Fine and Dandy


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The Life and Work of Kay Swift

Vicki Ohl

View Inside Format: Cloth
Price: $65.00
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The first biography of a composer who broke the gender barrier on Broadway

Kay Swift (1897–1993) was one of the few women composers active on Broadway in the first half of the twentieth century. Best known as George Gershwin’s assistant, musical adviser, and intimate friend, Swift was in fact an accomplished musician herself, a pianist and composer whose Fine and Dandy (1930) was the first complete Broadway musical written by a woman. This fascinating book—the first biography of Swift—discusses her music and her extraordinary life.

Vicki Ohl describes Swift’s work for musical theater, the ballet, Radio City Music Hall’s Rockettes, and commercial shows. She also tells how Swift served as director of light music for the 1939 World’s Fair, eloped with a cowboy from the rodeo at the fair, and abandoned her native New York for Oregon, later fashioning her experiences into an autobiographical novel, Who Could Ask for Anything More? Informed by rich material, including Swift’s unpublished memoirs and extensive interviews with her family members and friends, this book captures the essence and spirit of a remarkable woman.

Vicki Ohl is professor of piano and theory at Heidelberg College.

“This first full-scale biography of Kay Swift is a comprehensive examination of her life and work in all its phases.”—Geoffrey Block, author of Richard Rodgers, Yale Broadway Masters

“Vicki Ohl has written a superb, richly-nuanced biography of the American composer Kay Swift, beloved colleague of George and Ira Gershwin. Her compelling chronicle of Swift’s life and work is highly recommended.”—Robert Kimball, artistic advisor to the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts, co-author of The Gershwins, and editor of The Complete Lyrics of Ira Gershwin

“Kay Swift’s most compelling creations stand on their own. And at last her legacy is receiving the thorough reevaluation that it deserves.”—Will Friedwald, New York Sun

“Ohl . . . deserves credit . . . for producing what surely will be the definitive biography of this fascinating woman.”—

Publishers Weekly

"Vicky Ohl's beautitully written biography . . . makes it clear that Swift was an important musical talent who led a fasinating life."—Stephen Peithman,

“[An] engaging and thoroughly researched chronicle of [Swift’s] long and creative life. . . . Ohl devotes proper attention to Swift’s music, offering generous examples from her songs and classical scores, photos, a valuable bibliography, and a comprehensive list of her compositions.”—Wholenote

"Ohl has done a good job of conveying, through words and well-chosen musical examples, the verve and ability of Kay Swift. This is an enjoyable book; I recommend it."—Justin E. A. Busch, Ohioana Quarterly

"Ohl deserves much praise for a thoroughly researched and well-written book on Kay Swifts's life and music that brings much needed attention to the latter. Ohl's compelling portrait of an equally compelling woman also makes one particularly aware of the need for further research into issues of professionalism, genre, and sexuality for female composers and performers in musical theater's Golden Era. This book is a welcome addition to feminist biography, especially useful to anyone interested in American musical theater in the 1920s and '30s and American women in music in general."—Emma Rohde-Frank, American Music

"Vivki Ohl's fine monograph Fine and Dandy is a perfect companion to the recording of Fine and Dandy because it shifts our attention away from speculation about Swift's personal life and onto her professional achievements. . . . A welcome addition to the growing critical literature on musical theater and women composers. Ohl's study along with the new recording of Fine and Dandy guarantees Swift the attention she rightly deserves."—James Leve, Popular Music and Society
ISBN: 9780300102611
Publication Date: June 10, 2004
336 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
15 b/w photographs + 21 musical examples