Alexander the great
GET A SHOT OF RHYTHM AND BLUES: THE ARTHUR ALEXANDER STORY, by Richard Younger (University of Alabama Press), 222 pages, $28.50 paper. Rating: NNN
Quick, name the only singer/songwriter to have compositions covered by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. That distinction belongs to Arthur Alexander, the late Alabama-born R&B crooner behind the classic original versions of Anna (Go To Him), You Better Move On and Sally Sue Brown, and the man who helped pioneer the country-soul hybrid that later became known as the Muscle Shoals sound.
Richard Younger's Get A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues: The Arthur Alexander Story isn't going to make the forgotten star a household name, but his well-researched account of Alexander's fling with fame helps explain why this archetypal unsung hero isn't better known.
First-time biographer Younger approaches the subject as an enthusiastic fan of Alexander's and a fellow singer/songwriter determined to set the record straight with a balanced account of how a talented artist went from singing on American Bandstand to bus-driving obscurity in Cleveland, Ohio.
He does a fine job of uncovering old newspaper clippings and tracking down Alexander's friends, business associates and ex-wives to supplement his own day-long interview with the man himself during an early-90s comeback bid.
Unfortunately, by then Alexander was so embittered by his rough ride in the music business, he had little interest in recalling whatever good times there might've been on the Chitlin Circuit.
So Younger dryly sticks to the facts, and where there are dissenting opinions he attempts to present all perspectives. That might seem like journalistic heroism, but it gets frustrating when minor studio kerfuffles are given the full-blown Rashomon treatment.
If a subject happens to be a popular artist whose career has already been thoroughly scrutinized, then fine, but for a relative unknown like Alexander, I'm not interested in any multiple-choice questionnaires. I want some answers.