Bruce Ferber: From Real Life to the Page
I BURIED PAUL is about a musician struggling to make a living in a creative landscape that has been devalued by the internet and the pseudo-populist notion that art should be free. Despite the increasing hardship and ridiculous odds, the music plays on, because those who are captivated by its magic can’t walk away – the notes are in their blood. Somehow, they figure out a way to cobble together an assortment of different jobs (some musical, some not) to pay the bills, so they can continue doing the thing they love.
This novel’s protagonist, Jimmy Kozlowski, plays Paul McCartney in a Beatles tribute band. He also works with other bands, has a straight job, and entertains at a nursing home. We learn that Jimmy spent a lot of time at this old folks’ facility when his late father was suffering from dementia. I knew this world well because I went through it with my own dad. I never entertained at the place, so how did I get the idea that Jimmy should?
An experience I had there made a deep impression, and the scene came back to me early on in the writing of this novel. I remember wheeling my father into the “activity room” to hear a singer-guitarist. The vocals and musicianship were straight-up mediocre, but this wasn’t the thing that stood out. What I couldn’t get out of my head was the way this guy addressed the nursing home residents -- as if they were four years old. He had them singing the equivalent of the “Alphabet Song” and some inane ditty he wrote called “The Hello Song.” In the book, Jimmy is as appalled as I was, only he decides to do something with his outrage and goes gunning for the guy’s job. Jimmy’s philosophy is not to talk (or sing) down to people, but to honor the lives they lived. He gives every performance his all, playing songs the residents might recognize from their more active years. He also throws in other material, including some of his own originals, that he thinks might move them. Jimmy treats this job (and these people) with the same respect as he would playing to an audience at Carnegie Hall. I suppose it’s my fantasy of what I would have done had I been in his shoes.
About the Author...
Bruce Ferber built a long and successful career as a television comedy writer and producer. A multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominee, his credits include Bosom Buddies, Growing Pains, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Coach, and Home Improvement, where he served as Executive Producer and showrunner. In addition to being recognized by the Television Academy, Ferber's work has received the People's Choice, Kid's Choice, and Environmental Media Awards. He is the author of two previous novels, Elevating Overman and Cascade Falls, along with the nonfiction book, The Way We Work. He lives in Los Angeles, CA with his wife, large dog, and assorted musical instruments.