The Band That Played On

Written by Steve Turner
Review by Tamela McCann

Love it or hate it, who can forget the scenes from the movie Titanic of the valiant musicians playing on deck as the liner sank? As a Titanic buff, the idea of these men spending their final moments attempting to give comfort amid chaos has always intrigued me. At last a new book has brought to light the lives and deaths of these dedicated men who bravely faced death as they had life: through music.

The Band That Played On showcases each of the eight musicians, giving what known details are available about their lives before being hired onto the Titanic as well as information about the night of the sinking. There is much debate among enthusiasts as to which musicians actually performed as the waters rose and which song was the last one played by the band, and Steve Turner explores this fully. Also included are details about what became of the musicians’ bodies and what the effect of their deaths was on their families. I was particularly fascinated by the tantalizing rumor of the survival of bandleader Wallace Hartley’s precious violin; the author promises to follow up on this possibility as the 100th anniversary of the sinking approaches.

This book is quite well written and illuminates the individual unsung heroes of the most famous band of the early 20th century. It’s obvious Turner has done extensive research, and his reverence for all things Titanic is evident as he gives us the still unbelievable story of the men who provided background music to the tragedy. Recommended reading for those especially who want a closer look at the true faces of courage aboard the Titanic.