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The Tunesmith Is a Must Read Biography on Prolific Songwriter M.K. Jerome, Recently Released by His Grandson Dr. Gary May

By: Newsfile

San Francisco, California--(Newsfile Corp. - March 26, 2024) - Written by M.K. Jerome's grandson, Gary May, The Tunesmith is an account of his grandfather's songwriting career, working first for Irving Berlin on Tin Pan Alley and then for Warner Brothers in the early decades of cinema with sound. For movie and music lovers, this is an inside look at how some of America's best-loved songs came to be.

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Book cover of The Tunesmith

M.K. Jerome, or Moe for short, was a composer who worked with some of the best-known lyricists to churn out music at an astounding pace. His first hit was the number-one song in America, a haunting lullaby for the WWI years called "Just a Baby's Prayer at Twilight (For Her Daddy Over There)." He continued to write bestselling hits in all the popular styles of the 1920s such as songs about loneliness, Old Pal which became controversial when Carl Wanderer, a convicted murderer, sang just before he was executed for murdering his pregnant wife and soon to be born baby.

Before moving to Hollywood, where he had similar success writing songs and background music for films including Yankee Doodle Dandy, Casablanca, San Antonio, Hollywood Canteen, Christmas in Connecticut, and Nora Prentiss. He was twice nominated for Academy Awards for Best Original Song.

The author, an academic historian of twentieth century America, puts Jerome's career in historical context, showing us how a successful songwriting career hinged upon being able to respond to events and trends that captured the hearts and minds of the nation. Being able to do so under the demanding pace and pressures of Hollywood's studio system required yet another level of talent and dedication to the craft.

The most moving section of the book, however, takes place in the period where the author's life overlapped with his grandfather's. Shifting into a more personal memoir mode, May provides both humorous and poignant insights into the later years of his grandfather's career and his struggle to stay relevant as popular tastes shifted toward rock and roll and singer-songwriters. He shares fun and touching stories of his own rarefied upbringing adjacent to the stars and bright lights of Hollywood; of his close relationships with his grandfather and his uncle, screenwriter Stuart Jerome; and of his excitement and pride when James Taylor chose to include one of Jerome's songs on a recent album.

May's love for his grandfather and desire to preserve his legacy is evident throughout the book, but it doesn't override his historian's commitment to research and truth-telling. The resources section of the book includes links to recordings of many of Jerome's most highly regarded works by both historical and contemporary artists. The book is also abundantly illustrated with sheet music covers and family photos from the author's own collection as well as photos captured by studio photographers, publicity shots, and movie stills. Whether one is a fan of Hollywood's Golden Age, the Great American Songbook, recent U.S. history, or even Warner Brothers cartoons, they will find something fun and fascinating to read in The Tunesmith.

The Tunesmith: The Musical Journey of M.K. Jerome is available on Amazon and all other major retailers.

Gary May was born in Los Angeles and reared in a family of composers and writers. His grandfather, M.K. Jerome, was a Warner Brothers' songwriter whose credits included Casablanca, My Irish Eyes are Smiling, Shine on Harvest Moon, The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Goodbye Johnny, and more. May's other works include U.N.-American Activities, The Informant: The FBI, the Ku Klux Klan and the Murder of Viola Liuzzo, and Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy.

Charlotte Simmons
Dabb Media

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