Theodore Rosengarten, just 30, has published an autobiography titled All God’s Dangers. Paradoxically, it is not the absorbing tale of Rosengarten’s lower middle-class Brooklyn boyhood and education at Amherst and Harvard but the story of “Nate Shaw”—a protective alias for one Ned Cobb, a black sharecropper whom Rosengarten stumbled upon while researching an Alabama farmers’ union movement which flourished briefly in the ’30s.
Cobb, who served 12 years in prison for wounding a deputy sheriff trying to evict a neighboring sharecropper, died last year at 88—just before Rosengarten had finished editing 160 hours of taped reminiscences. An illiterate, Cobb would not have been able to read his own autobiography.
Ecstatic reviewers have likened the cadenced sweep of the old black man’s recollections to Homer, though Rosengarten objects that such critical encomium wrests “Shaw” from his rightful place in the rich tradition of American rural story-telling. Social historians have also found the work an extraordinarily rich and unique picture of the black farmer yoked to the white man’s cotton industry. Rosengarten, a soft-spoken socialist, plans to present All God’s Dangers as his Ph.D. thesis at Harvard this spring. Next? A couple of years in the South, researching the years surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation.
Frannie—she’s shucked the Golde—grew up on the conservative North Side of Chicago as the daughter of a concert pianist mother, studied the rhythm and blues “goodtime” music of the South Side and combined the two with her own folk-classical experience. She has come up with a sound that is rocking both hometown and East Coast nightlifers.
A cross between Bette Midler and Aretha Franklin, Frannie, 21, has been making zealots out of listeners to her gospelly renditions in such boîtes as the Continental Baths in Manhattan—where Midler’s career snapped wide open. Chicago critic Alfred Zelcer hymned: “What singing! What joy! What Valentine hips!”
“My goal,” Frannie says, “is a session with the soul group the Stylistics and string arrangements by Barry White accompanying my duet with Aretha.” For Frannie, such a bill made in heaven must wait, but its prelude might be a springtime engagement at New York’s Carnegie Hall, which is now in the planning stage.