Richard Thompson: The Biography

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9780028647524: Richard Thompson: The Biography

Category: Music / Rock n Roll / BiographyThe first biography of the great singer-songwriter For such a monumentally talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Richard Thompson has lived a remarkably undocumented life . . . until now. Written with Thompsons full cooperation, this biography reveals the stories behind the lyrics of one of the most critically acclaimed musicians recording today. Thompson has a large and devoted fan club; a tribute album featuring REM, Los Lobos, and Bonnie Raitt; an album listed on Rolling Stones Top 10 of the 1980s; a critically acclaimed new album (1996s you? me? us?) and 1996 United States tour; and now, finally, a biography.Patrick Humphries has written a number of books on folk-rock music, including biographies of Simon & Garfunkel and of Bob Dylan.

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Review:

After 30 years of recording and performing, Richard Thompson remains the nightmare of every marketing department: he is an obvious genius who simply can't be slipped past the radar of the mainstream audience. Thompson himself seems nonplussed. He continues to write marvelously mordant songs, and to wring his own brand of Celtic angst from the electric guitar. Meanwhile, the journalist Patrick Humphries has taken on the Boswell role, taping hours of interviews and running down all the requisite sources. The result is this lively Life of Thompson, which includes an airtight discography and some goofy photos that only a fearless man would allow to be published.

From Kirkus Reviews:

This biography of the quintessential ``musicians' musician'' by Englishman Humphries (Small Change: A Life of Tom Waits, 1990, etc.) is too much the work of a music critic and too little the work of an accomplished biographer. Humphries's legwork is admirable, as he compiles interviews with virtually every family member, bandmate, and collaborator Thompson has acquired over the years; providing crucial material is folkie Loudon Wainwright III. However, the result works better as an oral history of Thompson's career than as the story of his life. Given extremely short shrift are the tragedies surrounding his first band, Fairport Convention; his five children (their births are most often mentioned in passing); and his problematic first marriage. Instead, the only primarily nonmusical aspect of Thompson's life covered--his 1970s conversion to Islam--is given play to the point of offense, with Humphries feeding the all-too-common Western view of the Muslim faith by comparing Thompson's moderate opinion of the Salman Rushdie affair with that of Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Stevens). Erroneously fancying himself a historian, Humphries blames the Iranian hostage crisis on Ronald Reagan, who was not president when the crisis began, and then pontificates on Rushdie's fate: ``For over six years . . . Rushdie has had to live under the threat of death. . . . And that, to me, is another blasphemy.'' Indeed, for a biographer, Humphries lapses too often into the first person; the final fifth of the book consists of his personal impressions of his subject's most recent tours and releases. While this helps the reader to get a complete view of Thompson the musician, Thompson the man remains an enigma. Unable to keep his critical eye in soft focus, Humphries finally offers a work that could as easily be produced by stitching together a dozen record reviews and a Rolling Stone interview. (30 photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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