Do you ever get into a reading rut? That is, you read a lot of books of the same (fancy college word in THREE...TWO...ONE) genre?
Several years back, I got into the rut of reading every book that came out about Abraham Lincoln. One book, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, makes you seem really smart when you tell people you have read it. This is because the only time we see Doris Kearns Goodwin is when she's on Meet The Press. However, in the History Major world, Goodwin is a star because she is a History Major making money in something close to her major. And, to be fair, at one time Doris was a total babe.
Lately, I've gotten into reading the ANCIENT ROCK STAR AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
There was a time in the history of Rock and Roll when the idea of 70-year-old rock stars would have been unthinkable. Rock was Young and it was Youth and it said the things the Young Youths were saying.
Then, a lot of rock stars died of various drug reasons like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin, all of whom are still making truck loads of money.
But Rock has aged and a lot of the stars from the late 60's and early 70's are in their late sixties and seventies. They have decided to tell their stories if they can remember them.
My first book was Fortunate Son by John Fogerty. Fogerty was the leader of the band Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). CCR had about 400 hits in the late 60's-early 70's. 359 of those hits were about 2:50 minutes long and very catchy. The rest was your typical Jam-Band covers that lasted for a couple of days. (CCR's version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"* lasts a couple of months.)
Fogerty left a good job in the city and wrote "Proud Mary", which keeps on turning and burning. I'm not sure who or what "Proud Mary" is but it keeps rolling down the river.
Most memoirs are about getting back at your enemies and Fogerty has a couple. One is Saul Zaentz, who ran Fantasy Records that signed CCR and stuck them with this awful publishing contract which meant Saul made a lot of money off of CCR. Which did not make Fogerty happy and he spent a good part of 40 years suing Saul and Fantasy.
Fogerty has a couple of other enemies: the rest of CCR, which included his brother. None of this is very pleasant. If you ever think there is going to be a CCR reunion, it would be as likely as President Trump giving up Tweeting. It is not going to happen.
The next book was Testimony by Robbie Robertson. Robertson was the leader of the band called "The Band". The Band was Bob Dylan's band when he toured England on his "electric" tour (1966). He had them follow him to Woodstock, New York where they made The Basement Tapes. The Band soon signed to their own record deal.
They also starred in a movie called "The Last Waltz", which was the last concert they gave as The Band. Sort of. Actually, it was the last concert of The Band with Robbie Robertson.
Robertson had moved out to Malibu by the mid-70's and started hanging around Hollywood. He got tired of the rock life style and decided to lean back and watch his money multiply.
Robertson drops a lot of names in this book. He says they met Sonny Boy Williamson. That may not impress you, but it impressed me. Of course, he talks about Dylan a lot. Robertson's Dylan seems like a regular person, not the Weirdo Bob we are all used to. Carly Simon shows up. So does Dyan Cannon. Burt Lancaster lived down the street in Malibu.
One name that popped up from time to time was Conway Twitty. Really.
The bad guy in Robertson's book is Levon Helm, who took drugs in what pharmacists call "Keith Richards Amounts". This really surprised me but I'm not sure if this isn't Robertson's way of getting back at Helm because Robertson was the bad guy in Helm's Ancient Rock Star Autobiography. Rock and Roll never forgets.
The last Ancient Rock Star Autobiography I am reading is Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen.
One thing about this book: it sounds like Bruce Springsteen. You can hear his voice and almost see the expressions on his face as you read it.
Springsteen is probably the best "performer" of the bunch and he is still out there pounding away doing three hour shows. The most interesting part of the book is the "before fame" section, which is about how he meets Clarence, Miami Steve, and all the rest.
He's open about his failings. He gets a little preachy and political. Interestingly enough, he didn't take drugs and he didn't get his driver's license until he was in his twenties.
One thing that unites all of the books is that all three men are family men. All three are married and have children. Springsteen's descriptions of his family life make it sound like he is the manager of Springsteen's Goodyear Tire Store rather than "The Boss".
If you love rock music, the real kind, you should read these books. Springsteen's is a pretty big book, but it is a quick read. Robertson's ends in 1976 at The Last Waltz and he doesn't think you'd be interested in the past forty years. Fogerty's is the slightest but in many ways the most honest.
But they all give you pretty good insight into the music that was a part of our lives. At least, for us old folks. Sweet sixteen has turned sixty-one.
* Of course, Fogerty sings " Ah Hurd It Through The Grapevine". Fogerty admits his unique pronunciations on the records is because he was trying to imitate blues singers he likes.