Albert Goldman  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"Rock 'n' roll is basically institutionalized adolescence. And the bottom line of rock ‘n’ roll is that it’s a baby food industry and Phil found a new formula for baby food."--Albert Goldman in Phil Spector: He's a Rebel (1982) by Binia Tymieniecka, from 50:00 unwards

"As you climb its steeply angled ramp to the second floor you feel like a character in a Kafka novel. From overhead comes the heavy pounding of the disco beat like a fearful migraine. When you reach the "bar", a huge bare parking area, you are astonished to see immense pornographic murals of Greek and Trojan warriors locked in a sado-masochistic combat running from floor to ceiling. On the floor of the main dancing room are the most frenzied dancers of the disco scene: the black and Puerto Rican gays, stripped down to singlets and denim shorts, swinging their bodies with wild abandon."--Albert Goldman, Disco, cited on

Related e



Albert Harry Goldman (April 15, 1927 – March 28, 1994) was an American academic and author.

Goldman wrote about the culture and personalities of the American music industry both in books and as a contributor to magazines. He is best known for his bestselling book on Lenny Bruce and his controversial biographies of Elvis Presley and John Lennon.


Early life

Albert Goldman was born in Dormont, Pennsylvania, and raised in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Academic career

Goldman briefly studied theater at the Carnegie Institute of Technology before serving in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1946. He earned a master's degree in English from the University of Chicago in 1950; under the chancellery of Robert Maynard Hutchins, students who were not enrolled in the generalist "Chicago Plan" undergraduate degree program were designated as master's students and received the higher degree after five years of study.

Upon matriculating in the English doctoral program at Columbia University, Goldman began to teach literature courses at several institutions in New York City, including the City College of New York, Hunter College, Baruch College, Brooklyn College, the School of Visual Arts and the Columbia University School of General Studies. During this period, he first became acquainted with Lenny Bruce through his wife, Florence Singer, who introduced her husband to New York's vibrant jazz scene before going on to "re-raise [Goldman] as a hip Brooklyn Jew" along with her family and friends throughout his doctoral studies, effectively planting the seeds for his later interest in popular culture. Following studies under Lionel Trilling and Jacques Barzun, he completed his Ph.D. in 1961 with a dissertation on Thomas de Quincey. Goldman argued that de Quincey had plagiarized most of his acclaimed journalism from lesser-known writers; the dissertation was subsequently published as a monograph (The Mine and the Mint: Sources for the Writings of Thomas DeQuincey) by Southern Illinois University Press in 1965. He also co-edited Wagner on Music and Drama (1964), a compendium of Richard Wagner's theoretical writings.

After taking his doctorate, Goldman remained affiliated with Columbia, where he was an adjunct associate professor of English and comparative literature from 1963 to 1972; among his course offerings was the University's first class on popular culture. A close friend of Philip Roth, Goldman reportedly inspired the character of libidinous academic David Kepesh, notably showcased by Roth in such works as The Breast (1972) and The Professor of Desire (1977).

In the 1960s, Goldman began to publish a diverse array of reportage and cultural criticism (running the gamut from travel writing on the Rhine to reviews of classical music and popular music) in a variety of publications, including The Atlantic, The New Leader, Commentary, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, LIFE, New York, Vogue, Esquire, High Times and Penthouse. Many of his early writings on popular culture were collected in Freakshow: The RockSoul BluesJazzSickJew BlackHumorSexPopPsychoGig and Other Scenes from the Counter-Culture (1971), which also served as the textbook for the later iterations of his Columbia popular culture course.

Written work

Bestseller dealing with Lenny Bruce

Goldman's breakthrough success, Ladies and Gentlemen – Lenny Bruce!! (1974), won praise from the likes of Norman Mailer and Pauline Kael, who called the book "brilliant." The book was largely positive in its appraisal of Bruce's talent, though it was criticized by many of Bruce's friends for allegedly distorting his character and for claims that Bruce had had homosexual experiences.

Elvis Presley biography


Goldman's critical 1981 biography Elvis was much more controversial. In this book, Goldman drew on more than four years' research into Elvis Presley's life. But for many fans and some critics, his research was undermined by his intense personal dislike of Presley.

Goldman dismissed the performer as a plagiarist who never did anything of note after his first records at Sun Records, insisting that he was inferior as an artist to Little Richard and other contemporaries. He also portrayed Presley as nearly insane, using stories that some might see as innocuous (such as Presley taking his friends halfway across the country to buy them peanut-butter sandwiches) to "prove" that the singer had lost his grip on reality.

Article on Bruce Lee

In 1982, Goldman wrote a very unflattering article on actor Bruce Lee which was published in two parts by Penthouse in January–February 1983.

Second book on Presley

In 1990, Goldman published a second book, entitled Elvis: The Last 24 Hours, on the circumstances and events of Presley's death, arguing that the singer had committed suicide. The book drew some attention for its sensational thesis but was largely ignored.

The Lives of John Lennon

The Lives of John Lennon

Goldman's next biography arguably aroused even more controversy than the Elvis biography. In The Lives of John Lennon, a product of years of research and hundreds of interviews with many of Lennon's friends, acquaintances, servants and musicians, Goldman describes John Lennon as both talented and neurotic. The book reveals a very personal side of the musician who was prone to faults, such as anger, violence, drug abuse, adultery, and indecisiveness, but who was also a generational leader. It deals with Lennon's childhood and the impact others had on the life of the sensitive little boy, among them his aunt, Mimi Smith, his father, Fred Lennon, and Johnny Dykins. Goldman implies that strong women ruined Lennon, starting with Smith, and that he was later being held prisoner by his wife, Yoko Ono.

Last project in his career and death

Goldman died of a heart attack on March 28, 1994, while flying from Miami to London. He left unfinished a biography of Doors singer Jim Morrison.

Three years before his death, Penthouse published a long excerpt from his work-in-progress on Morrison. The excerpt focused on documents that Goldman claimed to have obtained from the Paris Police Prefecture regarding the minor police investigation that had been conducted in response to Morrison's wife Pamela Courson's notification that he had died suddenly at the apartment they were renting. According to Goldman, Courson provided a detailed account of the activities she and Morrison had done together throughout the day and night of Friday, July 2, 1971. They included setting up a movie projector and screening their Super 8 film home movies that they had made during a recent trip to Spain.

According to Goldman, Courson seemingly gave police the whole truth about the early-morning hours of Saturday, except that she carefully refrained from admitting that either of them had used narcotics. According to Goldman, she even admitted that Morrison had vomited blood extensively and she grabbed a series of pots from their kitchen to catch all of it, and police believed her claim that this had happened in the middle of the night without the deceased, age 27, being under the influence of narcotics or alcohol.

Goldman's biography of Morrison was never published, nor did a publication other than Penthouse refer to the alleged contents of Paris Police Prefecture documents related to Morrison and Courson. Goldman's obituary in the Los Angeles Daily News treated his Morrison project with contempt. Phil Rosenthal, then a writer with the Daily News, opined, "At the time of his death, he was picking over Jim Morrison's bones for yet another book." Rosenthal did not go into detail.

In popular culture

U2 lead singer Bono referenced his disdain for Goldman in the song "God Part II" from the album Rattle and Hum:

"Don't believe in Goldman
His type [is] like a curse
Instant Karma's gonna get him
If I don't get him first"

Singer-satirist Mojo Nixon makes a scornful reference to Goldman in his 1989 single, "(619) 239-KING", which parodied the rumours that Presley was still alive by inviting the singer to call what was, at the time of release, a legitimate phone number.

Partial bibliography

  • Wagner on Music and Drama (1964; co-edited with Evert Sprinchorn)
  • The Mine and the Mint: Sources for the Writings of Thomas de Quincey (1965)
  • Freakshow;: The rocksoulbluesjazzsickjewblackhumorsexpoppsych gig and other scenes from the counter-culture (1971; republished as Freakshow : Misadventures in the Counterculture, 1959–1971, 2001)
  • Ladies and Gentlemen – Lenny Bruce!! (1974)
  • Carnival in Rio (1978)
  • Grass Roots: Marijuana in America Today (1979)
  • Disco (1979)
  • Elvis (1981)
  • The Lives of John Lennon (1988)
  • Elvis: The Last 24 Hours (1990)
  • Sound Bites (1992)

Pages linking in as of Jan 2021

Elvis Presley, Yoko Ono, Lenny Bruce, The Primal Scream, Heartbreak Hotel, Penthouse (magazine), Tommy (The Who album), 1988 in literature, Dread Zeppelin, Elvin Jones, Grammy Award for Best Album Notes, Little River Band, Abbey Road, Goldman, Clambake (film), Imagine: John Lennon (soundtrack), The Lives of John Lennon, Max Palevsky, Blues for Elvis – King Does the King's Things, Kenwood, St. George's Hill, Aston "Family Man" Barrett, Celebrity biographer, God Part II, Christmas (song), Gene Stone, Lawrence Schiller, 34 Montagu Square, Marylebone, Lindy's, The Night of the Mary Kay Commandos, Elvis Presley and America, Personal relationships of Elvis Presley, Imagine: John Lennon, Bill the Cat, Imagine (John Lennon song), Reminiscing, The Homosexuals (CBS Reports), Philip Norman (author), Bobb Goldsteinn, The Beatles in India, You Never Give Me Your Money (book), April 1927, Ron Ellis (author), King of the Blues Guitar, The Love You Make, James Brown: Man to Man, Lindy effect, American Review (literary journal), Thought-Forms (book), The Beatles in Bangor, Lennon Remembers

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Albert Goldman" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools