The latest novel from Mitch Albom is a magical walk through much of the 20th century’s best music.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto tells the story of a Spanish orphan who becomes the greatest guitar player anyone has heard. Through his life, he encounters some of the biggest names in 20th century music and changes lives with his musical talent.
Albom first made his mark here in Michigan as a sports columnist for The Detroit Free Press, a role he continues 30 years later.
But when he wrote Tuesdays With Morrie, a tribute to his former professor, he grabbed the hearts of readers around the world. Albom has now sold over 35 million books worldwide.
Albom tells us he wanted to be a musician before taking a job with a newspaper and discovering his knack for storytelling. Until now, he’s more or less kept the two parts of his life separate.
“I never wrote about music in any books that I wrote or really not very much in any newspaper things or anything like that, I think because in my mind when music ended, writing began and vice versa, so I never mixed them,” he says.
In The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Albom brings the two pursuits together.
“If you live long enough, things come back around,” he says with a laugh.
“I wanted to write something about how peoples’ gifts and their talents affect one another. I realized that I always thought mine was music, and then I found out it was writing. What if I could do something where the main character had this amazing talent that, if he just allowed itself to come through, he could actually change peoples’ lives? … Thus, Frankie Presto was born.”
From Hank Williams and Elvis to Tony Bennett and Paul Stanley, Albom weaves real 20th century artists into the tale of Frankie Presto's life, giving the story the weight of reality. He tells us he went so far as to ask many of the musicians he included if he could "write as you for a couple of pages?"
“Each of them, they were so thrilled to be a part of it because deep down, musicians want to be writers and writers want to be musicians. I swear it’s true,” he says. “It ended up making it very rich … I’ve had a lot of people say to me, ‘you know, I started Googling Frankie Presto halfway through the book because I was convinced I must have missed him somehow, because the stuff seemed so real.’”
In our conversation above, Mitch Albom reads from The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, talks about the role faith and spirituality play in his writing and shares some of the music recorded to accompany the book.