Help!: The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration
The Beatles and Duke Ellington’s Orchestra stand as the two greatest examples of collaboration in music history. Ellington’s forte was not melody―his key partners were not lyricists but his fellow musicians. His strength was in arranging, in elevating the role of a featured soloist, in selecting titles: in packaging compositions. He was also very good at taking credit when the credit wasn’t solely his, as in the case of Mood Indigo, though he was ultimately responsible for the orchestration of what Duke University musicologist Thomas Brothers calls "one of his finest achievements." If Ellington was often reluctant to publicly acknowledge how essential collaboration was to the Ellington sound, the relationship between Lennon and McCartney was fluid from the start. Lennon and McCartney "wrote for each other as primary audience." Lennon’s preference for simpler music meant that it begged for enhancement and McCartney was only too happy to oblige, and while McCartney expanded the Beatles’ musical range, Lennon did "the same thing with lyrics."
Through his fascinating examination of these two musical legends, Brothers delivers a portrait of the creative process at work, demonstrating that the cooperative method at the foundation of these two artist-groups was the primary reason for their unmatched musical success. While clarifying the historical record of who wrote what, with whom, and how, Brothers brings the past to life with a lifetime of musical knowledge that reverberates through every page, and analyses of songs from Lennon and McCartney’s Strawberry Fields Forever to Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge.
Help! describes in rich detail the music and mastery of two cultural leaders whose popularity has never dimmed, and the process of collaboration that allowed them to achieve an artistic vision greater than the sum of their parts.