By Anna Streetman
Mitch Albom’s “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” tells the tale of a fictional guitar superstar and his magic strings, which change people’s lives.
Albom will talk about the book when he delivers the annual Eva and George Stern Lecture at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center.
Frankie Presto is a Spanish war orphan whose talent is nurtured by a cantankerous blind guitar teacher Frankie knows as El Maestro. Frankie’s talent is G-d-given, and his life is narrated by the voice of music itself.
Frankie’s life is both tragic and magnificent.
He steps in to perform as Elvis, falls in love, has a daughter, achieves international fame, and is rumored to have performed a legendary guitar solo at Woodstock.
But misfortune strikes from the beginning. Frankie is abandoned in a river as a child. And along his road to fame, he makes a few mistakes. His power becomes his burden, and one day he disappears, haunted by his past. He finally makes a legendary comeback before surrendering his soul to music and leaving this world.
Albom’s love for music shines through every page. A lifelong musician as well as an award-winning sports columnist and author of “Tuesdays With Morrie,” Albom calls music his first love. He started with the guitar, went on to take classes at the Berkeley School of Music, and studied with several jazz professors.
The character of Frankie is inspired by musicians Albom has met and admired, the author said in an interview. He described El Maestro, Frankie’s guitar teacher, as “a blind, Spanish, guitar-playing version of Morrie.”
“The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” pays homage to Spanish music. Frankie is born in Spain, and much of the music he plays originates there.
“I consider a lot of Spanish guitarists, like Francisco Tárrega, the fathers of guitar, and a lot of modern and classical guitar began in Spain,” Albom said. “It’s only fair the setting be in Spain.”
He said he wanted the book to portray an international feel for music. “I wanted to remind people that there’s a world of music outside of ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice.’ Sometimes we (Americans) stick to the idea that we created music. Music is universal; it changes lives all over the world. And it has been around forever, not just with your first band record.”
Albom added that the talents we are given in this world affect everyone. “Even if you don’t like or care about music, you will care about Frankie. You will see how his talent changes the lives of people and how it changes the world.”
“The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” is inventive, is beautifully narrated, and hits all the right notes.