Music to My Years, Life and Love Between the Notes


Non-Fiction - Memoir
369 Pages
Reviewed on 10/30/2018
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Music to My Years, Life and Love Between the Notes is a nonfiction memoir as told by Artie Kane to Marian Blue and JoAnn Kane. Artie Kane was a musical prodigy who began taking piano lessons when he was three and a half years old. He was born Aaron Cohen to Nathan and Sarah, both emigrants. Sarah and her family hailed from Belarus, and retelling the story of how Aaron’s great uncle Leib Zager spearheaded the family’s drive to move to the United States was a family tradition and part of their family lore. Artie’s dad died when he was only three, but his Uncle Joe was to be a most inspirational father figure. Uncle Joe gave him music, encouraging the musical skills he had inherited from his father’s side of the family, and being a supportive presence in an often overwhelming family household comprised of five adults and him as the sole child.

Aaron’s mom had high expectations for her talented son and made those dreams the guiding practice of her life. She would sacrifice to get him the best lessons and opportunities, at one point moving with him to New York City to enable him to study with a gifted teacher, but her need to control every aspect of his social life led to some friction between the mother and son. Opportunities, such as the job he got playing at a local radio station, helped him establish some necessary distance from her and gain a modicum of independence. Aaron’s growing interest in jazz and non-classical genres was a disappointment to his diminutive powerhouse of a mother, but as his musical taste expanded, his skills would be increasingly honed and harnessed to crafting more music and living his dream. Following advice given some years earlier, Aaron Cohen legally changed his name to Artie Kane, a name which has become synonymous with the scores composed and played for dozens of Hollywood movies and television shows.

Music to My Years, Life and Love Between the Notes is a beautifully written autobiographical work that spans Kane’s fifty years working in the music and movie industry. His stories come complete with archival photographs showing him at work and play with music’s and Hollywood’s legendary figures --people like Henry Mancini, Jack Benny and Quincy Jones. Kane’s descriptions of his eight marriages, three children and the palimony suit that capped a hellish relationship are frankly and acerbically shared. Artie has realized throughout his life that his social skills were not quite on a par with his musical talents, not by a long shot, but as his story shows, his effort to improve them has made some impact.

When the reader gets to wife number eight, there’s a sense of shared jubilation and relief that one can’t help but feel; that this guy you’ve come to admire finally gets the right girl. It’s like a plot from a movie at that point; the place where everything comes together and authors and readers are on the same, marvelous page. I learned so much about Artie Kane; about the music which makes so many movies and shows work so well; and the composers and musicians behind those efforts. I loved seeing those photographs and the way the Kanes and co-author Marian Blue make Hollywood in the latter part of the twentieth century come to life, complete with the frivolity and the social climbing, but more so the dedication of the people working behind the scenes. Music to My Years, Life and Love Between the Notes is a big beautiful work of art that just happens to be a memoir as well. It’s most highly recommended.

Viga Boland

In my experience as a book reviewer, too many memoirs and autobiographies are poorly written. Such is NOT the case with Music to My Years, Life and Love Between the Notes, the true life story of Artie Kane, pianist, orchestra conductor and composer. Artie, along with his wife, JoAnn Kane, and Marian Blue have written not just the autobiography of a famous person, but one heck of an entertaining and engaging story. And your enjoyment isn’t dependent on whether you are a fan, family member or friend of Artie's, or whether you’re a musician trying to learn how to become as successful as Artie is. His story is told with humor, peppered with some crazy situations and people, and is often just plain touching.

Artie Kane was born Aaron Cohen to Jewish parents. He was recognized at a very young age as a child prodigy but his pushy mother’s attitude and a bullying uncle fed his personal insecurities. He was always trying to please others, even as he rose to greater and greater heights in his musical career. This need to constantly prove himself and please others had much to do with the chaos in his relationships with women. Some of the most hilarious vignettes in Artie’s story revolve around his wives, and though not really funny in some respects, Artie’s sense of humor allows us to laugh along with him: “As I listened to her, a flood of memories washed through my mind. Joy had sliced up all my clothes with a razor blade; Jinx had run off with her mother and some new skater in the show; Jean told me I was only a stand-in for Marshall; Sherry had loathed me for the hard times in New York; Jaye P. didn’t want to be married to me anymore and nearly drank herself to death; and finally, Sara Jane said she had never loved me and I was only a poor substitute for her previous husband. Obviously, six women couldn’t shoulder all the blame. I owned plenty of it.”

Artie’s sense of humor extends to his efforts to avoid military service and carries him through working with some of the most demanding and talented people in the music business. If you’re a celebrity fan, you’ll love hearing what it was like for Artie to work with Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Sonja Henie, to name just a few of many. If you’re a movie buff, you might be surprised to learn how many famous movies feature music composed by or orchestras conducted by Artie Kane. But the most impressive part of this autobiography is the man himself. Often arrogant and outspoken at a young age, when his personal battles with wives and unnecessary medications got the better of him, he rose to his greatest challenge: bettering himself as a caring, loving human being. The book’s description gives you a good idea of what to expect, but only reading the book will give you the full story of this talented, sometimes self-deprecating, but fascinating person. On a positive final note, it’s good to see that his current marriage to his wife, JoAnn, has lasted 36 years. Guess he finally figured out how to live with women! An absolutely wonderful and inspiring 5-star read with lots of great photos too!

Bruce Arrington

Music to My Years, Life and Love Between the Notes by Artie Kane, Marian Blue, and JoAnn Kane is an autobiographical account of Aaron Cohen’s life. His professional name, Artie Kane, is one he used while working his way through the professional world of music. The story is an in-depth look at his life from a young child, through the tumultuous teenage years, and his professional life of music. It also describes, in amazing detail, his eight marriages and the consequences he endured by the choices he made.

Stories like this are helpful, especially to those untold many who strive for a professional career in the arts. The arts, be it writing, music, drama, movies, what have you, are so different from other professional jobs in that -- because of the demands they require -- often those who pursue these careers are plagued with many pitfalls, disappointments and surprises. Those who, like Artie, are child prodigies often come unequipped to handle the challenges set before them, often giving them many blind spots they have to work through in order to endure.

And that’s what you see here in Music to My Years, Life and Love Between the Notes. It’s an honest, lay-it-out-there account of Artie’s successes and failures in life, which, if readers take heed, can be used to help other artists down the road. New York is still New York, and Hollywood really hasn’t changed either. And this book, written in excellent prose, provides guidance and warnings to those who choose this career path, through the eyes of one man who lived that life and survived to tell the story. Highly recommended.