Posts Tagged ‘Autobiographies’

Be My Baby by Ronnie Spector with Vince Waldron. Pub. MacMillan 2022.

January 11, 2023 Comments off

The history of Rock ‘n roll is a gateway into how society has changed over the years. This autobiography of Ronnie Spector not only tells her story and that of the Ronettes but throws light on what was happening in society especially the civil rights movement from the early 1960’s onwards. It also tells the story of one of the greatest rock ‘n roll songs ever Be my Baby.

Ronnie Bennett was born of Afro Cherokee mother and white European father and grew up in Spanish Harlem New York a mixed race community and home of the great Apollo Theatre. She was neither black nor white and struggled with this in the early part of her life but all barriers break down when it comes to music.

She formed a group with her sister Estelle and her cousin Nedra and they watched American Bandstand in the morning and practiced routines and harmonies with all the popular songs. Her first influence was Frankie Lymon a 13 year old singer whose hit was “Why do fools Fall in Love” a great song. They got their first job as dancers and backing singers with Joey Dee and The Starlighters at the Pepperment Lounge in New York and Miami and after an unsuccessful attempt at fame contacted the man she was to marry Phil Spector.

The profile of Phil Spector is one of the highlights of this book and you will have to read it yourself if you want to know more and if I were you I would do it. It does discuss the “wall of Sound” technique developed by Spector and it’s influence on rock music.

It is written in easy style and you can flow through it with ease. At the back is a timeline and a discography and there are photographs as well.

There is more to the book than that as Ronnie bedded a number of high profile artists as you would guess and there is the music. Suitable for anyone with an interest in rock ‘n roll and the social development that resulted from it.

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Adapted for young Readers. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2021.

April 3, 2021 Comments off

The most fascinating and readable autobiography I have read for some time. The cover says it has been adapted for young readers but I couldn’t see what Michelle had left out. The woman with the dazzling smile, with the too lovely daughters who stood beside Obama when president of USA, sweeps you off your feet in this extraordinary book.

The book is in four parts the first is Becoming Me and tells of her schooling and College until she met Barack Obama. Born Michelle Robinson in South Chicago in an area that experienced whit flight as the Black population slowly moved in. It was a rough area and Michelle and her brother Craig with their parents lived in an upstairs apartment above a stern woman who taught piano. Michelle learnt piano and went to schools that were mainly coloured students.

She learnt how connections and privilege gave some people an advantage over others which she accepted. She spoke very correct English and was taunted by her fellow students ” how come you speak like a white girl”? She was seen as uppity and betraying her black Culture.

She followed her basketball scholarship brother Craig to Princeton in the 1980’s a place she saw as “extremely white and very Male”. She stuck to what she knew and had few white friends. When she left with her degree she studied law and got a position in a Chicago law firm and met Barack when she was assigned the job of mentoring him.

Part 2 is titled becoming Us in which she gets to know Barack, forms a relationship with him, marriage two daughters Malia and Sacha as well as developing a career involving social and political work plus motherhood. She saw that Barack was a deep thinker, heavy reader and had a version of hope that extended beyond hers. He wouldn’t settle for the World as it was, he wanted it as it should be.

Politically the path of the future was laid with the election of bill Clinton as President when she was involved in encouraging the black voters to vote which ensured Clinton’s win. The road was set for Obama’s run for president.

Michelle and Barack married in style with a Stevie Wonder song You and I We can conquer the world.

As Barack’s political aspirations bore fruit Michelle was left as a working mother bringing up her daughters with

Barack largely absent. She gave him the space to forge his career. She witnessed the dirty right wing lies that mar any election and the racism that a black man running for election brings. Obama had to receive the earliest protection any presidential candidate has ever had.

Becoming More is part 3 and covers Obama’s election, inauguration and move into the White House that makes fascinating and compelling reading but I will let you the reader find this out for yourself.

Michelle Obama is a talented writer. She is clear concise and bloody interesting. You will not read a better autobiography than this.

Blowing the Bloody Doors Off and Other lessons in Life by Michael Caine.

May 10, 2020 Comments off

blowingBlowing the Bloody Doors Off and Other lessons in Life by Michael Caine. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton 2018.

The best autobiography of a celebrity that I have read.

Born in Elephant & Castle in South London he became one of the most celebrated actors of our time and he is still working in his 80’s.

This book is really a handbook on how to be an actor. Being an actor is a combination of professionalism and courtesy. Preparation is the key, learn your lines until they are natural and you can relax. When you go on set be ready to go. Always be on time and if you think it is tough at the top you have never been at the bottom or have forgotten what it is like. Rehearsal is the work, the performance is the relaxation.

His favourite director was Lewis Gilbert who directed him in Alfie and Educating Rita but he learnt from every director he worked with good and bad. I am not going to tell you too much more except to give a few quotes from the book that will whet your appetite.

On an enforced retirement to Maimi in the 90’s he said  “however happy I kidded myself I was, I was never going to be happier than when I was making a film”

On opening Langan’s Brasserie he said “if ever I saw a waiter looking at their watch in front of customers they would be fired immediately”

On drugs -A friend gave some marijuana and I laughed for 5 hours. I knew that it affected memory and I had lines to learn I never touched it again”

On Richard Burton  -Richard was always very pleasant to me when he was sober but that was almost never”

Shelly Winters who starred in Alfie with him said this -I always like to screw the leading man on the first day. It gets it out of the way”

Michael Caine never runs anybody down he wanted people he worked with to want to work with him again. He talks well of his beautiful wife Shakira and said she only was attracted to him because of the way he treated his mother.

Not many people know that.

Sweet Dreams are Made of This. A life in Music by Dave Stewart.

January 2, 2020 Comments off

sweet dreamsSweet Dreams are Made of This. A life in Music by Dave Stewart. Pub. New American Library, 2016.

I have read many books about Rock n roll music and the people that created it. One of the things that has always astounded me is that the music world is one big family. They all know each other and these relationships can be sustaining and toxic at the same time.

Dave Stewart is from Sunderland a town mad about football and filled with people who have one of the best accents in the world. they all sound immensely funny to me and I think it was this that endeared Dave Stewart to so many people. He could make them laugh and feel comfortable and make the task of song writing, producing and performing fun.

In this book he tells of his life and the personalities he met and it is a bio. of my favourite 80’s band The Eurythmics. Experimenting was always at the heart of the Eurythmics work. They had the courage to break rules and make something different. All their albums starting with Sweet Dreams were an experiment and this is what attracted other artists including Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Katy Perry and others to Dave Stewart’s door.

The strength of this book is it is all about the music. How the songs were written and produced. Dave Stewart’s big break came when he met Scottish lass Annie Lennox who has one of the most astonishing singing voices the world has ever heard. Their relationship was stormy but the music always came first. They wrote about their relationships and turned out some of the most astonishing songs in rock n roll – Here Comes the Rain Again, Love is a Stranger and others.

Stewart talks of all his wives and their children with great affection and the drug fueled world that he existed in. It will blow your mind.

I loved this book from start to finish and you will too. Just one little gem from the book- he co-wrote Don’t Come Around here No More with Tom Petty and directed and features in the Alice in Wonderland video that went with the song.

Mick Jagger writes the Foreword and he says “we’ve shared a love of beautiful women, blues music, films storytelling and the Caribbean”. You’re not wrong Mick.

Thanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite. My Story by Roger Daltrey

March 5, 2019 Comments off

daltryThanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite. My Story by Roger Daltrey. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2018.

Pete Townsend once described The Who as “four people who should never have been in a band together”. In this autobiography Roger Daltrey goes out to prove how wrong this statement is, in a most literary manner.

For Daltrey the arguments, fights and friction gave the music of The Who, energy and vitality, something they fought about through their whole history. He portrays Pete Townsend as a brilliant but tortured composer whose music was at the heart of The Who.

Daltrey pulls no punches as he talks about the drugs, the girls, the TV sets out the window, the cars in the swimming pool, the touring, the death of Keith Moon and John Entwistle, Pete’s arrest for alleged child pornography(of which he was innocent), everything.

But more than that he gives a brilliant portrait of post war Britain and the rise of teenagers as a market force in the 60’s and 70’s.

One thing I will always remember from this book is how he describes the demise of singing at every level of society even in our education system. After the war people sang at parties, they sang at work, they sang in schools, they sang at home, they whistled as they walked down the street. Music was everywhere. It stemmed from keeping the morale up in war time and boy could we use some of it today. Nobody sings anymore. If you do they raise their eyes above the level of their cell phones and tut tut.

Thanks Roger for reminding me of where I came from and for a brilliant book.

If you are a rock fan, get a hold of this book it is classic rock history. And then there is Mr Kibblewhite. Who is he? Who are you?

Eric always look on the bright side of life Idle a sortabiography by Eric Idle.

February 26, 2019 Comments off

IdleEric always look on the bright side of life Idle a sortabiography by Eric Idle. Pub. weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018.

Life has a simple plot, First you’re here, And then you’re not. These lines start this incredible autobiography by a man who in my opinion ranks alongside Spike Milligan and Eric Morecombe as the funniest man I ever came across. Well not across exactly but we did live on the same planet.

Son of a RAF pilot who was squashed to death hitchhiking home after the War and brought up in an orphanage, he rose to become  a brilliant comedian with Monty Python and was a very good musician as well. He was the man that added Monty to the title while John Cleese added the word Python

This is his life without the shameful bits and on his wife’s instructions the grubby bits but it has everything else. His relationship with the other Pythons, with people like George Harrison, all the Python shows and films and  a record of  60’s television history.

It is full of brilliant quotes such as his own “men have a brain and a penis but only enough blood to feed one at a time” Think about it.

From George Harrison there is “If we had known we were going to be The Beatles we would have tried harder”

Eric Idle is a man who opposed Brexit and to my great envy stood on the terraces at Wembley with Bill Oddie to see England win the World cup in 1966. It will never happen again.

The rest you can find out for your self but remember “always look on the bright side of life”

Pele. The Autobiography.

September 23, 2017 Comments off

pele.jpgPele. The Autobiography. Pub. Pocket books, 2007.

No other footballer has commanded the respect and adulation that Pele has yet he is the most humble of characters and enjoyed an almost injury free career. He played at four World Cups, scored 1283 goals and played for Santos, Brazil and New York Cosmos.

He worked for player rights in Brazil, married twice and sired seven children. He was World Ambassador for the United Nations, took the “beautiful game” (a phrase he coined) to America and the man who had Mohammed Ali say when they met “two legends together”.

How did he do all that from the slums of Bauru in Central west Brazil? Well read it and find out, it is riveting.

He was a deeply religious man but erroneously attributed his skills to god at a time when everything a young man wanted to do was considered a sin. It was practice, dedication and a strong body that made him a good footballer. He was only 5ft 9 inches tall but astonishingly good in the air. He mastered the art of keeping the ball under control close to his body and was very fast.

About his footballing ability he said this “people assume that because I scored so many goals that I was an out and out striker. But  I never was. I was an attacking mid fielder, a deep lying centre forward”. He also has some advice about the media -“before a game never read the newspaper or listen to the radio and TV”

An entertaining read that is his own story. When he met and played against George Best as the king of football, Best said to him “what kind of king are you? you don’t smoke or drink”. Well Pele is still alive. I saw him play once and he scored for Santos against Fulham at Craven Cottage but they lost 2-1. The great Bobby Moore also played.

My Autobiography Humble Pie by Gordon Ramsay

September 15, 2016 Comments off

humble-pieMy Autobiography Humble Pie by Gordon Ramsay. Pub. HarperCollins, 2007.

I was never a fan of this famous  chef and even less a fan of cooking shows, until I read this book. Ramsay tells it like it is in his rambunctious way explaining all his actions and attitudes, not because he had too but because it happened.

He loved his mother but his father could be called a selfish cruel bastard who caused grief for every member of his family especially Ramsay’s two sisters and younger brother Ronnie. They all suffered worse than he did because Ramsay would not be conquered by it. Sure he wanted his father’s love but his father was unable to give it.

Ramsay at an early age decided he was going to work hard and in cooking he found something to love, cherish and do well. And hasn’t he done this well?

His tough upbringing greatly affected his attitudes to cooking and the heated environment of the kitchen. He had no time for anyone who was slack and didn’t have the respect for good food that he did.

Cooking wasn’t his first love. Football was and we read of his career with Glasgow Rangers. He was a Scottish boy who lived in England and developed an English accent. In Scotland that was a recipe for getting done.

We have chapters on his family life, his early training as a chef under arch enemy Marco Pierre White, his TV career and his rise to the top in matters culinary and his Michelin Stars.

A rollicking read spoken in provocative language and always interesting. I loved the man.



Categories: Young Adult Tags: ,

Teddy One-Eye. The autobiography of a Teddy Bear by Gavin Bishop.

September 30, 2014 Comments off

teddy one-eyeTeddy One-Eye. The autobiography of a Teddy Bear by Gavin Bishop. Pub. Random House, 2014.

When you pick up this solid little book you know Gavin Bishop is saying ” come on in. make yourselves at home”. We had a hint that Gavin could write a book like this after Piano Rock but in this novel he has taken it to a new level. It is quite simply superb!

Teddy One -Eye starts off as a bear to Boy in 1950. Given to Boy by his grandmother in Invercargill he shares Boy’s early years in Kingston and later becomes companion to BB, Boy’s younger brother. Teddy becomes tattered and torn as a result of his adventures with both boys, loses an eye and is stitched together numerous times.

He is discarded between 1957 -1972 in the Wardrobe years but resurfaces as a girl bear to Boy’s three little girls. Then again is put in the Back Bedroom between 1986-1996 and again imprisoned in the Basement until 2011 before making a glorious and revealing comeback.

Each of these eras has its own culture and ways of dealing with life and Gavin Bishop tells it superbly. Baby Boomers will love the 1957-1972 period and the values, environment and life styles that were created by their parents. I was awoken by the use of the word “piece” which my parents and I often used to described a small snack usually a sandwich.

As an excellent artist Gavin Bishop illustrates the passage of time with  simple colourful drawings of transportation and houses in which are implanted dates of significance to a changing world and of Bishops own life. Did you know when the first supermarket opened in New Zealand? Read the book and find out.

Naturally the book is autobiographical. The title tells you that and what a fantastic way to tell it.

This novel is for everyone. Grand parents should read it to their grand children and parents read it because it is wonderful. If you can get it off your children.

The ending may seem a bit surreal but believe me their is a surprise for you and for Teddy One -Eye. Do yourself a favour and read it.