Schwartz on N.Y.'s 57th Street
Schwartz on N.Y.'s 57th Street

Air Waves

It was not surprising that Jonathan Schwartz would have an unusual life. With sophisticated songwriter Arthur Schwartz ("That's Entertainment") for a dad and fair-haired soprano Kay Carrington for a mom, how could it be anything but? Growing up in Beverly Hills during the height of World War II among luminaries such as Ira Gershwin, Judy Garland, and Bing Crosby and living in New York City during the 1950s, Schwartz certainly wasn't destined to become a dentist. "I knew at a very early age that I wanted to be a writer," he says earnestly on the phone from his office in Manhattan, "and I wanted to do something on the radio."

Schwartz recently released his memoir All in Good Time (his fifth book), which he'll discuss this week in Miami. He has recorded a few CDs as a singer, but he hit the airwaves as a radio personality in 1967, back in the days when DJs would program their own songs and playlists didn't come courtesy of a computer. He started out first on commercial stations in New York City, moving on to public radio and to XM Satellite Radio, where he serenades the world with the Great American Songbook and Frank Sinatra tunes on a daily basis. "Radio is the most luxurious possible way to express yourself," he says. "It makes everyone use their imaginations. It doesn't give the picture. You create the picture."

When it comes to folks such as Howard Stern, that radio-induced picture isn't always very pretty. Nevertheless Schwartz -- citing a small sample of artists incorporating standards into their repertoire: Bette Midler, Aaron Neville, Rod Stewart, and Cyndi Lauper -- has high hopes for the fate of classic songs, especially those of his good friend Sinatra, of whom he speaks reverently. "He was the greatest interpretive musician this country has ever produced by far," Schwartz notes. "I found in his singing lay my own private thoughts about what it was to stumble through life. Sinatra was a novelist."


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