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Book excerpt: "Every Good Boy Does Fine" by Jeremy Denk

In his new memoir, "Every Good Boy Does Fine" (Random House), acclaimed classical pianist Jeremy Denk writes of the life of a musician, and offers a tribute to those who influenced him: music teachers, conductors – and his father, who shared his sheer joy of music.

Read the excerpt below, and don't miss John Dickerson's interview with Jeremy Denk on "CBS Sunday Morning" March 20!

Random House

My happiest time was spent cross-legged on the living room floor, in my pajamas, immersed in the bottom shelf with all the records. I worked my way through the One Hundred Greatest Hits. I air-conducted the Air on the G String, Ride of the Valkyries, and Peer Gynt. Venturing farther into the stack, I found two Freudian orchestral discs, my Dad's favorites: Saint-Saëns's Organ Symphony and Mahler's Titan.

One unusual day, Dad beckoned me away from my spot on the floor. He wanted us to listen to the Saint-Saëns on the couch together. I snuggled into the cushions. I heard deep bass notes circling, aspiring, giving up again. A theme in doubt. Music losing steam, searching for an exit. My dad murmured — "Keep listening." We lay in wait like hunters. After a dark and foreboding silence, the wooden speakers vibrated with a massive C-major chord, rocking the house with triumph.

Saint-Saëns - The Organ Symphony by Cordless Music on YouTube

"Holy crap," Dad said. I consider that to be my first real music lesson. He seemed so happy. There was no trace of his default grumpiness.

That organ chord gave him pleasure, a dopamine burst, but Mahler brought a deeper satisfaction. He often sang the big, brassy finish of the Titan faintly to himself on Sunday afternoons, while balancing his checkbook at the table in the den.

From the book "Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, In Music Lessons" by Jeremy Denk. Copyright © 2022 by Jeremy Denk. Published by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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