Deke Sharon at the Drama Book Shop

World-renowned arranger, producer, and author Deke Sharon recently visited the Drama Book Shop in New York City for a book signing of The Heart of Vocal Harmony: Emotional Expressing in Group Singing and a discussion. The discussion, led by Steven McCasland, covered his beginnings in a cappella, the broadway play In TransitHeart of Vocal Harmony, plus more. Take a look at the video below.


The Heart of Vocal Harmony focuses on the process of delivering an emotionally compelling performance. This book is like no other a cappella book that has been released. Most of the other a cappella books have been about teaching people how to sing technically well. The goal with this book was to inspire groups to take that extra step with their vocals. It goes beyond being a great singer and sounding ‘pretty.’ What emotions an you exude to your audience? What can you do to make a difference in their lives?

It’s about taking this music….and bringing it to you and infusing it with your own meaning, your own personality, your own character.

What sets The Heart of Vocal Harmony apart is its focus on honest unified expression and the process of delivering an emotionally compelling performance. It delves into an underdeveloped vocal topic – the heart of the music and the process involved with expressing it.

Don’t just pick a piece of music because you like it. Don’t just pick a piece of music because you’re like, “Well, it’s popular right now.” Pick of piece of music because you think there’s something you can bring to it to that will make it at least as good, if not better.

The Heart of Vocal Harmony is not just for a cappella groups – it is also for vocal harmony groups, ensembles, and choirs atall levels, with or without instruments. In addition to the process, the book features discussions with some of the biggest luminaries in vocal harmony: composers, arrangers, directors, singers, and groups – including Eric Whitacre, Pentatonix, the Manhattan Transfer, and more.

Since I find myself talking and working with these groups on the same fundamental things over and over again, I should write some piece down so that people can start to think about music from this perspective because it’s really the place that it should come from and it’s the thing that draws us all to music as listeners.



Back to Black: Amy Winehouse’s Only Masterpiece

Donald Brackett, music journalist and author of Back to Black: Amy Winehouse’s Only Masterpiece, share his take on writing the book and the kind of artist that Amy was. Take a look at the video below.

In Back to Black: Amy Winehouse’s Only Masterpiece, Donald Brackett presents an incisive and fascinating study of Winehouse’s second, and final, studio album.

It was both a joy and a challenge to do the research for this book. One of the pleasures was in discovering, in the research, that Amy Winehouse didn’t just drop out of space from nowhere. She’s the most contemporary exponent of a long tradition. And although it was challenging to live in her music, for a very long time, I definitely appreciate the opportunity to explore it and share it with readers.

d8364e1f-d4be-486a-9eac-70d23c6290a3Brackett fully considers Winehouse’s legacy ten years after her multi-Grammy winning album – exploring the origins of a global cultural phenomenon by examining her roots as a storyteller; studying her swift arrival as a demonic pop diva; the crucially important creative role played by her gifted producers in the studio; the historical musical influences on her style; the soul magic of her superb backup band, the Dap-Kings; her live performance style onstage; and her magnetic public image as a video star. Back to Black is also examined, song by song, in an appreciation of its status as a true pop-art artifact.

Ten years after the album was produced and created, it still has a fishiness that I don’t this is going to go away in the future. And I believe that if we can divorce the soap opera from her story and bring out the musical history that she brings to life, I think we’ll a be much better for it.

Along the way, he opens the door not only to the full experience of this remarkable record, but also explores the seductive sonic hook that pop artists always strive for and unearths what makes the record unique, influential, and unforgettable. He reveals the creative steps in its inception and production, the technical virtuosity that makes it special, and why it deserves to be considered a pop classic.

In a strangely alluring way, there’s everyone else in pop music, and then there’s her.

Back to Black: Amy Winehouse’s Only Masterpiece is a book about Amy Winehouse’s music and the music that inspired it; it is not about the problems or flaws that caused them. His book reminds us that it’s the songs that make up Back to Black which go far beyond our potentially prurient fascination with the unique singer’s early demise five years ago and instead bring vibrantly to life the surprising pop majesty she personified.

If you love Amy Winehouse as much as I do, I hope this book will help you get a grip on the history that informed it.

Kenny Aronoff on Drummer’s Resource

Kenny Aronoff, author of Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, was featured in the Drummer’s Resource podcast. The podcast covered his beginnings as a drummer, the evolution of his career, advice, and more. Take a listen below.


KENNY_cover3B-b_v2_FF_OL“Staying the course” has never been enough for Aronoff, who has consistently embraced his own uniqueness while charting his life’s path. This has included taking his music career into every genre imaginable and branching beyond the stage and studio to build a second career as a business speaker.


When addressing groups, Aronoff shares his experiences climbing the ladder in the music business and distills them into fundamentals, including hard work, self-discipline, and teamwork, that are applicable to any business setting or endeavor.

In Sex, Drums, Rock ’n’ Roll! The Hardest Hitting Man in Show Business (November 2016, Backbeat Books, $29.99), Aronoff answers these questions and more, painting the portrait of an artist, instructor, and businessman who never followed the norm, always followed his heart, and never settled for anything short of excellence.


Graham Greene on Knight Without Armour

Graham Greene, author of The Graham Greene Film Reader: Reviews, Essays, Interviews, & Film Stories, shared his Knight Without Armour review with On Channel. Check out an excerpt below.

00314187Knight Without Armour

by Graham Greene

One had thought it was good-bye to M. Feyder when he entered the gates of the Denham studios: one began to write the obituary of the director of Thérèse Raquin and La Kermesse Héroïque. The news that Mr. (‘Hungarian’) Biro and Mr. (‘Naughty’) Wimperis were responsible for the scenario and dialogue: the sight of Miss Dietrich floodlit before well-advertised crowds at first nights: a New York premiere—followed by months of silence: rumours of gigantic expenditure—some put it over £300,000: all prepared us for the traditional Denham mouse.

But—astonishingly—a first-class thriller has emerged, beautifully directed, with spare and convincing dialogue and a nearly watertight scenario (only marred by a bath and a bathe in the Naughty Wimperis vein). The story, of course, is melodrama, but melodrama of the most engaging kind, the heroic wish-fulfillment dream of adolescence all the world over—rescues, escapes, discarnate embraces. A young Englishman, who translated novels for a Russian publisher in pre-war St. Petersburg is ordered by the police to leave the country because of an indiscreet magazine-article. Instead he joins the British Secret Service, takes on with beard and passport a Revolutionary personality and is condemned to Siberia after a bomb outrage of which, naturally, he is innocent. From this point his second personality has complete control: as an Englishman he is dead. War is followed by Revolution and he becomes automatically and will-lessly a hero of the New Russia, a Commissar. He is entrusted with the job of taking an important prisoner, a Countess, to Petrograd. He lets her escape, she is recaptured, he saves her again: White prisoners fall to Red machine-guns and Red prisoners to White and White to Red again, a kaleidoscope of murder: we get the impression, so difficult to convey on the screen, of almost interminable time and almost illimitable distance, of an escape along the huge corridors of a prison an Asiatic empire wide. Mr. Robert Donat as the stubbornly chivalrous Englishman deserves more than the passing tribute we accord to a director’s dummy. Mr. Donat is the best film actor—at any rate in star parts—we possess: he is convincing, his voice has a pleasant roughness, and his range is far greater than that of his chief rival for film honours, Mr. Laurence Olivier. Mr. Olivier’s burnt-out features, his breaking voice requires the emotional situation all the time; he wants all Blackfriars to rant in: he must have his drowned Ophelia, his skull and sword-play. Mr. Donat is sensible, authentic, slow; emotion when it comes has the effect of surprise, like plebeian poetry.

Read the entire excerpt here.

James Campion Talks KISS With Iron City Rocks

James Campion, author of Shout It Out Loud: The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Iconrecently sat down with Iron City Rocks to discuss the book. Shout It Out Loud is a serious examination of the circumstance and serendipity that fused the creation of the band’s seminal work, Destroyer – including the band’s arduous ascent to the unexpected smash hit, Alive!; the ensuing lawsuits between the band’s management and label, plus more. Take a listen to the podcast below.


00141630The rock band KISS has galvanized the entertainment world with an unparalleled blitz of bravado, theatrically, and shameless merchandizing, garnering generations of loyalty rabid fans for more than 40 years. But if not of a few crucial months in late 1975 and early 1976, KISS may have ended up nothing more than a foot note. What changed it all? Their album Destroyer. 

Author James Campion discussed this album in particular in the interview  saying that KISS, who had never been involved in controversy in their career before, were now in the forefront with the release of Destroyer. It was an album that you either loved or hated.

Destroyer is the indisputable KISS mission statement   – the realization of a dream that  stridently reflects the extraordinary time from which it was fashioned. Destroyer is 70s rock: loud, yes and decadent, you bet, but mostly it is pompous, weird, and fantastical… It is a cartoon fantasy’s parody of excess. Its message is fun and doom all rolled up in a thunderous package of melodramatic farce.

James Campion

Shout it out Loud is the story of how an underground rock and roll oddity became a cultural phenomena.


Alonso Duralde’s Top 10 Christmas Movies That Aren’t for Kids

Film critic Alonso Duralde, author of Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas, shared his list of the ‘Top 10 Movies That Definitely Aren’t for Kids.’ His book features more Christmas movie lists including: comedies, tearjerkers, the worst, the classics, and more. Check out the list below.

Sure, Christmas is a time of joy for children of all ages, but that doesn’t mean that grown-ups can’t have the cinematic equivalent of a spiked egg nog. After you’ve packed the little ones off to bed, enjoy these movies, from the hilarious to the horrifying, that are aimed at adult audiences.

1. “The Ref” (1994): 

Cat burglar Denis Leary is forced to play marriage counselor to bickering spouses Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis in this pungently hilarious farce.

003329302. “Some Girls” (1988

Long before he was McDreamy, Patrick Dempsey played a horny college student bewitched by three sisters (played by Jennifer Connelly, Sheila Kelley and Ashley Greenfield) in an early Sundance hit that’s still underappreciated (and still sexy).

3. “The Silent Partner” (1978)

Bank teller Elliott Gould and robber Christopher Plummer play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse; this twisty thriller was an early success for the late Curtis Hanson, who scripted.

4. “Metropolitan” (1990)

Writer-director Whit Stillman scored a dynamite debut — and made a low-budget indie look great by shooting in holiday-decorated Manhattan — with this smart and sprightly tale of young debutantes in love.

5. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005)

One of Robert Downey’s best pre-Marvel roles was as a struggling actor caught up in a Christmastime conspiracy, trading quips with scene-stealers Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan.

6. “Go” (1999): 

Writer John August and director Doug Liman keep the twists and the wisecracks coming in this ensemble piece about young L.A. types chasing down ecstasy. The cast is full of before-they-were-famous folks.


Check out the full list here.

Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas will point you and your rental queue in the right direction. Whether your idea of a holiday classic is White ChristmasBad SantaDie HardEyes Wide Shut, or Gremlins, you’ll find the right film for you. And get ready to encounter movies you may never have heard of from the gritty noir Christmas Holiday to the loony Santa Claus,  Plot synopses, video availability, and fun facts make this a stocking stuffed with information you’ll turn to every Christmas season.

10 Things We Learned from Maynard James Keenan’s Biography

A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, Sarah Jensen with Maynard James Keenan, presents Maynard’s story as a metaphor for the reader’s own evolution and an encouragement to follow our dreams, hold fast to individual integrity, and work ceaselessly to fulfill our creative potential. Team Rock made a list of 10 things learned from the ‘semi-autobiography.’ Team Rock covers all rock from Classic to Metal Hammer, Prog, and more. Check out the list below.

00146489The name ‘Maynard’ came from his poetry.

At high school, James Herbert Keenan wrote poems and illustrated them with a “small, witchy character” named Maynard.He adopted the name while he was in the army.

He idolized Kiss.

He even made a ceramic Gene Simmons face at school, but his dad and stepmom worried Kiss was an acronym for ‘Knights in Satan’s Service’ and that Maynard was a degenerate.

He can navigate a battlefield.

In the military, Maynard was as an artillery surveyor, plotting diagrams and escape routes for his battery during warfare. The first thing he did when he left was get a mohawk.

His first band were political.

C.A.D., aka Children Of The Anachronistic Dynasty, produced two cassettes. Each came with a manifesto questioning the values and future of corporate, middle-class America.

Birds are a big deal for him.

Maynard worked as a merchandise manager at pet shops in Boston and LA, and constructed an aviary in each bedroom he lived in. He once kept a turkey called Butterball.

Check out the rest of the list here.

A Perfect Union of Contrary Things presents the outtakes, the scenes of disappointment and triumph, and the events that led him to take one step after the next, to change direction, to explore sometimes surprising opportunities. Included throughout are passages in Keenan’s own words, often humorous anecdotes that illuminate the narrative. There is also commentary by his family members, friends, instructors, and industry colleagues. The book also features a foreword by Alex Grey, an American visionary artist and longtime friend of Keenan, who has designed Tool’s album and stage art.

Woodstock and The Band

The Band FAQ by Peter Aaron, digs deep to discuss different facets of the Band’s collective and individual stories – providing intensive analysis of their recordings; highlighting their key concerts, plus more. The following is a feature a brief history of the formation of the band plus their connection to Woodstock.

00139910Snow was general over the mountains, just a little more to the north, but Woodstock basked over Thanksgiving weekend in chilly air and the last fall leaves, hanging on and brightening the streets and yards of the little town. The big tulip poplars, shining, stayed gold in the graveyard that covers the right-hand side of Rock City Road, heading out of town. Before we went to the launch of Peter Aaron’s new book, The Band  FAQ,we stopped by to say hello to Rick and Levon… as we often do.

The launch, arranged by The Golden Notebook — one of the best independent bookstores you could ever hope to find, and right across Tinker Street from the venue — was at the Kleinert/James Center of the Byrdcliffe Guild, an American treasure for arts in all media since 1902. In Woodstock, the embarrassment of riches for such an event is evident, when a book launch to do with the Band is combined with a conversation with friends of the musicians — Elliott Landy and Happy Traum — and a concert of their songs.

Landy had the eye they needed to make their first album cover, most literally, the rock of ages. Asked by Albert Grossman to photograph “the guys in the band” with no name, yet, for their first record, Landy grappled with locations and ideas. “We drive all over the place,” he remembered, and the first two shoots gained nothing. Then he paged through a book of Civil War photographs and thought of ways in which the men were connected to the faces from the past. “I hadn’t heard their music yet,” Landy grins. He would go on to take over 15,000 photographs of Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson — as well as photographing his friend and neighbor Bob Dylan (one of Landy’s portraits is on the cover of Nashville Skyline, 1969).

Read the rest of the feature here.

Deke Sharon, New York Times Feature

Deke Sharon, author of The Heart of Vocal Harmony, was recently featured in the New York Times. His latest venture? A Broadway play, In Transit.  In addition the “guru of a capella” shared stories of his evolving career and his lifelong mission.

00156135World-renowned arranger and producer Deke Sharon, whose credits include television’s The Sing Off and Pitch Slapped, the movies Perfect Pitch and Perfect Pitch 2, and, this fall, Broadway’s first a cappella musical, In Transit, puts emotion where it belongs – front and center – in The Heart of Vocal Harmony.

Where did a career like Deke’s begin? Back in the early 90s, he was the co-founder of House of Jacks with singers he met not he college circuit. A few years later he enrolled in Tufts University just so he could join their a cappella group, Beezlebubs. In the midst of all this Kurk Richard Toohey Jr. became Deke Sharon.

It wasn’t meant to be a stage name. Everybody called me Deke, and my mom had remarried, so I had all these different names in my childhood. I just wanted an identity of my own.

That newly found identity poured through Deke’s work for years to come. With a book such as The Heart of Vocal Harmony he is fulfilling his lifelong mission of creating harmony with harmony. A capella has surely evolved since Deke began his career back in the 90s.  In addition to In Transit, he’s traveling to workshops, camps, master classes, concerts, recurring studios, and overseeing the touring group Vocalosity.

In his book, The Heart of Vocal Harmony there’s focus on honest unified expression and the process of delivering an emotionally compelling performance. It delves into an underdeveloped vocal topic – the heart of the music and the process involved with expressing it.

He truly believes that groups of people singing together creates goodness int he world. And at this moment in time, we really need that kind of harmony.

Kristin Anderson-Lopez

The Heart of Vocal Harmony features discussions with some of the biggest luminaries in vocal harmony: composers, arrangers, directors, singers, and groups, including Eric Whitacre, Pentatonix, the Manhattan Transfer, and more. It is a unique and invaluable tool for helping singers connect with the song and deliver powerful and emotional performances each and every time.

Check out the full feature here.

Kenny Aronoff Chats with IndyStar

Kenny Aronoff, author of Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, sat down with the Indy Star to discuss his book including his time during the John Mellencamp era. Check out an excerpt of the interview below.

KENNY_cover3B-b_v2_FF_OLIn his new autobiography, Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, Kenny Aronoff pulls back the curtain on the dangers of being a Hoosier rock star in the 1980s.

Aronoff writes about the time John Mellencamp survived a motorcycle crash one week before the recording of breakthrough album “American Fool.” Toby Myers, who played bass in Mellencamp’s band from 1982 to 1998, lost a toe in a boating accident during an East Coast tour. In an episode that parallels music movie “Almost Famous,” the entire Mellencamp entourage could have died when a charter plane lost power between Miami and Biloxi, Miss.

And everyone in the band was required to participate in a fall pastime known as the Mellencamp Football League. No pads, full contact, highly competitive.

But there’s more than misadventure detailed in “Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which arrived in bookstores Nov. 15. Aronoff, the drummer in Mellencamp’s band from 1980 to 1996, mostly writes about an unyielding mission to succeed.

“We weren’t the best rock ’n’ roll band in the world,” Aronoff said in a phone interview. “We made ourselves great by hard work.”

Mellencamp, who sold 16 million albums from 1982 to 1987, maintained regular rehearsal hours for the musicians: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., interrupted by a 5-7 p.m. break, five days a week when the band wasn’t on tour.

Before the Seymour native renovated a Brown County house into Belmont Mall studio, Mellencamp worked at “The Bunker,” a cramped, concrete room in rural Bloomington that once was a dog kennel.

Those were days, Aronoff said, when the musicians grasped for the secret of making hit records. They took a field trip to catch a date of Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” tour. They studied Tom Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes” album for tips on arranging songs.

Mellencamp, known then as John Cougar, had written a song called “Jack & Diane.” It wasn’t working, however, as anything other than a stripped-down solo acoustic tune.

“We knew it was a cool song, but we didn’t know what to do with it,” Aronoff said.

John Mellencamp, center, points his American Music Award at guitarist Larry Crane after collecting an American Music Award in 1983. Drummer Kenny Aronoff, author of 2016 book “Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll,” is seen at right. Bass player Toby Myers is second from left, and guitarist Mike Wanchic is to the left of Aronoff.

Working at Miami’s Criteria Studios with producer Don Gehman, the Mellencamp crew heard the Bee Gees experimenting with an early drum machine, the Linn LM-1 Drum Computer, in a nearby room.

Aronoff said Gehman borrowed the Linn “out of desperation” for a potential fix for “Jack & Diane.”

“I was insulted,” Aronoff said. “I grabbed the thing out of anger and said, ‘At least I want to have control over this thing.’ ”

Aronoff programmed the hand-clap beat heard during the first half of the song, and he added the distinctive midsong solo on conventional drums. “Jack & Diane” reached No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart in October 1982.

Click HERE to read the entire interview.