Reflections In the Key of Life

Non-Fiction - Autobiography
214 Pages
Reviewed on 04/29/2019
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Author Biography

Prolific trumpeter Steve Madaio had a profound influence on popular music. From his early days, performing with the Butterfield Blues Band on-stage at Woodstock to decades of recording and touring with Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones, John Lennon and virtually hundreds of other multiple-platinum artists, Steve’s signature trumpet sound and iconic arrangements left an indelible mark on music as we know it today. This is his story, beginning in the drug-fueled counterculture of the 1960’s, chronicling his incredible journey through legendary tours and recording sessions with the best of the best. It is an intimate portrait from the inside, packed with great moments and valuable life lessons.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Reflections In the Key of Life is an autobiographical work focused on and penned by trumpeter Steve Madaio, along with the assistance of Tad Sisler. Recording his life as a musician through the turbulent social changes of the 1960s, through pivotal events such as Woodstock and his work with plenty of famous faces, this unique portrait gives us insight into the figures who work alongside those stars on whom we so often shine the spotlight. Here, Steve Madaio’s influence on popular music is unveiled and appreciated in the context of the shifting sands of the music industry, teaching important lessons about talent, hard work, opportunity and life in general.

I really enjoyed getting to know Steve Madaio through this intimate portrait of his life and work. Focusing heavily on the music, it’s easy to see how passionate a musician Steve was throughout his varied and exciting career. There is plenty of appeal in this work for aficionados - for example, the tales of how he worked with John Lennon and the Rolling Stones - giving us a special insight into the music industry and exciting artists that we know from afar. Steve’s experience is really brought to life, however, by his insightful reflections on the big and small moments that shaped him throughout his career, and it’s here that we find the real golden nuggets of empathy, wisdom, and inspiration in the work. Overall, Reflections In the Key of Life is an accomplished work by Steve Madaio and Tad Sisler which music fans are sure to love.

Charles Remington

The autobiography of famous trumpeter Steve Madaio carries the title Reflections in the Key of Life - a reference perhaps to the critically acclaimed album Songs in the Key of Life on which he worked with Stevie Wonder. As one would expect, the narrative begins with Steve’s early life, growing up in New York and starting to learn his craft. Steve’s father was also a talented trumpet player but could not make music his full-time career, having to work several jobs in order to feed his family. He had a great influence on Steve however and helped him along in the early days. Narrated in Steve’s own voice, he tells of his school days, how he was something of a wild child, and how he discovered the joys of rock and roll. He describes vividly the booze and drug-fuelled sixties as a member of The Butterfield Blues Band and into the seventies when he worked with a stellar array of artists and bands, from Barbara Streisand and Bob Dylan to the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones.

Through his candid words, we get a glimpse of the excesses of the times. As Mick Jagger put it, ‘anything worth doing is worth overdoing.’ Life was a constant party, and Steve was enjoying the ride right up till 1987 when he tells how his heart exploded. But once his heart was fixed, Steve continued with his party lifestyle, making more connections and playing on a huge number of iconic albums with artists including John Lennon, the Allman Brothers, Prince, and Liza Minelli. He describes his marriages and divorces and devotes a poignant chapter to the death on his daughter Dani. Finally, after a successful rehab, he tells of how sobriety gave him a new lease on life, and how he continued to work on many great projects with a long list of iconic artists. The book includes many photos and an astounding discography listing all the albums Steve worked on. Born in 1948, Steve Madaio passed away in January 2019 after a life well lived.

Reading Steve Madaio’s autobiography was like taking a stroll through my youth. Unfortunately, I am old enough to have lived through the times and it was great to look back at those heady days when we all believed anything was possible. The photos were a revelation - I am sure many have not been seen before and I found his discography truly astounding. The numerous quotes and tributes which crowd the pages of this book are a testament to the high regard in which Steve was held, both by his peers and in the music business generally. Reflections in the Key of Life by Steve Madaio and Tad Sisler is a dazzling testament to a life truly fulfilled. A must-read for anyone interested in the music, the bands and the times.

Romuald Dzemo

Reflections in the Key of Life by Steven Madaio and Tad Sisler tells of the life of a musical icon, a high-volume trumpeter who left an indelible mark on music. The narrative takes readers back to Steve Madaio's very early years, exploring his childhood and the development of his talent, the early days playing with Butterfield Blues Band. He played with this band for many years and then toured with Stevie Wonder, the famed Rolling Stones, John Lennon, and many other artists. The story takes readers back to the culture of the 1960s and traces Madaio's experiences with some of the famous artists of the time.

In this autobiography the author shares very precious and intimate moments with readers, allowing them to experience what it is like to play alongside some of the great icons in the industry, to know what it was like in the recording studios at that time. Readers get wonderful insights into Madaio's early beginnings and learn that he inherited the gift from his father who played the trumpet just to help his family. He speaks about his father with deep fondness: “Looking back, I realize the sacrifice my dad made on my behalf. He was usually working two jobs, but every week he would take me to Simon Karasick’s home in Queens, which took an hour to get there, along with a one-hour lesson, and an hour to get back.”

Reflections in the Key of Life is filled with photographs that document interesting moments in Madaio's life. This book is as inspiring as it is an invitation for readers to find their own trumpet and to play it with all their might and soul. It is filled with many lessons on what it takes to succeed, and readers with other skills will learn a lot from Steve Madaio.