"You have to work at creating your own culture." -- Mitch Albom
Mitchel David "Mitch" Albom (born May 23, 1958) is an American best-selling author, journalist, screenwriter, dramatist, radio and television broadcaster and musician. His books have sold over 28 million copies worldwide. Having achieved national recognition for his sports writing in the earlier part of his career, he is perhaps best known now for the inspirational stories and themes that weave through his books, plays and films. He is also well-known for his philanthropic work in Detroit, Michigan where he founded four charities.
"If you're always battling against getting older, you're always going to be unhappy, because it's going to happen anyhow.""Love each other or die.""People are only mean when they're threatened, and that's what our culture does. That's what our economy does.""The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.""This is a story about a man named Eddie and it begins at the end, with Eddie dying in the sun.""You have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it.""You're not a wave, you're a part of the ocean."
Albom was born in Passaic, New Jersey and briefly lived in Buffalo, New York before moving back to New Jersey as a child, where he attended a synagogue led by Rabbi Albert L. Lewis, the subject of his book, Have a Little Faith. After attending high schools in New Jersey and Philadelphia, including Akiba Hebrew Academy in Lower Merion, Albom went on to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Pursuing his dream to become a musician, he worked after graduation for several years in nightclubs in the US and Europe. He discovered an aptitude for writing and eventually returned to graduate school, earning a Masters degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, followed by an MBA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.
In 1995, he married Janine Sabino.They live in suburban Detroit, Michigan. They currently have no children.
Albom’s original dream was to become a musician, and he played in numerous bands in high school and college. He studied jazz piano with several teachers, including a brief stretch with the well-respected Charlie Banacos at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1979, having graduated from college, Albom traveled to Europe and found work as a piano player and singer in a taverna on the island of Crete.
While living in New York, Albom developed an interest in journalism. Still supporting himself by working nights in the music industry, he began to write during the day for the Queens Tribune, a weekly newspaper based in Flushing, New York. To help build his portfolio, he wrote for local supermarket circulars. Sticking with it, his work there helped earn him entry into Columbia University's prestigious Graduate School of Journalism. During his time there, to help pay his tuition he took work as a babysitter. In addition to nighttime piano playing, Albom took a part-time job with SPORT magazine, which kindled his interest in sports writing. Upon graduation, he freelanced in that field for publications such as Sports Illustrated, GEO, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and covered several Olympic sports events in Europe — including track and field and luge ... paying his own way for travel, and selling articles once he was there. In 1983, he was hired as a full-time feature writer for The Fort Lauderdale News Sun Sentinel, and eventually promoted to columnist. In 1985, having won that year’s Associated Press Sports Editors award for best Sports News Story, Albom was hired as lead sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press to replace Mike Downey, a popular columnist who had taken a job with the Los Angeles Times.
Albom’s sports column became quickly popular with readers. In 1989, when the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News merged weekend publications under a Joint Operating Agreement, Albom was asked by his newspaper to add a weekly non-sports column to his duties. That column ran on Sundays in the “Comment” section, and dealt with American life and values. It was eventually syndicated across the country. Both columns continue today in the Detroit Free Press.
Albom, during his years in Detroit, became one of the most award-winning sports writers of his era; he was named best sports columnist in the nation a record 13 times by the Associated Press Sports Editors, and won best feature writing honors from that same organization a record seven times. No other writer has received the award more than once. He has won more than 200 other writing honors from organizations including the National Headliner Awards, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriting Association, and National Association of Black Journalists. On June 25, 2010, Albom was awarded the APSE's Red Smith Award for lifetime achievement, presented at the annual APSE convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. The selection was heavily criticized by a number of Albom's peers, including fellow Red Smith Award winner Dave Kindred. Many of his columns have been collected into anthology books including Live Albom I (Detroit Free Press, 1988), Live Albom II (Detroit Free Press, 1990), Live Albom III (Detroit Free Press, 1992), and Live Albom IV (Detroit Free Press, 1995).
Albom also serves as a contributing editor to Parade magazine.
Albom's first non-anthology book was Bo: Life, Laughs, and the Lessons of a College Football Legend (Warner Books), an autobiography of football coach Bo Schembechler co-written with the coach. The book was published in August, 1989 and became Albom's first New York Times bestseller.
Albom's next book was Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, The American Dream, a look into the starters on the University of Michigan men's basketball team that reached the NCAA championship game as freshmen in 1992 and again as sophomores in 1993. The book was published in November 1994 and also became a New York Times bestseller.
Tuesdays with Morrie
Albom’s breakthrough book came about after viewing Morrie Schwartz’s interview with Ted Koppel on ABC News Nightline in 1995, in which Schwartz, a sociology professor, spoke about living and dying with a terminal disease, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease). Albom, who had been close with Schwartz during his college years at Brandeis, reconnected with his former professor, visiting him in suburban Boston and eventually coming every Tuesday for discussions about life and death. Albom, seeking a way to pay for Schwartz’s medical bills, sought a publisher for a book about their visits. Although rejected by numerous publishing houses, the idea was accepted by Doubleday shortly before Schwartz’s death, and Albom was able to fulfill his wish to pay off Schwartz’s bills.
The book, Tuesdays with Morrie, was published in 1997, a small volume that chronicled Albom’s time spent with his professor. The initial printing was 20,000 copies. Word of mouth grew the book sales slowly, and a brief appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” nudged the book onto the New York Times bestseller’s list in October 1997. It steadily climbed, reaching the No. 1 position six months later. It remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 205 weeks. One of the top selling memoirs of all time, Tuesdays With Morrie has sold over 14 million copies and has been translated into 41 languages.
Oprah Winfrey produced a television movie adaptation by the same name for ABC, starring Hank Azaria as Albom and Jack Lemmon as Morrie. It was the most-watched TV movie of 1999 and won four Emmy Awards. A two-man theater play was later co-authored by Albom and playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, and opened off-Broadway in the fall of 2001, starring Alvin Epstein as Morrie and Jon Tenney as Mitch.
Tuesdays With Morrie is regularly taught in high schools and universities around the world and Albom started a private foundation with some of the proceeds, The Tuesdays With Mitch Foundation, to fund various charitable efforts.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven
After the success of Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom's next foray was in fiction. His follow-up book was The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Hyperion Books) published in September 2003. Although released six years after Tuesdays With Morrie, the book was a fast success and again launched Albom onto the New York Times best-seller list. The Five People You Meet in Heaven sold over 10 million copies in 38 territories and in 35 languages. In 2004, it was turned into a television movie for ABC, starring Jon Voight, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Imperioli and Jeff Daniels. Directed by Lloyd Kramer, the film was critically acclaimed and the most watched TV movie of the year, with 18.6 million viewers.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven is the story of Eddie, a wounded war veteran who lives what he believes is an uninspired and lonely life fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, Eddie is killed while trying to save a little girl from a falling ride. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a location but a place in which your life is explained to you by five people who were in it who affected, or were affected by, your life.
Albom has said the book was inspired by his real life uncle, Eddie Beitchman, who, like the character, served during World War II in the Philippines, and died when he was 83. Eddie told Albom, as a child, about a time he was rushed to surgery and had a near-death experience, his soul floating above the bed. There, Eddie said, he saw all his dead relatives waiting for him at the edge of the bed. Although the real Eddie survived the surgery, Albom has said that image of people waiting when you die inspired his concept of The Five People You Meet in Heaven
For One More Day
Albom's second novel, For One More Day (Hyperion), was published in 2006. The hardcover edition spent nine months on the New York Times Bestseller list after debuting at the top spot. It also reached No. 1 on USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. It was the first book to be sold by Starbucks in the launch of the Book Break Program in the fall of 2006. It has been translated into 26 languages. On December 9, 2007, the ABC aired the 2-hour television event motion picture "Mitch Albom's For One More Day," which starred Michael Imperioli and Ellen Burstyn. Burstyn received a Screen Actors’ Guild award nomination for her role as Posey Benetto.
For One More Day is about a son who gets to spend a day with his mother who died eight years earlier. Charley “Chick” Benetto is a retired baseball player who, facing the pain of unrealized dreams, alcoholism, divorce, and an estrangement from his grown daughter, returns to his childhood home and attempts suicide. There he meets his long dead mother, who welcomes him as if nothing ever happened. The book explores the question, “What would you do if you had one more day with someone you’ve lost?”
Albom has said his relationship with his own mother was largely behind the story of that book, and that several incidents in For One More Day are actual events from his childhood.
Have a Little Faith
Have a Little Faith, which was Albom's first nonfiction book since Tuesdays With Morrie, was released on September 29, 2009 through Hyperion publishing, recounts Albom's experience writing the eulogy for Albert L. Lewis, a Rabbi from his hometown in New Jersey. The book is written in the same vein as Tuesdays With Morrie, in which the main character, Mitch, goes through several heartfelt conversations with the Rabbi in order to better know and understand the man that he would one day eulogize. Through this experience, Albom writes, his own sense of faith was reawakened, leading him to make contact with Henry Covington, the African-American pastor of the I Am My Brother's Keeper church, in Detroit, where Albom was then living. Covington, a past drug addict, dealer, and ex-convict, ministered to a congregation of largely homeless men and women in a church so poor that the roof leaked when it rained. From his relationships with these two very different men of faith, Albom writes about the difference faith can make in the world.
Albom began on radio in 1987 on WLLZ-Detroit, a now-defunct classic rock radio station. He worked on the station’s morning program as a sports commentator, and started a Sunday night sports-talk program, The Sunday Sports Albom in 1988, believed to be one of the first sports talk shows to ever air on FM radio.
In 1996, Albom moved to WJR, a powerful, 50,000 watt clear-channel AM station in Detroit. His five-day a week program is a general talk show with an emphasis on entertainment, writing, current events and culture. He has been honored numerous times by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters as the top afternoon talk show host, and was voted best talk show host in Detroit by Hour Detroit magazine. In 2001, the show was televised nationally in a simulcast by MSNBC. Albom continues to do the show from 5 to 7 p.m. ET.
Albom appears regularly on ESPN's The Sports Reporters (airs Sunday mornings from the ESPN Zone in Times Square at 10 a.m. ET) and SportsCenter. He has also made appearances on Costas Now, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Larry King Live, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and most recently appeared as a guest voice on "The Simpsons" on the episode Thursdays with Abie.
On November 19, 2002, the stage version of Tuesdays with Morrie opened off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre. Co-authored by Mitch Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher (Three Viewings) and directed by David Esbjornson (The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?). Tuesdays with Morrie starred Alvin Epstein (original Lucky in Waiting for Godot) as Morrie and Jon Tenney (The Heiress) as Mitch.
Albom’s follow up to the stage adaptation of Tuesdays were two original comedies that premiered at The Purple Rose Theater, in Chelsea, Michigan, a theater started by actor Jeff Daniels. Duck Hunter Shoots Angel (The Purple Rose’s highest grossing play as of 2008) and And the Winner Is have both been produced nationwide, with the latter having its West Coast premiere at the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, California.
Albom is an accomplished songwriter and lyricist. In 1992, he wrote the song "Cookin' For Two" for a television movie, Christmas in Connecticut, directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The song was nominated for The CableACE Award. He also wrote the song "Hit Somebody (The Hockey Song)", which was recorded by singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, with David Letterman on backup vocals. The song was released as a single in Canada and will be adapted into a film by director Kevin Smith, which Albom is co-writing. He currently performs with the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band of writers that also features Dave Barry, Stephen King, Ridley Pearson, Amy Tan, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, Sam Barry , and Scott Turow. Their performances raise funds for various children’s literacy projects across the country.
"The Dream Fund," established in 1989, provides scholarship for disadvantaged children to study the arts.
A Time to Help
In 1998, Albom started a Detroit volunteer group called "A Time to Help". Every month, the group (affiliated with Volunteer Impact) does a project to help serve and improve the Detroit community. Projects have included work at homeless shelters, food banks, senior citizens homes, and a school for the underprivileged or handicapped. Albom and radio co-host Ken Brown lead each project and try to use the group as a catalyst to increase volunteerism.
S.A.Y. (Super All Year) Detroit is an umbrella program that funds shelters and cares for the homeless. It began in 2006 in reaction to the city’s plan to provide temporary shelter for Detroit’s homeless only during Super Bowl XL weekend. Albom spent a night in a shelter to call attention to the issue, and as a result was able to raise over $350,000 in less than two weeks. It is now a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that funds numerous homeless shelters throughout the Metro Detroit area.
A Hole in the Roof Foundation
His most recent effort, A Hole in the Roof Foundation, helps faith groups of every denomination who care for the homeless repair the spaces in which they carry out their work. The seed that gave root to the Foundation — and also inspired its name...was the hole in the roof of the I Am My Brother's Keeper church in inner-city Detroit, written about in Have a Little Faith.
A Hole in the Roof Foundation raises and distributes funds to help pay for the materials and labor that are needed to help faith groups make such repairs to their most essential infrastructure: replacing broken windows; shoring up load-bearing walls or loose foundations; repairing leaks and other plumbing problems; fixing or replacing heating sources. Their first project was the I Am My Brother’s Keeper roof in the crumbling but vibrant Detroit church, completed in December 2009. The second project, completed in April 2010, was the rebuilding of the Caring and Sharing Mission and Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
In the mid-1990s, during a hotly-contested strike at the Detroit Free Press that gained national attention, Albom crossed the picket line and returned to work.
In 1999, Albom was named National Hospice Organization's Man of the Year.
In 2000, at the Emmy Awards, Albom was personally thanked by actor Jack Lemmon during his acceptance speech for his Emmy for Best Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries for Tuesdays With Morrie. It would be Lemmon’s last major acting role.
In February 2003, Albom was called to testify at Chris Webber's perjury trial. Webber had been a member of the University of Michigan's basketball teams of the early 1990s. He was a member of the "Fab Five" players, the subject of a book by Albom. Webber and three other Wolverines who played in the 1990s were alleged to have received over $290,000 in improper loans from a man considered to be a booster of the University of Michigan, although amounts were never verified. The four other Fab Five members were not implicated and the school was cleared of any direct involvement or knowledge of the loans, which were made to players and their families.
In 2005, Albom and four editors were briefly suspended from the Detroit Free Press after Albom filed a column that stated two college basketball players were in the crowd at an NCAA tournament game, when in fact they were not. In a column printed in the Sunday, April 3, Albom described two former Michigan State basketball players, both now in the NBA, attending an NCAA Final Four semifinal game on Saturday to cheer for their school. The players had told Albom they planned to attend, so Albom, filing on his normal Friday deadline but knowing the column could not come out until Sunday — after the game was over - wrote the players were there. The Detroit Free Press also suspended the four editors who had read the column and allowed it to go through to print. But the players' plans changed at the last minute and they did not attend the game. Albom was in attendance at the game, but the columnist failed to check on the two players’ presence.
On November 22, 2005, Albom was the sole and final guest on Ted Koppel's farewell appearance on ABC’s Nightline. Koppel had gotten to know Albom through his broadcasts with Morrie Schwartz and the final program dealt with the legacy of those shows and Albom’s book.
In October, 2006, Albom’s third novel, For One More Day was chosen as the first book to be sold in Starbucks. At Albom’s request, one dollar from each book went to Jumpstart, a charity created to aid literacy in underprivileged areas. On a single day, October 26, as part of the promotion, customer-led book discussions were held in stores in 25 major markets, and Albom spoke, via phone, with all of them.
On October 22, 2007, Albom appeared with former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Tony Bennett in “An Evening with Tony Bennett” to honor the release of Bennett’s Tony Bennett In The Studio: A Life of Art and Music, for which Albom wrote the foreword. The event was held at the Barnes & Noble Store in Union Square, New York
On May 30, 2008, Albom delivered the commencement address at his nephew’s high school graduation in Nice, France. In July of that year, Amazon released the speech exclusively on Amazon Kindle. Albom’s shares of the proceeds were donated to his charity for the homeless, S.A.Y. Detroit.
In July 2010 Jason Whitlock wrote an article that was highly critical calling him Myth Albom. Albom has yet to respond.