October 22, 2018

One song defines the tempestuous musical times of John Fogerty. Not Proud Mary, Bad Moon Rising or Born On The Bayou, outstanding rock songs though they are. Fogerty, the creative force behind Creedence Clearwater Revival and rasping voice of swamp rock, chose Fortunate Son as the title for his acclaimed 2015 memoir not just because it is a memorable composition but for the impact its reception had on his life.

Fortunate Son was written as an anti-Vietnam war song and there was trepidation w...

August 11, 2018

This summer I swam in the ocean 

And I swam in a swimming pool 

Salt my wounds, chlorine my eyes 

I’m a self-destructive fool 

The wonderfully whimsical work of Loudon Wainwright III began to infiltrate my consciousness in the mid-70s during repeated listenings to the magical debut album of The McGarrigle Sisters, Kate and Anna. The Canadians covered one of Wainwright’s compositions, The Swimming Song, on that record, and its warm simplicity and gentle irony, as well as the beauty of banjo and accor...

November 20, 2017

Bob Dylan’s prolific songwriting was always bound to have an impact on Robbie Robertson. As the lead guitarist in Dylan’s touring band, The Band, recalls in his riveting, revealing 2016 autobiography, Testimony, the great man could never be distracted from his muse.

‘I hung out with him sometimes at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, watching him pound away on his typewriter into the night. Bob wasn’t someone who went off into a corner to seclude himself during his creative process. He did it right i...

July 8, 2017

Shawn Colvin named her 2012 memoir after one of two songs that had persuaded her she could fulfil her ambition of becoming a successful songwriter. Diamond In The Rough was the title of that painfully honest autobiography but it could easily have been called Shotgun Down The Avalanche, a moving account of a relationship
in meltdown.

The relationship in question was with the guitarist and producer John Leventhal, now making marvellous music with his wife Rosanne Cash. Some of Colvin’s finest songs...

January 24, 2017

Johnny Cash was not alive to see the product of the legacy he had bequeathed his eldest daughter Rosanne. The List was the title of Rosanne Cash’s album of covers in 2009, a tribute to her father and the treasured songs he had recommended to her.
 
This is the most disarming of memoirs, as beautifully written as her finest songs but desolate and heartbreaking at times. How she managed to balance the benefits and burdens of being who she is and reluctantly following in Johnny’s giant footsteps ma...

January 21, 2017

Has there ever been a musical autobiography so riven with guilt and self-reproach as this? Despite examples of evasion about certain episodes of his life, the former Declan Patrick MacManus, now 62, is disarmingly honest and courageous in confronting his weaknesses, from the Attractions to the distractions, from angry young man to elder statesman.

The celebrated wordsmith can be as cryptic as his lyrics and there is a certain forgivable self-regard amid the hero worship through all the collaborat...

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