Cover image for You just fight for your life : the story of Lester Young
You just fight for your life : the story of Lester Young
Büchmann-Møller, Frank.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Praeger, 1990.
Physical Description:
xvi, 282 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1260 Lexile.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML419.Y7 B75 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Buchmann-Moller's biography of Young offers a reconstruction of Young's life and career. Drawing on newspaper accounts, oral history tapes and the author's interviews with musicians who played with Young, Buchmann-Moller is able to supply information concerning Young's life.

Author Notes

FRANK BUCHMANN-MOLLER is a Danish Jazz Musician who appears regularly with his own quartet as well as other groups. A Librarian at Odense University, he has received research grants from the Danish Research Council for the Humanities, the Danish Music Council, and the Funan Association of Jazz Musicians.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

It's not a graceful book, but this is the first thoroughgoing biography of one of America's greatest musicians; its fascination for at least jazz aficionados is magnetic. With the tenor saxophonist 30 years gone and the majority of his peers and valuable eyewitnesses to his life dead, too, Buchmann-Moller pored over interviews with and about Young, gleaning liberally from them as well as interviewing quite a clutch of Young's still-living associates. The portrait that emerges is of the intelligent, introverted, instinctively musical man, sensitive as a new burn, that everyone's always said Young was. But here is the most detailed account of the brief army stint that according to legend ruined Young psychologically, plus more information about his very early career as a member of his father's touring band than appears in any other single place. Along with Porter's magisterial work of musical analysis, Lester Young [BKL S 1 85], this is the book to have on the most influential jazzman between Armstrong and Parker. Lists of Young's jobs and engagements and of the members of his own groups, 1941-55; notes; index. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

A Danish musician here presents the most accurate, comprehensive work on a major figure in American jazz: Lester Willis Young (1909-1959), better known as ``Pres'' or ``Prez,'' from the nickname ``President'' given to him by Billie Holiday. Based on interviews with Young's colleagues and friends, and often presenting his own vulgar, scatological words, the book faithfully chronicles the ups and downs of his life and career. Despite his alcoholism, drug addiction, syphilis, epilepsy and emotional disturbances, Young became the outstanding tenor saxophonist of his time and a dominant, profound influence on the development of bop and progressive (``cool'') jazz in the 1940s. His solos with the bands of Fletcher Henderson and Count Basie and his collaboration with Holiday are recalled in this outstanding biography. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Lester Young has been called the most influential jazz musician between Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, yet this biography of the late saxophonist joins only two or three others on the subject. The author has examined recordings, periodicals, and military records and has interviewed Young's surviving associates to illustrate how Young's work with Count Basie and others led to a career at once celebrated and plagued by Young's chemical dependencies until his death in 1959. Jazz enthusiasts will enjoy a touching tale well told, and researchers may benefit from the appendixes listing Young's bandsmen and his professional jobs and engagements over the decades.--Paul Baker, CUNA , Inc., Madison, Wis. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The most complete study currently available of the life and music of Lester Young. You Just Fight for Your Life is a biography, put together from review, articles, and numerous interviews with Young's contemporaries and cohorts. Appendixes list Young's jobs and engagements from 1919 until his death in 1959 and the members of all Young's groups after he became a leader in 1941. Buchmann-Moller has gathered into one volume a great deal of information until now available only in a wide variety of sources. Much "new" information appears in excerpts from his own extensive interviews. The effect of telling so much of Young's story in the words of his associates, however, is that the reader gets more of a series of impressions about the subject than an integrated, connected narrative. Buchmann-Moller has in large part let the opinions of those quoted stand on their own, without stating his own judgments or attempting to reconcile sometimes conflicting accounts. Bothersome are inconsistencies and errors in spelling, as well as the author's occasionally awkward writing style. You Got to be Original, Man! is dubbed a "solography," that is, a guide to all of Young's recorded solos. Every known date that Young recorded, both commercial and private, is listed. Included for each session is the name of the group, the personnel, place and date of recording, titles with matrix numbers and record label, and number of "the latest or most complete edition" of the listed tracks. This is followed by commentary on the session and descriptions of each recording. More than 80 solos are transcribed completely. The descriptions are accurate and sometimes insightful. The transcriptions, too, are generally accurate, granting that it is impossible to faithfully represent all nuances of jazz solos on paper. It is unfortunate that the solos were printed directly from the computer music programs rather than being printed in a clearer, more attractive type. The layout of the book does not always make it immediately clear which transcriptions go with which descriptions (transcriptions are not identified by name or number). Despite their shortcomings, these two volumes are a valuable addition to the available information about one of jazz's major figures. Small jazz collections can get by on Lewis Porter's excellent (and easier-reading) Lester Young (CH, Feb'86), but larger collections should have the new information in these new works. -K. R. Dietrich, Ripon College

Table of Contents

ForewordLewis Porter
Childhood and Adolescence (1909-1928)
On His Own Two Feet (1928-1933)
The Kansas City Years (1933-1936)
With Count Basie (1936-1940)
The War Years (1941-1944)
Private 39729502 Young (1944-1945)
Busy Years as Bandleader and Soloist (1946-1955)
The Last Years (1956-1959)