Project Description

“The more of us musicians there are, the crazier we all become.”
— Erik Satie

It’s no secret that Beethoven went deaf, that Mozart had constant money problems, and that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote musicals. But what were these people—and other famous musicians—really like? What did they eat? What did they wear? How did they spend their time? What were they like as children? What were their phobias, obsessions, and bad habits? And what did their neighbors think of it all?

Here are the fascinating and often humorous stories of twenty famous musicians—from various countries and historical periods, beginning with Vivaldi and ending with Woody Guthrie. Accompanied by brilliant caricatures, Lives of the Musicians will appeal to those who love music, to those who like to hear the story behind a famous name, and to just about everyone else.

The life stories of famous musicians — Bach, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Woody Guthrie — are familiar to many. But what were they like really? What kind of children were they? How did they die? And what went on in between? What did they eat? What did they wear? How did they spend their money? What were their phobias, quirks, and bad habits? Who were their “significant others”? And what did the neighbors think? (Music is not a quiet career.)Most interesting of all, what is it like to live a truly creative life? The musicians in this book, representing different countries, historical periods, and musical styles, do have things in common. About their music, they had a perseverance and single-mindedness that led not only to success, but also to eccentricities, sometimes amusing, sometimes sad.

Of all of them it could be said that their work shook up the times they lived in: It provoked riots (Stravinsky and Satie), led to death threats (Prokofiev), required police to control the crowds (Schumann), shaped entire generations of students (Boulanger), created wealthy superstars (Gilbert and Sullivan), was condemned as “addictive” and “immoral” (Joplin), and left blood on the piano keys (Gershwin). Music that we think of today as acceptable, “classic,” or even staid often caused passion and controversy during its time. “Beethoven thought that through his music he could change the world,” points out cellist Yo-Yo Ma. “Today, rock musicians are virtually the only ones who think that.”

This music can still arouse emotion — and claim listeners. It’s estimated that if Mozart were alive today, he’d be earning $20 million a year from sales of his records. The music, above all, is the reason people remember these musicians today.

Here, escorted by the patron saint of music, Saint Cecilia, are twenty lives, colorful and mysterious. These untold stories, never before collected in one volume, are offered now as a way of getting closer to the musicians — and the music.

The 1993 Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award

The PEN West Children’s Literature Award

Society of Children’s Book Writers’ Golden Kite Honor Award

Nonfiction Award from the Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People

An ALA Notable Book

IRA Teacher’s Choice

Chicago Sun-Times’ “Best 100 Books of the Century”

10 Great Children’s Books about Classical Music

Unstuffs a host of shirts and delivers wonderful musical trivia.

Successfully humanizes 20 important figures through Ms. Krull’s bright thumbnail sketches and the illustrator Kathryn Hewitt’s droll accompanying caricatures.
 –The New York Times Book Review

Thoroughly enjoyable.
— Horn Book

In this enthralling work, Krull dishes 20 of the movers and shakers in musical history…. Readers who thrive on offbeat information will be delighted by the splendid array of fun facts lurking in these informative and accurate snapshot biographies. Krull masterfully distills the essence of each musician’s life into snappy prose, an attitude echoed in the book’s lively, playful design…. Even those only remotely interested in music will be hooked by these living, breathing anecdotes—the stuff of which the best biography is made.
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Bravo!  A collective biography that is informative and fun to read….   Gossipy, nitty-gritty personal habits and quirks are presented, along with a sense of appreciation for the musicians’ lives and times…. The book has a helpful list of musical terms, an index, and an excellent bibliography.  It belongs in every library and on every music teacher’s desk.
–School Library Journal (starred review)

In a radical departure from most collective biographies written for children, this book is never dull…. The book makes its statement with style…. This unique volume represents a welcome departure from the cold, idealized, ‘marble bust’ approach to children’s biographies of musicians.
–Booklist (starred review)

Just glance at Kathryn Hewitt’s caricatures or read one fascinating or funny true story from this collection, and you’ll continue reading…. Filled with little-known facts, humorous accounts, and amazing musical trivia, this is a compendium ‘composed’ for all of us!
–American Bookseller (“Pick of the Lists”)