Charlie’s Notes: a memoir: By Cherie Kerr (ExecuProv Press, Santa Ana, CA., 2004, 367 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
August 2, 2023 (San Diego) - There is nothing like a daughter’s love for her father, and in this memoir written by Cherie Kerr, Charlie’s Notes, there is a profound love for her father throughout this well written and touching book that pulls at your heart strings. As the singer and song writer John Mayer says in his song (Daughters); “Fathers be good to your daughters”, this comes out throughout this book, and it resonates with me throughout for some very personal and profound reasons. Clearly, and in talking to Kerr, Charlie was good to his daughter!
In a recent telephone conversation between the author and me, we both shared thoughts of family life, with Kerr professing her undying love for her father, and indicating that she was the apple of his eye. That is certainly understandable.
The author, Cherie Kerr, touches on her Italian heritage by emphasizing her father’s roots, and the family’s evolution in the jazz revolution in this country, particularly her father’s.
Kerr gives insight into this early Italian heritage, by stating: “Despite their contentious and uncertain relationship, Francesca and Eugene never thought of divorce, so they did what so many other couples of their day did to try to keep the fire burning. They shoved another embryo into the proverbial oven as nonchalantly as tossing coal on the stove. It served to keep some warmth in the house even when the romantic temperature fluctuated or dipped.”
A number of notable people have said laudatory things about this book written by Cherie Kerr about her father, namely Keely Baribeau, who states on the back cover: “Charlie ‘Carluchi’ DePietro’s musical career provides exciting, first-hand experiences with some of the biggest jazz and Hollywood players from the golden era of the 20th century. His daughter, author Cherie Kerr, has detailed a deeply personal and touching account of the cruel effects of Alzheimer’s as it robs Charlie of the memories most precious to him. Charlie’s Notes is a vivid depiction of the unique life of an Italian American who, through his passion to play and the love of his family, made his dreams of music greatness come true.” I couldn’t have said it any better!
Legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter, a former member of the iconic Miles Davis band, has this to say about Charlie; “What a wonderful reading of the birth and life of a jazz musician. It makes me wish that I had the pleasure of Charlie’s company. I really enjoyed reading ‘Charlie’s Notes” I can envision seeing Charlie playing alongside Ron Carter in Miles Davis’ band! What a site and pleasure to behold.
It has been said that “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and if that is the case, the family pictures that the author has provided in this book would express the endearing love that the author expresses for her family and father! One notable picture is that of “Eugene” at his tailor shop, circa 1921.
Another photo is that of “Marge and Charlie’s wedding, September 14, 1940.”
To see Charlie with Elvis on the set of “Love me Tender” speaks for itself, as it indicates the acclaim that this musician had in his early years.
A particular passage in this book resonated with me, and gave me a greater understanding of human frailty. This was also shared with me in our afore-mentioned phone conversation. Kerr details how Charlie’s doctor stated: “He needs to be admitted to a rehab facility for evaluation, I’m afraid he has dementia or Alzheimer’s.” Of course, this was later in his life and after his musical career was over! This resonated with me, for at some point in life we all may reach that point. I actually did some research on it, wondering what the signs of it were. Kerr mentioned that at some point she took her father into her home for awhile to take care of him, as he was beyond doing it herself. She also mentioned that she was better suited to take care of him than her sister Heather at the time. It made me wonder if my own daughter Brandy would undertake something like that for me.
Cherie was there to the very end, as she describes Charlie’s passing fittingly in musical terms: “As he wound down completely he took a series of gentle, precise, deliberate and highly isolated breaths – each whole note tenuto – almost like a skilled musician does when playing the last few notes of a song that doesn’t end abruptly, but rather fades out easily, slowly, until it can no longer be heard.” I have never heard someone describe the passing of their father like that, but it was so beautiful and lovingly done!
Cherie concluded by stating: “And with the very last breath – that final note – it was as if Charlie had gently and tenderly pulled his bow ever so lightly back across the strings of his bass for a profound finish. His mouth began to close and just when it seemed that last whole note, that poignant breath of air had been pushed out entirely, he held it – teased it –stretched it – then released it, lovingly. The whisper of it hung there momentarily, then mysteriously dissolved into an exquisite silence.” Simply beautiful!
My mother passed away similarly, and I was at peace as my brother and I were on each side of the bed in a hospice setting at the hospital, and the life monitor slowly subsided. I could sense that this is what Cherie Kerr experienced.
This is a tremendous book that I recommend and encourage everyone to read!
As the aforementioned John Mayer states, and indicates in his attached song (Daughters), “Fathers be good to your daughters” Listen here.
In the audio recording with the author of this book, Cherie Kerr, makes a number of profound statements with the host of the "Bookshelf" section, Anat Tour. One of which that resonates with me is about family, and the other is about immigration and that we are a country of immigrants. She speaks of her desire to make "Charlie's Notes" into a movie, possibly on Netflix, or some feature film, which she estimates would take about $7 million to produce and direct. If I had the $7 million dollars I would advance it, as that is how much I believe in this book. Listen to the audio recording of the interview here.
Dennis Moore is the former Associate Editor of the East County Magazine, having written more than 400 book reviews, two of which contributed towards the authors winning the NAACP Image Award in Literature. He is also the former President of the Bethel A.M.E. Prison Ministry in San Diego and the author of a book about Chicago politics. Mr. Moore can be contacted at email@example.com or you can reach him at: @DennisMoore8.