how he experiences it. This is the time period when FM radio started growing, through album rock stations in particular for the purpose of this book. AM becomes synonymous with lower quality sound and, in the opinions of those listening to album rock, lower quality music as well. Danny grows from AM, listening to pop and the easy listening sounds of the day (think instrumental versions of songs that either are or were recently charting), into FM, here shown as a deeper desire to understand the music and the artists as well as not just being happy with hearing the songs designated as singles. I was one of those who adopted FM early but I also resisted leaving pop behind completely because that was where you could hear a wider assortment. While Danny leaves a lot of the pop behind, the novel does not downplay the importance of pop and even Danny realizes that he still likes and appreciates much of that music, even if his passion becomes the music from the album stations. This is also the period when integration was occurring all over the country. I experienced these years in a variety of places, from DC to LA to north Louisiana. That was major culture shock going from LA to Louisiana in 1975. I was used to living and going to school with people of all races, ethnicities, and religions so going to a rural school in their first year of integration (what they called consolidation) was really strange. That particular year resembled what Danny experienced in his school, except on a much smaller scale. So Danny is also experiencing all of this. The Vietnam War was still going on, though winding down, which did indeed make many high school boys feel like they might have no choice what to do with their lives, unless you had money. All of these societal shifts play into Danny's coming of age. Add in a dysfunctional family (mildly at first, progressively deteriorating after a tragic event) and the fact Danny was one of the people who seemed to attract bullies at school and you begin to see what kind of minefield his life was. Music was initially one of the areas that comforted him and as time went on music was omnipresent in his life, songs playing in his head as he lived his daily life, the radio or records playing whenever possible. Much like Michael Herr's Dispatches exists between breathing in and breathing out, Beautiful Music exists between fade in and fade out. Those moments just before and just after a track on an album plays. I don't think you need to be of that moment in history to enjoy this novel, most of the events are universal to the extent that they are similar to what many people experience during high school. If you happen to remember that time well then I think you will enjoy this as both a coming of age novel and a nostalgic trip back to the days of album rock and AM pop stations. When you might hear Slow Ride followed by Hollywood Swinging on the radio and not think anything about it. The songs mentioned and hinted at are wonderful, even some deep cuts (though listeners of album stations weren't always aware of what was a deep cut since we often had no idea what was released as a single). Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nestor Rychtyckyj

    Daniel Yzemski is a typical teenager growing up in the 1970s whose life is saved by rock and roll. Over the course of five tumultuous years in Detroit, author Michael Zadoorian takes us on a whirlwind journey through the life of Daniel as he both grows up into a man and discovers his love of rock & roll. From our perspective the early 1970s are not exactly regarded as a great time for music. The icons of the 1960s had either vanished or settled into a middle-age music mediocrity and the Daniel Yzemski is a typical teenager growing up in the 1970s whose life is saved by rock and roll. Over the course of five tumultuous years in Detroit, author Michael Zadoorian takes us on a whirlwind journey through the life of Daniel as he both grows up into a man and discovers his love of rock & roll. From our perspective the early 1970s are not exactly regarded as a great time for music. The icons of the 1960s had either vanished or settled into a middle-age music mediocrity and the beginnings of punk were just stirring in NYC with and had certainly not made their way to Detroit yet. Nevertheless, in a few short years young Daniel manages to quickly grow from a CKLW top 40 fan to seeing Iggy and the Stooges at the Michigan Palace. Rock & roll permeates every page of this book – the bands and lyrics seems to flow seamlessly from Mike Zadoorian and you can hear the music in your head as you keep turning the pages (but not the Bob Seger song). Between the music, we experience life as Daniel did and deal with whatever obstacles are presented in our path. Daniel is a good kid who has to grow up much more quickly than he expected to and needs to change as quickly as society was changing in Detroit in the 1970s. I was also a teenager growing up in Detroit in the 1970s and Michael Zadoorian manages to capture the essence of the time and the place perfectly – the advertising jingles even keep pulling me back into those times. The discovery of new bands without the benefit of the Internet or MTV is described in such perfect harmony – from Creem magazine to making the pilgrimage to get a copy of the NME or Melody Maker was a rite of passage for all of us. Hearing the uncensored version of “Kick Out the Jams” is a major highlight in Daniel’s life as it was in everybody’s life at that time. This is such a fantastic book that my review cannot give it justice. You are never sure exactly where the author is going to take you and Daniel’s approach to life is both profound and hilarious at the same time. One of my favorite lines from the book (and there are so many) is when Daniel is puzzled about “the man” that all the hippies are protesting, but he’s pretty sure that it’s not the same “man” that Lou Reed is waiting on. My only disappointment is that the book ends in 1974; if Daniel would have been able to hang on for a couple of more years he would have certainly discovered the first Ramones album and probably would have been hanging out at Bookie’s listening to Cinecyde and the Algebra Mothers, but I guess that would be a new book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Rating: 3.5 stars This was chosen as the Community Reads book for 2019. Michael Zadoorian, a local author to the Detroit area, tells the story of a young boy growing up in the aftermath of the Detroit uprising in the late 60s. This story is about the music of the generation and how strongly music can influence our lives. This story is also about the racial tensions that persisted long after the rebellion of 1967. I very much enjoyed the parts of this book referring to specific events/places in Rating: 3.5 stars This was chosen as the Community Reads book for 2019. Michael Zadoorian, a local author to the Detroit area, tells the story of a young boy growing up in the aftermath of the Detroit uprising in the late 60s. This story is about the music of the generation and how strongly music can influence our lives. This story is also about the racial tensions that persisted long after the rebellion of 1967. I very much enjoyed the parts of this book referring to specific events/places in the Detroit area. As a resident of Detroit, I could picture each place and try to imagine a different era of the city. The elements of this book that I did not enjoy all revolve around race. While I recognize that this book was largely autobiographical, as Zadoorian himself grew up and attended the same high school described in the book, I felt that it negatively portrayed this tensions. As this book was written in the perspective of this young white kid, I can understand why it was one-sided but ultimately it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I work in a predominantly white affluent suburb of Detroit, where many residents speak ill of Detroit to this day. I felt that elements of this book could have solidified their negative perceptions of the city and that they could wrongly generalize the incidents of the book which may have been historically accurate to how the city lives and breathes today. I know that racial tensions still persist today in Detroit and I am acutely aware of that daily. However, I prefer books that shine a positive light on the city and how its residents are actively working to heal this wounds and move forward together as a community of proud citizens of Detroit. That being said, I would recommend this book to those who enjoyed books such as The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce or Once In A Great City: A Detroit Story by David Maraniss.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    Will everyone enjoy this story as well as I did? I think a reader needs real characters that they can iidentify with and Michael Zadoorian always seems to create that speck of imperfect but compassionate quality in his main characters that draws you to them despite their flaws or circumstance. Somehow you know this person and it might even be you if your life had been different. You may not enjoy this book if you don't like sadness or angst. But who does? Not me, and I loved this story. Will everyone enjoy this story as well as I did? I think a reader needs real characters that they can iidentify with and Michael Zadoorian always seems to create that speck of imperfect but compassionate quality in his main characters that draws you to them despite their flaws or circumstance. Somehow you know this person and it might even be you if your life had been different. You may not enjoy this book if you don't like sadness or angst. But who does? Not me, and I loved this story. Zadoorian has a way of quieting anxiety and getting to the real business of getting through the life you've been given and doing it with heart and soul and of course, courage. Music plays a big part in this story. Not particularly "beautiful music" but music that you love. Daniel is lucky to have a dad that loves music too. "What do you like about music, Dad?" "That's a really good question, son. I guess it make me feel something that I'm not used to....He llights his cigarette. "But when I'm here with you, like right now, listening to something on the stereo? Or just listening to it while I read the paper? Or work in my shop? I don't know, it makes me feel different. Almost like a different person....It takes me somewhere, changes something, slows things down..." "It just makes me happy," I say, suddenly aching for my turn to talk about it. "All the stuff that bothers me, all the things that I worry about, it all gets replaced in my head by music. So I don't have to worry about that anymore." "You shouldn't worry so much, son. You're going to be fine." My father and I look at each other and just listen to the music. We say nothing else because nothing we could say would sound better than us here, listening to music. We are hooked...... Lovely. Everyone needs that special something that makes them happy. Makes them feel different. The music that makes Daniel happy is the same music that I grew up with. It was a different kind of music from what our parent knew. It made us different but we were the same good kids. We could understand the music and share the feelings it expressed . Michael Zadoorian was able to capture these feelings in a story that when we read it we see a little of ourselves.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    In 1969, Danny Yzemski spends most of his free time in the former coal storage bin in the basement, building model cars. He is already into music, as is his father, although their tastes run very differently. Danny likes rock, while his father likes “beautiful music”- modern songs covered by an orchestra. To better hear his Muzak, he buys a stereo unit for the basement den. Through the years, he teaches Danny to drive in his huge car, and they haunt the record stores together. Then his father In 1969, Danny Yzemski spends most of his free time in the former coal storage bin in the basement, building model cars. He is already into music, as is his father, although their tastes run very differently. Danny likes rock, while his father likes “beautiful music”- modern songs covered by an orchestra. To better hear his Muzak, he buys a stereo unit for the basement den. Through the years, he teaches Danny to drive in his huge car, and they haunt the record stores together. Then his father suddenly dies, and life changes for him. His mother is alcoholic and mentally ill, and her sudden widowhood seems to precipitate a psychotic break. She drinks, smokes, and watches TV. That’s it. Everything else is Danny’s problem. He gets a job, drives without a license, learns about hard rock and deep cuts, and actually gets a friend. It’s a coming of age tale, from ages 10 to 16, told in first person, sometimes in letters to his dead father. Music is what gets him through a really tough adolescence. It brings him out of his loner shell, and gives him something to sooth his emotions. It says things he thinks, but better. Surprisingly, there is no girlfriend; most coming of age books have a girl/boy who really, really understands the subject like no one else. Danny stands on his own, with some help from his friend. It’s very well written; it brought back a lot of memories of my teen years and the music from it and how it felt to have a song say exactly how you feel. Five stars, for making a Dickensian adolescence seem perfectly believable.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I love this book so much! This is the second Michael Zadoorian book for me, I have also read the Leisure Seeker. I have connected with both books so much. I want to read everything else the he has written. This is the story of Danny Yizerski,living In Detroit in 1970. He has finished elementary school and he has to start high school because of the lack of middle school in the area. I identified with his wanting to be invisible trying zig-zag through the hallways. Like him, I was overweight and I love this book so much! This is the second Michael Zadoorian book for me, I have also read the Leisure Seeker. I have connected with both books so much. I want to read everything else the he has written. This is the story of Danny Yizerski,living In Detroit in 1970. He has finished elementary school and he has to start high school because of the lack of middle school in the area. I identified with his wanting to be invisible trying zig-zag through the hallways. Like him, I was overweight and bullied. The author enlightened me as to why the snowballs lobbed at me hurt so much. How diabolical to leave them out overnight to freeze! Danny and I were both bad swimmers, unlike him, I was not forced to take swimming during freshman year. Danny seemed to have a comfortable home life with his parents until something tragic happened to his father. He had to deal with a depressed alcoholic mother who was also a chain smoker. He put model kits together like my brother did when I was growing up and my son when he was the same age. Danny found his connection with music and later after his father died, it became a major part of his life. It gave him respite from his home life and later provided a way to have friends. I take my hat off to you, Michael Zadoorian, your book spoke to me and helped me feel better about those uncomfortable years of being Danny's age. I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book as a win from LibraryThing from the publishers in exchange for a fair book review. My thoughts and feelings in this review are totally my own.

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