I Never Walked Alone by Shirley Verrett

I Never Walked Alone by Shirley Verrett(Cover picture courtesy of AfriClassical.)

An inspiring self-portrait of a world-renowned African American vocal artist.
This is a fascinating account of a gifted woman’s coming of age and rise to success at a time when black classical musicians faced barriers at every turn. Shirley Verrett possessed a talent and ambition so dazzling she could not be denied and she became one of the most celebrated artists of her time. I Never Walked Alone draws the reader into the world of this graceful, fiery artist, dramatically telling the story of her childhood and her brilliant international career.

The book is filled with behind-the-scenes tales of this diva’s great performances, roles, and collaborations, offering insight into her stormy personal relationships as well as her private struggles and critical decisions. Featuring forewords and afterwords by such figures as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Zubhin Mehta, and Claudio Abbado, this richly detailed book paints a vivid picture of a magnificent survivor and an indelible artist known around the world as the black Maria Callas.
Shirley Verrett (Ann Arbor, MI, and New York, NY) is currently Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan School of Music.
Christopher Brooks is a biographer and award-winning musicologist.

Okay, in all fairness this was written by both Shirley Verrett and Christopher Brooks.  But I like to keep my titles relatively simple, so there.

The autobiographies of celebrities and other public figures tend to be vapid and self-aggrandizing, but Shirley Verrett’s autobiography is none of that.  She freely speaks of the incidents she had with other singers where she was at fault, reflects on her rocky relationships with others at times and speaks frankly about her vocal problems in the 70s.  Maybe it was just excellent editors, but Ms. Verrett strikes me as a very humble woman in her writing.  She doesn’t brag and admits her ego problems when she was young; truly she sounds like she was a down-to-Earth person.

I Never Walked Alone is not just a collection of amusing incidents, but a full chronicle of her childhood and career.  Ms. Verrett speaks for at least a paragraph on almost all of the productions she was in and it really gives you a great picture of such a talented woman.  With an introduction by both Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo, this autobiography really is a treasure.

I don’t often read celebrity autobiographies, but I’m so glad I got my hands on one of my hero’s.  Even if you don’t know much about opera, I Never Walked Alone is a fascinating read and paints a picture of the turbulent times of the civil rights movement in America.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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