Mitch Albom's Newest Novel Tackles Rock 'n' Roll

Mitch Albom is a renaissance kind of guy. A best-selling author, humanitarian, musician, radio host, screenwriter, and all-around inspiring individual, Albom and his words have touched the hearts and minds of millions, 35 million at last count.

Music has always been of interest to Albom. He's a steadfast member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of published writers including Stephen King and Matt Groening. He's also written songs for the late great Warren Zevon and put himself through college with his piano playing.

But still, as the man behind Tuesdays With Morrie, his name has never exactly been rock ’n’ roll relatable. But he's recently remedied that situation with a new book titled The Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto, a fictional novel about a gifted musician who was orphaned at birth but whose life thereafter finds him interfacing with a roll call of real-life musical icons — Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett, Darlene Love, Burt Bacharach, Ingrid Michaelson, and Paul Stanley among them. It’s worth noting that Albom knows each of these artists personally — except Elvis, who's long since left the building — and they not only gave their blessings to the project but also their input and their time for a promotional video.

“They agreed to it readily,” Albom insists. “There’s not a lot of novels about musicians, so they liked the idea of something that really celebrates the spirit of music. So I told them that I was going to write in their voices as them and talk about their encounters with Frankie Pesto and then give them a chance to read what I wrote. If they didn’t like it, they could certainly tell me, but I didn’t get a single change from any of them. They all loved it. In fact, many of them ended up recording their part for the audio book.”

As always, Albom’s novel has a larger message. It's something he does with all his books, which include megasellers The Five People You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day, and his most famous effort of all, Tuesdays With Morrie. “I write my books by coming up with the theme first and then developing my plots and characters around what I want to explore,” Albom explains.

With that in mind, The Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto resonates with a kind of cosmic connection. “In this book, the bigger theme is more about the bands we join in life and the way we affect one another in those bands,” Albom says. “One of the tag lines in the book is that everybody joins bands in life, but only some of them play music. Having been in bands and also having spent much of my life outside music, I notice that they work the same. In a band, everyone has their roles as far as the instruments they play, and that’s the same thing that happens in life. A family is like that. The workplace is like that. The army is like that. Your buddies are like that."

The book's soundtrack features contributions and collaborations from such notables as Tony Bennett, Darlene Love, Lyle Lovett, Little Richard, and Kiss.

Speaking of nice, is Albom really the kind-hearted, spiritual individual who’s reflected in his writing? If ever there were an excuse to research the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, it would have been for his latest novel.

He’s no saint, he admits, but he does recognize that he has a public image to uphold. “When you’re the guy that writes Tuesdays With Morrie, you don’t want to be seen as the kind of guy that walks down the street making remarks about women’s short dresses,” he suggests. “Especially while swigging from a bottle of vodka.”

Mitch Albom will speak at the Miami Book Fair and will conduct a Q&A and book signing at 1 p.m. Saturday, November 21, at Chapman Conference Center, Building 3, Room 3201, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami. Admission is free, but tickets are required. Visit
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Lee Zimmerman