Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
AKA Doc Pomus: Brill Building Blues
Pomus was one of the first legit white blues singers and he had some legitimate
blues. However, he would make his lasting mark on the music business as a songwriter.
The man who brought soul to the Brill Building is affectionately profiled in
Peter Miller & Will Hechter’s A.K.A.
Doc Pomus (trailer
opens this Friday in New York.
man born Jerome Solon Felder might not sound like much of a blues or R&B
vocalist, but soulful African American music just spoke to the young Jewish boy
stricken with polio. After serendipitously discovering his talent, Felder
redubbed himself “Doc Pomus,” embracing music as a calling he could still
pursue. Unfortunately, he was not exactly the major labels’ idea of a front
man, but he could write a tune.
will know his songs, even if you don’t know his name. Without Pomus, the world
would not have “Lonely Avenue,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “This Magic Moment,” “There
Must Be a Better World,” or “Save the Last Dance For Me,” the Ben E. King hit
that serves as the film’s touchstone song.
and co-produced by Pomus’s daughter, Sharyn Felder, AKA is an unusual revealing look inside the creative psyche.
Incorporating Pomus’s uncomfortable candid journals (read by Lou Reed), Miller
and Hechter create an unflinching portrait of an artist prone to severe bouts
of depression. The Felder family participated in force, with Pomus’s daughter
Sharyn, his Broadway actress ex-wife, and his brother Raoul Felder, the
celebrity lawyer all discussing their relationships with the larger than life
songwriter. Plenty of his musical colleagues and admirers also duly pay their
respects, including Ben E. King, Dion, and Jimmy Scott, whose career Pomus
posthumously rejuvenated. Nearly forgotten by the industry, Scott was signed by
Sire Records after his moving performance at Pomus’s memorial.
is often a deeply personal film, but its musical
analysis is still pretty on target, especially the defense of the soulfulness
of Pomus’s “Sweets for My Sweet,” as performed by the Drifters (James Moody
also recorded a wonderfully funky instrumental version with Gil Fuller’s big
band). Well assembled and surprisingly frank, it is a good cut above most
installments of American Masters. Recommended for fans of the blues and
American pop music, A.K.A. Doc Pomus opens
this Friday (10/4) in New York at the Village East.
Labels: Doc Pomus, Documentary