In The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Mitch Albom chooses Music to narrate the life of Frankie Presto. We begin by finding ourselves at Frankie’s funeral, his death surrounded by mystery and intrigue. As the book transitions between funeral-goers and their stories of knowing Frankie to Music’s telling of Frankie’s life, the reader gets an in-depth look at how Frankie Presto (fiction) fits into the detailed and diverse experience of music history (fact).
The story starts as follows …
I have come to claim my prize. He is there, inside the coffin. In truth, he is mine already. But a good musician holds respectfully until the final notes are played. This man’s melody is finished, but his mourners have come a great distance to add a few stanzas. A coda, of sorts.
Let us listen.
Heaven can wait.
Do I frighten you? I shouldn’t. I am not death. A grim reaper in a hood, reeking of decay? As your young people say – please.
Nor am I the Great Judge whom you all fear at the end. Who am I to judge a life? I have been with the bad and the good. I hold no verdict on the wrongs this man committed. Nor do I measure his virtues.
I do know a great deal about him: the spells he wove with his guitar, the crowds he enthralled with that deep, breathy voice.
The lives he changed with his six blue strings.
I could share all this.
Or I could rest.
I always make time to rest.
Do you think me coy? I am at times. I am also sweet and calming and dissonant and angry and difficult and simple, as soothing as poured sand, as piercing as a pinprick.
I am Music. And I am here for the soul of Frankie Presto. Not all of it. Just the rather large part he took from me when he came into this world. However well used, I am a loan, not a possession. You give me back upon departure.
I will gather up Frankie’s talent to spread on newborn souls. And I will do the same with yours one day. There is a reason you glance up when you first hear a melody, or tap your foot to the sound of a drum.
All humans are musical.
Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?”
The overarching idea of the book? “Everyone joins a band in this life. Only some of them play music.” And with that, Mitch Albom weaves his story into a manifesto of music, love, and purpose. What is the purpose? He ends with…
I am Music. And Music is in the connection of human souls, speaking a language that needs no words.
Everyone joins a band in this life. And what you play always affects someone.
Sometimes, it affects the world.
This book is a journey that will not be done justice by me describing it here. Read it for yourself, encourage your students to get lost in its pages, and remember that the way music works together is a glorious metaphor for understanding how lives work together and affect each other across time.
Throughout history, fiction has been used as a way to teach. Not only does Albom’s work have valuable life lessons embedded, but you/your students will also learn about music history in the process!
Have you read this book? I would love to hear what you think of it!