Jim Tully In Book, Music & Film

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Immigrants have been our bete noire for decades, despite all they’ve done for us, so it seems a good time to salute a writer who celebrated the masses of immigrants of his day.
There’s an eponymous book about Jim Tully, written by Paul Bauer and Mark Dawidziak (with a forward by Ken Burns) that inspired a recent documentary about Tully. The audio contains music by my friend, Eric Taylor.
If you’re a writer, or appreciate writers such as John Steinbeck, check out the book. The documentary will likely be on a PBS station near you soon.

Here’s a link to YouTube and one of Eric’s songs about Tully:  http://youtu.be/o4-Z7rPcrqo

Visit my website here. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

Yes, It’s Me. But Who Am I?

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Yes, it’s me. But who am I?

This is a tandem question sure to amuse writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction. And not a few savvy readers will offer up a smile at this as well. I met a woman once who performed body massage work called Rolfing. She was also a decent folk singer and songwriter. Her avocation(s)? Sports and physics. Discovering all this about her, on one occasion I asked her, “Which of these is the real you?” Without batting an eye, she replied, “Oh, I enjoy all my personalities.”

I could identify with that. I worked as a structural engineer for quite a few years, meanwhile studying the philosophy of and testing my own theories of complex geometries. I’ve played guitar since the 1970s, written poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and edited the work of others in these three fields of creative writing. Not to mention an abiding interest in military history and politics.

Okay, I admit: this might sound like someone who should spend time on a shrink’s couch, or perhaps in the infamous rubber room. But the more I get to know people, the more I realize that when given the economic freedom to allow their minds to wander, virtually everyone has multiple-sided personalities. This, I think is why readers enjoy modern fiction, particularly, as well as biographies of and books of essays by popular personages. We’re all complex people, and we enjoy seeing the complexities in others.

When I first started writing fiction, I first wrote down lengthy, detailed descriptions of the characters who would people my stories. Soon I realized that bits and pieces of all of them were strands of my own personality. In fact, I began to see myself similarly to a piece of rope – you know, fibers twisted together into strands, and these strands twisted together into the rope itself. I saw my characters, then, as an un-twisting of the rope of my own personality only to discover characters hidden within.

Readers will pick up on a trait of a character here, another there, that belong to me, and remark something like this: “I get it, Bob! That Phil character in your book was really you.” This grates, I admit, because identifying Phil as me is only a (very) small part of the truth of either Phil or me.

Still, it’s simply astounding that people who read about Phil and understand that there is a connection, however tenuous, to me, recognize one of the personalities that are parts of my makeup.

Visit my website here. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

Guitar Hero Settles Down

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Clapton, The Autobiography, by Eric Clapton

This book wasn’t on my stack until Christmas Eve, when Bill Mattocks, blues harmonica player extraordinaire tossed it to me. End result? Having just read Keith Richards’ LIFE, reading this one was sort of like viewing seminal British blues rock through a stereoscope – certain things up front, others nudged into the background. So. To Eric:

The passage from childhood to guitar player to guitar god to family man to elder statesman of rock for Eric Clapton is eerily similar to that of Keith Richards (see last week’s post). This juxtaposition isn’t as odd as it might seem, though. Both grew up in lower middle class England, post-WWII, and their interest in guitar was, truly oddly, driven by abiding interests in the American blues. Clapton, as with Richards, found fame early, Clapton with  The Yardbirds. Clapton seems to have been swayed by fame more than his Rolling Stones counterpart, with Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominos all poised for R’n’R glory.

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Clapton, too, trifled with hard drugs, heroin taking his money and much of his creative energy until he switched to alcohol, which seemed to have had a stronger pull on him than heroin. Finally, after a couple of misfires, Clapton got sober, and has remained so. The following twenty years of his career have been spent largely in retrospective play, including a couple of solid blues albums and a pair of collaborations with J.J. Cale. Clapton now finds himself integrating family life with some four kids into his musical travels, and he seems happy in his sixties.

The writing here is rather prim, always measuring his words, choosing them cautiously, even in depicting the lowest points of his life. This makes a lot of it a rather boring read, leaving this reader feeling that he’s overly wary in unearthing his life away from the stage – or perhaps he’s avoiding some areas he doesn’t want in the light of day. It’s the sort of book you wouldn’t want to finish, once begun, if you aren’t interested in this key player in rock ’n’ roll history

My rating: 15 of 20 stars

Visit my website here. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

A Modern Minstrel

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Life, by Keith Richards (With James Fox)

I’ve always been fascinated with personalities – not the glamor flavor of the month, necessarily, but those who seem strong in personality, archetypes, if you will, of recurring personalities throughout history. After reading this rather long book, I have to admit that Keith Richards is one of these – the archetypal minstrel, the peripatetic sailor. One who shuns convention, not necessarily wishing to influence others with his lifestyle, but simply saying, “leave me alone, damn you, and let me live my life.” In a certain sense he’s a throwback – strongly individualistic, but he’s also a modern man whose life would likely have come to nothing were he not to have committed himself to a certain cooperative venture, in this case the Rolling Stones.

As with any autobiography, his is to an extent self-serving, puffing up what he sees as his virtues and downplaying his vices and weaknesses. Born in the last year of World War II to a lower middle class English family of Welsh extraction, Richard’s account has him bored with school, trifling with the law in rather non-threatening ways, hence an early rebel in the school of James Dean and Marlon Brando. He becomes fascinated with American blues and prototypical rockabilly music. The Stones set out initially to be the “best blues band in England,” but fortune smiles on them early. This early music is testimony to American blues and rhythm and blues, but success quickly turns their heads to prototypical rock, eventually a harder version of pop music – a genre they have remained within since.

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Richards doesn’t spare us his faults; he was addicted to heroin for a couple of decades. He doesn’t paint himself a victim, though. He imply says he used it to put distance between himself and the surrounding craziness, much of it his own making. If he has an agenda here it’s to portray his slow maturation to family life as rather inevitable, and to paint himself as the soulful anchor of the band.

There’s much more detail to his tale, though: the craziness, the arrests, the drugs, the band’s evolution, his growing apart from musical partner Mick Jagger. He writes as if holding court in a bar, a bottle of Jack Black in his hand. He’s angry in places, wryly funny in many, wistful at times, that unrestrained personality always at the fore. And he seems a rather intelligent bloke. The Stones have been tailing off for years as an influential musical force, but their fans remain legion, and I have no doubt a grander part of the reason for that is life, as lived by Keith Richards.

My rating 17 of 20 stars

Visit my website here. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.