In Conversation with Bob Geldof’s Drummer of 25 Years and Author of Timing Is Everything (a Memoir), Niall Power

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There aren’t many people who know me who don’t know how much I love Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats. Even though I’m not always up to date with the latest camp Geldof news, it’s a love that has lasted for 40 years. So, when Bob’s drummer of 25 years (for his solo career), Niall Power, wrote to me through Facebook to advise me of his story since their last Canadian tour, I was at first delighted and then saddened by the news of his retirement from drumming due to Parkinson’s disease. However, it didn’t take long to realize that this is a man who doesn’t let life get him down, which is evident upon reading Timing Is Everything, Niall’s inspiring memoir, published in 2017.

Niall, after reading your book, I was left with the impression that you consider yourself an ordinary man, perhaps quiet and shy, certainly easy-going, who just happened to have a passion for drumming. However, although you never had a plan for your music career, you ended up having quite an extraordinary experience as a session musician, playing for many bands, including Stepaside, Les Enfants, Ordinary Man, Eamonn Gibney, Westlife and most notably, Bob Geldof, with whom you performed for 25 years.

How does a musician get as far as you have in his career without a plan?

I can sum that up in one word, ‘Luck’.

I never set out to be a session drummer and end up playing with so many bands.
As a teenager in the early 1970s, my ambition was to form my own band with my friends, write our own songs and hopefully be the rock gods of the future, like our idols, Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple.

Niall Power 1960

Niall Power in 1960.

My dad was a soldier in the Curragh Camp, Co Kildare, and there were two army marching bands who paraded past our home on most days. I loved their drummers from an early age. There weren’t many teenagers playing musical instruments in the area, so it was always going to be difficult to finalize a lineup for the band.

I was playing the unfashionable accordion and wearing a kilt in the school band during

Niall Power in 1970 on left with accordion.

1970, on left, with accordion.

the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967. But as soon as I heard The Beatles on the radio, I realized then that I had to learn how to play another instrument to be in a rock band.  I chose the drums after seeing Mickey Dolenz, drummer with The Monkees on television, larking around and generally having fun.

After a few years of practice, much to the annoyance of the neighbors, I finally mastered the art of drumming and set out to join any band that would have me. I had no plan of action for how I was going to achieve this. My armory consisted of my dodgy first drum kit, long hair, a smile and buckets of enthusiasm for the task ahead.

For someone who clearly states in the preface of your book that you are not a writer, I congratulate you on the great achievement of having compiled your memoir, Timing Is Everything, which was written on an iPad with the index finger of your right hand! That, in itself, is a testament to your passion and determination to see a project through to its completion, and your resilience in the face of adversity. You are truly an inspiration, not just because of your drumming prowess, but because of the strength of your character.

I couldn’t help but notice your incredibly positive attitude about life in general and wondered to what would you attribute it?

My attitude to life has never changed from the outset.

I had a very safe and happy childhood and I seem to have kept that feeling with me throughout my musical career. My parents always encouraged me to follow my heart, even though they probably didn’t understand how you could possibly make a living from hitting things, whilst hoping I would come to my senses and get a proper job.  I don’t worry about stuff, including Parkinson’s. Above all, I love playing and creating music, just seeing people in the audience responding in kind to the noise that we make is good enough for me. Not many people get to live out their dreams every day…it’s been some trip.

“And what a drummer. Without question one of the best. I know from whence I speak. In the course of my 40 years playing rock ‘n’ roll, Niall Power is up there/alongside/on par with/equal to literally the Big Hitters. He’s a fucking amazing player.”

 

“Man he can sing.”

 

“He glued the band together. Everyone loved him. He was the spirit of the thing. The joy of it. The love of gigging. The fierce ecstasy of playing music…What a man to travel the world with for over 25 years. What a friend to share so much of your life with. The things we’ve done and seen and been together. He’ll remember. I won’t.” 

~ Bob Geldof, Introduction to Timing Is Everything

In the introduction of your book, written by Bob Geldof, he says that the tedium of touring never seemed to affect you. How was that possible? 

Sure, life on the road can be tedious at times. You’re living in a bubble with other musicians and roadies with deadlines to meet every day. Things can get a bit out of hand, tempers flare, we’d do a bad gig, one person thought the gig was great, the other five thought it was crap. Musicians live for the road and as much as I like travelling on the tour bus (your home away from home), it’s only okay for a few weeks. I loved waking up in a different country each day and going for a walk down the Champs Elysees in Paris after being in Amsterdam the previous night. But you also need to stop touring, stop moving at the speed of sound and be at home with your own family. I have always kept a low profile on the road and steered clear of any aggravation that may have been brewing from time to time. As our tour manager ‘The Mick’ (RIP) used to say, “we’re only up for the day.” 

You played with Bob for the Live 8 concert on 2 July 2005 which was undoubtedly one of, if not the biggest, career high of your life. I know that the experience must have been surreal, but what singular treasured memory do you take away from that event? 

I have many memories from that great day in July at Live 8.

The one that sticks in my mind the most is the fact that I had to play someone else’s drum kit without seeing it first. As I play left-handed, the kit was set up right-handed for the previous band’s drummer. So, I walked on stage in front of thousands of people in Hyde Park, live to the world on television, with no time to swap things around.

The song was ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ and was probably the only song that I could play with the kit being the wrong way around. There was also no vocal microphone, so I did the backing vocals, “tell me why”, into fresh air. You can view this video on YouTube.

It was amazing hanging out backstage with all the other acts including Beatle, Paul McCartney, who signed a copy of my Beatles White Album CD cover, which I just happened to have in my pocket. Timing is Everything! 

 

Do you know if Bob has any plans to record a new album? If so, will you be singing background vocals on it? 

As far as I know, The Boomtown Rats are due to release a new album in 2019.

There are no new recording plans for another Bob solo album this year. I would hope to make a cameo appearance on backing vocals, when and if the opportunity arises.

I cannot help but ask, is there anything you can tell Bob’s super fans about him that they wouldn’t already know? 

Niall Power and Bob Geldof

2011 London. Photo by Eddy Valdameri.

I don’t usually comment on Bob, but I will say it has been a great pleasure to have had the opportunity to keep the beat behind him for all those years. I never expected it to last more than one tour. A truly amazing time that I will remember forever. His most thoughtful words to me were when I was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He said, “You have a job for life in this band.” I replied, “What if I can’t drum?” He said, “We’ll find something for you to do,” so I ended up playing the spoons. 

Do you think that your remarkable memory is simply due to genetics or a result of years having to remember so many songs? 

I put the memory thing down to the fact that I loved every minute of being in a band. It’s not just the Geldof band, but all the bands that I’ve been involved with. I can recall the musicians, most of the songs and how to play them, the venues, the years, etc.; it just seems to stay with me.

Don’t ask me to add and subtract as that part of my memory is definitely missing. 

Have you ever researched whether spicy food such as the Indian curry you so love, may have a positive effect on your brain?

I never looked into the benefits of spicy food on the brain.

Many musicians have a fondness for Indian curry and while visiting a new town with the band, someone would always be on the lookout for the best Indian restaurant.
My DNA tells me that way back many centuries ago, my ancestors are likely to be of Middle Eastern origin, so that’s good enough for me.

I love that your favourite television program during the 1960s was The Monkees! I was born in 1964 but I also remember watching that show when I was a kid and loving it. Have you ever been able to play with Mickey Dolenz? Did you know that he and Mike Nesmith went back on tour last year as The Monkees Present: The Mike and Mickey Show before Nesmith had a quadruple bypass? It might not be too late for you to jam with them! 

Yeah, as mentioned previously, The Monkees were a big part of my musical influences. Every Saturday evening, they were featured on our RTE channel. We only had one TV station in the sixties and music programs were few and far between. It was always ballad singers or light entertainment TV shows with very little choice for young people. Radio was the only option to hear the pop tunes of the day like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. The Monkees were a breath of fresh air in a dull television schedule.

I met their drummer Mickey Dolenz in Nottingham, England in 1985 when he was working for a TV station. Charming man, and I told him how I would copy his drumming style with my air drumming in front of the television. He’s likely responsible for me being a left-handed drummer as he never seemed to set his kit up the same way twice. He wasn’t a drummer at all, just an actor who played drums in a TV show.

It would be cool to catch up with him again.

One of my favourite sections of your book was on the Thin White Duke. As a lifelong fan of David Bowie, your recollection of having once been his driver delighted me! Do you regret not telling him that you were Bob’s drummer? That was surely a big lesson that timing is everything!!

No, I don’t regret not telling David Bowie that I was a drummer. First rule of employment is that you do the job you were asked to do. My brief was that I wasn’t allowed to speak or ask questions unless I was spoken to. This is normal with celebrities and their hired drivers.

When the opportunity arose and I was just driving David on his own to rehearsal, we did have conversations about various things during the three weeks that I was his band’s driver. Anyway, he did find out that I was a drummer for Bob when both bands played at a concert in Paris a few weeks after my driving job finished.

He was a charming man and I’m so glad I was able to be that close to an icon of the music world.

Niall Power Dubai

Niall Power in Dubai. Photo by Mark Cowne.

Your book contains a very matter of fact outline of your career as a session drummer who travelled the world with many bands, but I noticed that you refrained from including saucy road stories about the types of antics that go on between traveling band mates. Surely, you have one or two amusing anecdotes to share in this regard? 

I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase, “What happens on the road stays on the road.”  

Well you can’t blame a girl for trying!

On the road, you’ve rubbed shoulders with some of the greats in the music world. What was the single most exciting moment that you experienced and who was it with?

It has to be my first ever time to play live onstage, at the Liverpool Irish Centre in 1975.

Niall Power age 17.

1975 London, age 17.

For the previous four years I’d been bashing away at home, wondering if I was ever going to get it together as a drummer. I was a roadie for all of 1974 with a local band called Just Four. They invited me to go to England on tour with them and I managed to befriend their support group called Midnight who were based in Birmingham. I stayed in England after the tour and moved to London to stay with my friend Jim Sullivan and his family. Jim was the guitarist when we tried unsuccessfully to start our band in the Curragh some years previously. I had told Midnight that I was a drummer looking for a job, and if they were ever changing their drummer to get in touch with me in London.
I received a letter in the post a few months later to ask if I would like to return to Birmingham and join Midnight. I couldn’t believe it, I had never played onstage with a band before and that first gig in Liverpool was a blast. I was probably terrible on the night, but you have to start somewhere and that was where it all began. 

If you could have played with any musician in the world that you haven’t played with, who would you choose?

It has to be George Harrison.

I just loved his music and his vibe. Over the years I have played in many cover bands who performed Beatles tunes in their sets, but it would have been magic to get a chance to play “Here Comes the Sun” with George. 

You have travelled all over the world in your career. What is your favourite place to visit and why?

It would have to be India. We played there on three separate occasions and I loved it. The music is enthralling, the food is incredible, the friendly nature of the people and the sheer size of the place is amazing.

Driving anywhere is a task only to be undertaken by a kamikaze.

The sounds, smells, colours and the poverty have to be seen to be believed.
A truly wonderful country to visit.

Since you retired from drumming in 2015, you have been absorbed in genealogical research, both for yourself and others. What have you been doing in this regard since the publication of your book?

Initially, I only undertook the genealogical search for my own family tree. I found this process to be very helpful for my Parkinson’s situation as it gave me something positive to do after my diagnosis.

I needed a task to engage the brain, almost like doing a crossword puzzle and trying to find answers to the clues. There are many discrepancies on old documents, and it is painstaking work trying to decipher the handwriting and make sense of the information. I’m sure it helped me take my mind off the fact that I was losing the fine motor movements on my left side and my drumming skill was disappearing fast.

I have helped some friends with their own family research, but I’m not going to make a career out of it as it’s very time consuming.

Many Irish documents relating to births, marriages and deaths were destroyed by fire in the Irish Civil War, and only the 1901 and 1911 census records are available to view.
I’m still active with regard to my own family tree and I’ve traced many relations, in Canada and the USA. 

Are you and your wife, Michelle, still farming or working as entrepreneurs? 

Unfortunately, I can’t work anymore with my left hand shaking. It’s now 11 years since

Niall Power at home

Niall in 2016.

diagnosis and the motor skills on my left side are gradually disappearing. For example, I cannot put a letter into an envelope or hold a newspaper without my hand trembling.

I’m so used to the shaking that it that doesn’t bother me anymore, and even though it’s a progressive and incurable disease, I just get on with it and make the best of every day usually tending to the garden. Michelle is my career. 

Can you tell us more about your diet and exercise regime and anything else that has enabled you to make the best of your life with Parkinson’s disease?

Most people will tell you that they altered their diet after a Parkinson’s diagnosis, which I did. I did it as a reaction rather than a necessity. It’s a scary time and the need to do anything to solve the problem is great. My first move was to get supplements from the chemist and I also tried a course of acupuncture and meditation. No real benefits from any of these.

I was aged 50 at the time of diagnosis and in reasonably good shape, so I joined my local swimming club and gym. I rarely miss a day and workout on the treadmill and the bicycle, with some light weights. Then it’s into the pool where I power walk in the water and generally have some fun. This activity may not suit some Parkinson’s patients who have issues with their walking, but I find it very rewarding. You have to find something that works for you and stick with it. Never give up. 

How would you like to be able to help others who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s? 

During the last year I spoke at a few Parkinson’s related events and basically, I just informed the patients about my exercise routine, and how good it can make you feel to do something for yourself that gives you enjoyment and has many other health benefits. 

What have you been doing since your book was published in 2017?

Since the publication of my book I’ve been trying to keep busy. I went to Australia last October and cycled around 1,200 kilometers in the glorious sunshine state of Queensland. My symptoms decreased significantly, and I will be informing my neurologist about this at my next checkup.

Timing Is Everything will be featured in the book nook at the World Parkinson Congress in Kyoto this year, and who knows, a cure may be soon be found.

Niall Power in 2018

Niall Power in 2018. Photo by Frank Smith.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids by Patti SmithBook Review
Title: Just Kids
Author:  Patti Smith
Publisher: Ecco
Released: October 24, 2010
Pages: 306
ISBN-10: 0060936223
ISBN-13: 978-0060936228
Stars:  5.0

Like Patti Smith, I grew up writing poetry and listening to rock’n’roll. That is where the similarity ends because I am not an artist, only an appreciator of them. Although I haven’t read Arthur Rimbaud or Jean Genet, nor have I yet been to Paris, I have always been captivated by the music of the 70s and the writings of Sam Shepard, Jim Carroll and Jim Morrison. I had no idea that Shepard and Carroll were Smith’s lovers but reading the dreamy, tender narrative of her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe surprised me in many ways, including the fact that he was also her lover, because I knew he was openly gay. Until now, I haven’t known very much about Patti Smith except that some of my friends are big fans of hers, she’s collaborated with Springsteen (one of my music heroes), and that her poetry, music and art earned her a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

I often dream of where I’d go if I had my own hot tub time machine and New York City during the late 60s/early 70s is definitely one of the places I’d choose. Patti Smith was born almost 20 years before me, but I’ve listened to and loved a lot of the music that was created by her contemporaries (in particular, The Doors and Janis Joplin) and have been a fan of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography for a long time. However, she has made me appreciate his work with new eyes and I’m grateful for that. Reading Smith’s autobiography Just Kids is the next best thing to using a hot tub time machine as she has written an exquisite account of her early years as a struggling artist and Mapplethorpe’s muse.

From 1967 to 1978, Patti shares her memories of their lives in New York City and specifically at the infamous Chelsea Hotel, a dreamscape so perfectly realized and vividly fascinating that you feel as if you’re there with them. We meet many legendary artists including William Burroughs, Andy Warhol, Sam Shepard and Tom Verlaine, although none of them holds a candle to the flame that is the telling of the birth of Smith’s and Mapplethorpe’s artistic legacy.

Patricia Lee Smith was born in Chicago on December 30, 1946 and was part of a close knit family that included her siblings Linda, Todd and Kimberly, who later relocated with their parents to South Jersey. What struck me about Patti that I wasn’t expecting is that she’s a very down-to-earth, deeply spiritual person and was never a drug addict as one who hasn’t known her might imagine based on her skinny heroin chic look and the time in which she came of age and became famous for being a punk rocker poet. In researching her for this review, I discovered that we share a very similar view of religion as well:

I believe there is good in in [sic] all religions. But religion, politics and business, all of these things, have been so corrupted and so infused with power that I really don’t have interest in any of it – governments, religion, corporations. But I do have interest in the human condition. (Rolling Stone)

Patti’s love for Robert Mapplethorpe was utterly pure and transcended any boundaries that society might have wanted to instill upon them. Although they weren’t meant to be together as husband and wife, they were most certainly soul mates (regardless of her marriage to MC5 guitarist Fred Sonic Smith) up until his tragic death at the age of 42. On March 9, 1989 Robert died from complications due to AIDS. Her recollection of his passing within the pages of this book brought me to tears. Just Kids opens with the phone call she received from Robert’s brother Edward telling her that he had finally succumbed to his illness, at which moment she was listening to Tosca’s “Vissi d’arte”, and it ends with her making peace with having to say goodbye. (“Smile for me Patti, as I am smiling for you.”) In between, we get to know Robert Mapplethorpe as intimately as a stranger can and develop an understanding of what inspired him as an artist as she traces “their first meetings (there were two of them before one fateful night in Tompkins Square Park) to their days in and out of hotels, love affairs, creative collaborations, nightclubs, and gritty neighborhoods…” (Interview Magazine)

Just Kids is a masterpiece, filled with iconic black and white photographs of Smith and Mapplethorpe, including some of their art and a few of Smith’s poems as well. She’s a very gifted poet and although I confess that I was never a big fan of her music aside from “Because The Night” and “Power To The People”, (I was 11 when Horses was released) I’m listening to it now with new ears and would love to read more of her poetry and song lyrics because this book has made me fall for her…hard. I now understand why she has endured and why there will never be another female rock artist like her. Anyone who can write a memoir that inspires someone to discover their career forty years after it began deserves to be the national treasure that Patti Smith is.

 

The Long Hello: Memory, My Mother, and Me by Cathie Borrie

The Long Hello by Cathie BorrieBook Review
Title: The Long Hello: Memory, My Mother, and Me
Author:  Cathie Borrie
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Released: January 6, 2015
Pages: 225
ISBN: 978-1-4767-9251-4
Book Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  2.5

 

My younger sister died five months ago today from ovarian cancer at the age of 48 so it’s quite possible that I’m just not in the right frame of mood to be reading and reviewing a memoir about a woman who spent seven years caring for her mother before she died from Alzheimer’s in her late 80’s. Nonetheless, the good people at Simon & Schuster enticed me into reading The Long Hello: Memory, My Mother, and Me by Cathie Borrie by using these paragraphs to describe it:

“It explores the emotional rewards and challenges that Cathie Borrie experienced in caring for her mother, who was living with Alzheimer’s disease, for seven years. Between the two, a wondrously poetic dialogue develops, which Ms. Borrie further illuminates with childhood memories of her family, and her struggle to maintain a life outside her caregiving responsibilities. The Long Hello demonstrates how caregiving creates an opportunity to experience the change in a relationship that illness necessitates, one in which joy, meaning, and profound intimacy can flourish. 

Written in spare, beautiful prose, largely in the form of a dialogue, The Long Hello exquisitely captures the intricacies and nuances of a daughter’s relationship with her mother.”

After reading the book, this is not my experience of it. My 62-year-old cousin, who cared for her own mother while she was dying from Alzheimer’s three years ago, read it before me and she found Borrie’s to be very unlike her own experience and not as moving or profound as she thought it might be based on what we were led to believe by the above description either.

Another thing that caught my attention and makes me wonder is why Simon & Schuster chose to use the quote “Joy!” from Maya Angelou on the cover of the book because it hasn’t been published yet and Angelou died on May 28, 2014. If she did indeed have a chance to read this book before she passed away, I would have thought she’d have more to say about it than one word, but this to me is suspicious and the word is in my humble opinion, inappropriate.

Born in Vancouver, Borrie started her career as a nurse before attaining a Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University and later graduated from Law School at the University of Saskatchewan. In 2005, she earned a Certificate in Creative Writing from The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University. She is also a ballroom dancer and has performed in the theatre and as a clown. She has some impressive credentials but I don’t feel that this book “is immensely lyrical and moving” nor a “powerful display of Cathie Borrie’s talent as a writer.”

On a positive note, it’s a very quick read. I read it in two sittings. It’s written somewhat like a journal, almost in point form with the Canadian author flipping back and forth between her past and the present as she’s caring for her mother who is slowly slipping further and further away into the tunnel of dementia. However, I find that there is very little joy in this book aside from the often amusing things that Cathie’s mother Jo says as she’s losing her mind. Borrie recorded conversations with her mother so that she could write this memoir but her own emotions come across as flat and depressed, which I can totally understand that she would be, while going through such a difficult experience. When she describes the facts of her life, they’re just that, facts. The way she’s written them down it appears that she’s had very little joy in her life and maybe that’s the truth of it, I don’t know. She was, at the time of writing The Long Hello a 51-year-old single woman who couldn’t get her own needs met, but was compelled to do everything she could to help her mother before she died and that I can definitely relate to. But it makes for a sad, downer of a read and I was somewhat offended when she wrote this passage:

“My surgeon’s in his forties, easy on the eyes.

“How are things?”

“I’ve been praying for ovarian cancer.”

“You what?”

“So I’d be dead before you have to replace my hip. I figured it was a fast cancer so I’d be dead before my name got to the top of your waiting list.”

The things people say and write when they’re depressed…I’m telling you. We shouldn’t be allowed near a writing implement. I know this from experience.

Cathie Borrie’s mother left her alcoholic father when she was a young girl and soon after her 13-year-old brother Hugh was killed in a random fight with a neighbourhood bully. His, like so many others, was an utterly tragic and meaningless death. Years later, her mother remarried an older man who was always away on business but when he was home he didn’t want his wife’s child to be there because he’d already raised one family and didn’t want to deal with Cathie so she was sent away to boarding school, a fact that upsets her for the rest of her life.

Three quarters of the way through The Long Hello, Cathie’s mother asks, “What happened to the joy of life, Cath?” She replies, “I don’t know, what do you think?” “I think you thought it was going to be better than it was.” That is certainly a statement I can relate to at this point in my life and I also identified to Cathie saying, “I wish I was dead too. And when I’m old there isn’t going to be anyone left to take care of me…No one left who knows my story.” “Goddamn it, Hughie – why did I have to be the one left behind?” I’m sure that’s how many people feel when they lose a beloved sibling because I have and that’s exactly how I feel. And I didn’t need to read this book to be reminded of it.

Who I Am by Pete Townshend

Who I Am by Pete TownshendBook Review
Title: Who I Am
Author:  Pete Townshend
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Released: October 9, 2012
Pages: 538
ISBN-10: 1443418919
ISBN-13: 978-1443418911
Stars:  3.5

I’ve never been a big fan of Pete Townshend or The Who although I do appreciate most of their hits and of course, Tommy, but I thought that Townshend’s memoirs would be pretty interesting.  However, although he’s a brilliant artist, Townshend is not an easy man to like.  He comes off as a manic-depressive, self-absorbed, adulterous prick most of the time, but once in a while he can actually make you feel sorry for him as he is brutally honest, even about his own short-comings.  This is a man who loves the sound of his own voice.

Surprisingly, Who I Am is a sober, humourless, 500+ page confessional of Pete Townshend’s experiences.  It focuses more on his songwriting than guitar playing, even though he’s been given the honour of being No. 10 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.  Not one of the greatest vocalists or collaborators of all time, Townshend is an emotionally stultified loner.  He couldn’t manage co-writing because it’s out of his emotional range.  At the height of The Who’s popularity in 1970, he couldn’t really enjoy himself, and instead “felt ashamed about being an adulterer, and oddly guilty about my professional success.”  So let’s find out why.

Born May 19, 1945 in West London, neither Pete’s maternal grandparents nor his parents were positive role models.  His father Clifford played in a swing band and his mum performed with him as a vocalist for a while.  Pete’s early years were happily spent in the company of his best buddy “Jimpy” but in 1951, Pete was sent to live with his mentally disturbed maternal grandmother, Denny, for a year.  Denny, who left her husband of 11 years for a wealthy man who kept her as his mistress, possessed “Victorian domestic notions”, and was often cruel and neglected Pete when she busy with her own affairs.  Pete suffered both physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his grandmother, while his mother Betty was off having an affair on his father.  She had 5 self-induced abortions before ending her affair and reuniting with Cliff and also battled the bottle for many years.  Pete says this was the darkest part of his life and it will likely take him the rest of it to try to find closure on the abuse he suffered as a six and seven year old boy.  For that, I truly feel sorry for him.

Pete’s parents did eventually reunite which resulted in the birth of Pete’s brothers Paul and Simon who were born over 15 years after him and whom he barely mentions.

He does go over all the facts about The Who’s career but we don’t end up knowing much about his true relationship with the guys, other than he revealed that John and Keith were very close and as long as he let Roger have his way when it came to The Who, everything was fine.

Pete started his musical career by playing harmonica and then took up banjo and guitar.  He went to school with John Entwistle and his first band with him was called The Confederates.  Roger Daltrey also knew John and asked him and Pete to join his party band, The Detours, in early 1962.  The Detours supported The Rolling Stones a couple of times in late ’63/early ’64, as well as The Kinks.  When Entwistle found out that another band had the same name, the band became The Who on Valentine’s Day 1964.  Pete was only 18 when the original line-up was formed: Townshend, Daltry, Entwistle and Doug Sandom on drums, soon to be replaced by Keith Moon.

After four years of attending Ealing Art College and playing lots of shows at the same time, an exhausted Townshend dropped out of school.

For those of you who don’t know, The Who’s style and image was influenced by Pete’s art school studies and The Mod movement, which was “based on trendsetting fashion statements and dance moves.”  Pete, who was friends with Jim Marshall, the inventor of the Marshall stack, was possibly the first person to create the Marshall wall of sound (feedback) which became The Who’s trademark.  They also claim to be “the first stage act in the world to employ high-powered lasers for dramatic lighting effects.”

Tommy (1969) was The Who’s masterpiece although Live at Leeds and Quadrophenia were almost as impressive.  A rock opera about a deaf, dumb & blind pinball wizard who exists in a world of vibrations, has been reincarnated as a movie and various successful stage productions over the years, and along with the band’s constant touring has kept Townshend in luxurious houses, studios and boats.

Looking for a spiritual connection, Pete became interested in the teachings of Meher Baba whom he followed for many years, but it isn’t apparent that he actually learned anything meaningful from him.

Townshend recounts The Who’s illustrious sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll history but says little about the deaths of Moon and Entwistle except to state that they occurred.  He had no way of processing or dealing with his grief and comes off as a man with a significant personality disorder.  By the time The Who Sell Out was released, Pete was already going deaf, was in a perpetually foul mood, and Roger was unhappy on stage too.  Pete felt that as a performance artist he was undervalued and that his performances were being misread: “I wanted to be serious about what I did, and wanted my work – including smashing guitars in concert – to be regarded as part of a passionate commitment to an evolving stagecraft.”

Though fairly pretentious about his craft, Pete was shy and awkward with girls and didn’t have sex until he was in college.  He addresses his bisexuality and states that he “suffered from a deep sexual shame” over his dealings with Denny, although he’d “managed to push the details out of memory’s reach.”  Townshend coped with his shame over the years with drugs and alcohol, although booze proved to be the heavier monkey on his back.

He married his long time girlfriend Karen Astley on May 20, 1968 and together they had three children, Emma, Minta and many years later, after several separations, Joseph.  While Pete mentions his children, he doesn’t devote any time to describing his relationship with his daughters and it was obvious that Karen did most of the parenting as he was a workaholic who could rarely relax.  “I had always wanted to be there for my wife and children in a way that my parents were not always there for me.  But the childish, devlish, selfish-sod-bastard artist deep inside me didn’t give a toss for fatherhood – he needed freedom.”  Pete and Karen finally ended their 25+ year marriage in the mid-nineties (they didn’t divorce until 2009) and Townshend has been with Rachel Fuller ever since.

While not touring with The Who, Townshend has worked as a solo artist, producer, writer, editor at Faber & Faber, and a philanthropist, and he introduces us to those who were the most influential in his life (including friend Richard “Barney” Barnes, managers Kit Lambert & Chris Stamp, and various paramours including Louise Reay & Lisa Marsh) while name dropping many of his famous friends and acquaintances, none of whom he appears to have a very close friendship with.  He discusses his Lifehouse, Psychoderelict & Iron Man (a.k.a. Iron Giant) projects at length – which sections were frankly, pretty boring – and also comes clean about his conviction as a sex offender and the events that led up to it because he naively clicked on a child pornography site while doing research for ways to help young boys in Russian orphanages.

Pete Townshend is a truly complex figure who has made a significant impact on rock ‘n’ roll history, and while I admire his candidness in Who I Am, I’m still not a fan of the man.

My Cross To Bear by Greg Allmann

Book Review
Title: My Cross to Bear
Author:  Gregg Allman
Publisher: William Morrow
Released: May 1, 2012
Pages: 320
ISBN-10: 0062112031
ISBN-13: 978-0062112033
Stars:  5.0

It’s no secret that I love music so it goes without saying that I really enjoy reading autobiographies of musicians, and I’ve read quite a few.  But none has been as worthy of note, so brutally honest, poignant and impressive as Gregg Allman’s, who with the help of Alan Light, writes about his remarkable life in My Cross to Bear.

“No, I’m no angel
No I’m not stranger to the streets
I’ve got my label
So I won’t crumble at your feet
And I know baby
So I’ve got scars upon my cheek
And I’m half crazy
Come on and love me baby

No I’m no angel
No I’m no stranger to the dark
Let me rock your cradle
Let me start a fire with your spark
Oh come on baby
Come and let me show you my tattoo
Let me drive you crazy
Come on and love me baby”

The legendary front man for The Allman Brothers Band has lived a very hard yet rewarding life, filled with ecstasies and tragedies, and in My Cross to Bear he doesn’t sugar coat one single bit of it.  He allows us to see who Gregory really is, flaws and all, and I was so impressed by that.  Reading this book is like sitting down and listening to the man talk directly to you, leading you to believe that he considers you a friend.  I was so captivated by Gregory’s voice and humour that I have been experiencing a re-appreciation of his music that has left me with a little crush on this 64-year-old, long blonde-haired, tattooed man.

Gregory LeNoir Allman hails from Nashville, TN where he was born on December 8, 1947.  Since then he’s spent a large part of his life in Georgia which he calls home.  He’s a true southern gentleman and he writes with his own distinctive southern voice.  You can feel the heat in it, the whiskey, the cigarettes, along with sadness, joy, and hope that he’s still got time left to continue to work at being a better man and a better artist.

Gregory, as he’s known by his friends, is a rock and blues singer, keyboardist, guitarist and songwriter, and one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band – the band who founded Southern Rock.  Inducted with the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, Gregory has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (2006), a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Americana Awards, and his idiosyncratic voice landed him at No. 70 of Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”.  And he truly is.  His latest album, Low Country Blues, produced by T-Bone Burnett, is a masterpiece.

Gregory explores his fatherless youth (his dad was murdered by a hitchhiker), his stint in military school, the birth of his first bands, and the subsequent evolution of the revolving cast of players in The Allman Brothers.  He revisits the untimely and tragic motorcycle deaths of both his older brother, guitarist Duane Allman in 1971 and band mate, bassist Berry Oakley, a year later.  He is forthcoming about his alcohol and drug addictions including his many unsuccessful attempts at rehab – although he’s been sober since the mid-1990s – the band’s excessive drug use, his reputation for being a “pussy hound”, and his unabashed love for the Hammond B-3 organ.

The Ramblin’ Man also discusses the challenge of working with guitarist Dickey Betts, the highs and lows of touring, skirmishes with the law, and his critically acclaimed solo work.  He professes his love for his mother, his five children (Michael Sean Allman – whom he never met until Michael was a grown man – Devon Lane Allman, Elijah Blue Allman – who he confesses that he doesn’t know very well – Delilah Island Allman – who he describes as the light of his life, and Layla Brooklyn Allman), all of whom have a different mother, his friends, his dogs and Harley Davidson motorcycles.  The man has been married six times, most famously to Cher (1975-79) whom he still respects and gets along with.  Although he’s been tied to the whipping post many times, he doesn’t like to be alone.  He is now engaged to 24-year-old Shannon Williams, who he says will be his first wife.

Gregory, who doesn’t pretend to be anyone other than himself in his autobiography, has dabbled in acting and most notably appeared in the 1991 film Rush directed by Lili Fini Zanuck, starring Jason Patric, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sam Elliott.  Although he had very little dialogue in the film, his presence made a huge impact on the story as he was absolutely perfect for the role of the drug dealing, criminal heavyweight, Gaines.  I love this movie and have watched it many times, enjoying all of the cast’s performances as well as its memorable soundtrack by Eric Clapton.

Allman has been battling a number of health issues in recent years and was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in late 2007, the result of an infection from a dirty tattoo needle.  In 2010 he had a liver transplant.  Through it all, he continues to make music and to tour, both as a solo artist and with The Allman Brothers.

Gregory Allman is a firm believer in everything happening for a reason.  It’s obvious that he’s done a lot of soul-searching since he’s been sober, even finding God in the Episcopal Church.  He lives every day with the grief of the loss of his big brother Duane, someone who continues to inspire the enlightened rogue, and yet just gets on with living his life.  He is truly inspirational.

 Music is my life’s blood.  I love music.  I love to play good music, and I love to play music for people who appreciate it.  And when it’s all said and done, I’ll go to my grave and my brother will greet me, saying, “Nice work, little brother – you did all right.

My Cross to Bear is everything that a rock’n’roll memoir should be: well-written, interesting, entertaining, emotive, chock full of stimulating music references, filled with great photos, rated R, and above all, unforgettable.  This is a must read for all music lovers!


Watch Gregg Allman talk about his memoir on CBS This Morning here.

Life by Keith Richards

Book Review
Title: Life
Author:  Keith Richards (with James Fox)
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Released: 2010
Pages: 576
ISBN-10: 031603438X
ISBN-13: 978-0316034388
Stars:  4.0

On the inside jacket cover of Keith Richard’s autobiography, Life, it reads in Keith’s handwriting: “This is the Life.  Believe it or not I haven’t forgotten any of it.  Thanks and praises, Keith Richards”.

Well, it seems pretty amazing to me that Keith could remember everything that has happened to him in his extraordinary life, considering I’m 21 years younger and can’t remember everything about my own less than extraordinary life and haven’t consumed a fraction of the drugs that he has!  However, I will say that with his co-writer James Fox’s help, Richards has written a very compelling road trip of a tale of what life has been like for him from the time he was a boy in Dartford, England (he was especially close to his mum, Doris & Aunt Patty and we are privy to some of his letters to her), to his grandfather Gus teaching him his first guitar lick, to the day he met his destiny – and perhaps arch nemesis – in the form of the young Mick Jagger, to the day they formed The Rolling Stones; and later, to the lows of heroin addiction as well as Keith’s joy in being a part of the X-pensive Winos and the Wingless Angels.

The hefty, award-winning (Norman Mailer Prize) tome opens with a recount of Keith’s bust in Arkansas during the 1975 Stones tour with much humour and fond recollection for both foolish choices and dangerous behaviour.  He reviews other busts as well, including one at his English home in Redlands, at Nellcộte in France, and the infamous 1977 Toronto arrest, and doesn’t shy away from talking about his drug consumption, what happened at Altamont in 1969, Stones mythology, or his own, at times, less than flattering behaviour.  If it wasn’t for their powerhouse criminal lawyer, Bill Carter, Richards would have spent a lot more of his rocker days behind bars.  Keith recalls, “The choice always was a tricky one for the authorities who arrested us.  Do you want to lock them up, or have your photograph taken with them and give them a motorcade to see them on their way?”  All laws do not apply to celebrities or really wealthy people and never have.

A lot of what has been written about Keith Richards has been fabricated or twisted by his own careless exclamations and the truth is that he has never had a blood transfusion; he just has a phenomenal constitution.

I can’t untie the threads of how much I played up to the part that was written for me.  I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth and the kohl.  Is it half and half?  I think in a way your persona, your image, as it used to be known, is like a ball and chain.  People think I’m still a goddamn junkie.  It’s thirty years since I gave up the dope!  Image is like a long shadow.  Even when the sun goes down, you can see it.  I think some of it is that there is so much pressure to be that person that you become it, maybe, to a certain point that you can bear.  It’s impossible not to end up being a parody of what you thought you were.

What shines through in Keith’s Life is his absolute, undying passion for music, the legendary musicians who have influenced him throughout his career (Louis Armstrong, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters), his on-again, off-again love affair with The Stones, and his unquestionable love for his family: wife Patti Hansen, son Marlon, daughter Angela (whose mother is Anita Pallenberg) and daughters Alexandra & Theodora with Patti.  He talks a lot about the technical aspects of being a musician and as a non-musician, that wasn’t quite as interesting for me, but I loved reading about his friendships and escapades with other celebs and infamous music figures.

There are some wonderful glossy black & white and colour photos from Richards’ archives in two sections of the book as well as black & white memories at the beginning of each chapter with a synopsis of the main events covered in the chapter which makes the book easy to skim through to find what you’re looking for.

I found Keith’s relationships with Gram Parsons and John Lennon (“He was so open.  In anybody else, this could be embarrassing.  But John had this honesty to his eyes that made you go for him.  Had an intensity too.  He was a one-off.  Like me.”) very interesting and poignant, and reliving his relationship with Anita Pallenberg was somewhat akin to a raucous amusement park ride.  Brian Jones seemed to be a walking disaster from the start, but we don’t get to know much about Mick Taylor (except that he was quite moody), Ron Wood or Bill Wyman as Keith is closest to Charlie Watts.  We get a peripheral view of what was going on in the other band member’s lives from time to time, but this is, after all, Keith’s story and if you’re looking for the truth about the Glimmer Twins, you’ll get his side of the story here.  I also noticed that he is a total gentleman when it comes to describing the women in his life and there have been a few (first love Haleema Mohamed, Ronnie Spector, Linda Keith & Uschi Obermaier), and is very loyal to his mates too.

I concluded from reading Keith’s book that Mick Jagger is the cold, pretentious, entitled prick I always thought he was (“Mick doesn’t like to trust anybody.  I’ll trust you until you prove you’re not trustworthy.  And maybe that’s the major difference between us.”) which is why I never really liked him or have considered myself a huge Stones fan even though I always thought that Keith was one, cool, f***ing freak of nature.  It’s quite a miracle really that the band didn’t break up 30 years ago.  Charlie Watts has probably just as much to do with their longevity than anyone else in the band, but Keith is indubitably its heart and soul.  Perhaps because of the fact that for “many years I slept, on average, twice a week,” Keith Richards has done more in his 69 years than most people do if they live to be 120.

I love much of the Stones’ music because they created brilliant songs that are indelibly etched into the soundtrack of my youth (“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Sympathy For The Devil”, “Paint It Black”, “Gimme Shelter”, “Satisfaction”, “Angie”). I regret, sadly, that I’ve never seen them in concert and likely never will.  However, reading Keith Richards’ Life does help to dull the pain and it’s a helluva fun trip too!

I’m Thrilled To Welcome Canadian Bestselling Author of My Camino, Sue Kenney, As A Client!

One of the best things about my job is that I continually find myself working with some of the most inspiring, talented people (Ann Vriend, Dawn James, Darin Steckler, Shari Ulrich and Chris McKhool of Sultans of String just to name a few) and my newest client is no exception.

From the moment I spoke with Sue Kenney on the phone I knew she is special and that she will continue to inspire me with her enthusiasm, vivacious personality, intellect and authenticity.  Not only has she achieved some absolutely amazing things in her life, but she is someone whom I immediately feel a spiritual connection with and I know that she’s going to teach me a great deal.

Who is Sue Kenney?  Sue is a Pilgrim.  After being suddenly downsized from a career in the corporate telecom industry, she walked 780 kilometers over 29 days on a medieval pilgrimage route in Spain known as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  If that sounds familiar to you, you might have heard about Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen’s latest film, The Way, which is about an American doctor’s (Sheen) journey along the Camino de Santiago.

Sue didn’t just walk the Camino but she went alone, in the winter, on a spiritual quest that “guided me back to myself.” From a place of love, Sue uses her voice to inspire and guide others on their life journey.

Sue has written two books: My Camino and Confessions of a Pilgrim and  directed a feature documentary film called Las Peregrinas…the women who walked…that was released 5 years ago to 2,000 people on 5 continents and raised $16,000 for charities.  My Camino is currently in development as a feature film with Item 7 in Montreal and Sue and her writing partner Bruce Pirrie have co-written the screenplay.  Confessions of a Pilgrim is her second book about a journey on the Portuguese Camino on a quest to give away a sacred Eagle feather.

Sue also produced a couple of short films and most recently, she narrated an audiobook version of My Camino that is now available on CDBaby and will soon be available on iTunes.

Sue has walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela eight times and now coaches and guides a group on the walk each spring.  She’s an internationally acclaimed speaker and life coach who now walks barefoot.

You can learn more about Sue Kenney by reading My Camino, which you can order online at www.suekenney.ca, or by connecting with her on one of her social media sites:

Sue Kenney Official Website
My Camino Book Facebook Page
Suseya Facebook Page

Sue Kenney on Twitter
Sue Kenney on YouTube

Spiritual seekers, backpackers, walkers, hikers, barefoot enthusiasts, adventure travellers and fans of the Camino will undoubtedly enjoy Sue’s work.  If you are any of the above, I encourage you to to read the undeniably inspirational true story that is My Camino.

A Yank Back To England: The Prodigal Tourist Returns by Denis Lipman

Book Review
Title: A Yank Back To England: The Prodigal Tourist Returns
Author: Denis Lipman
Publisher: Gemma
Released: 2010
Pages: 320
ISBN 10 – 1934848247
ISBN 13 – 978-1934848241
Stars: 4.0

I have spent my Christmas vacation relaxing and reading a delightful, splendidly written travel memoir by Washington, DC playwright and author Denis Lipman entitled A Yank Back To England: The Prodigal Tourist Returns.

I made Denis’ acquaintance last year through his interesting and colourful blog, England Rents, Raves & Rants and after reading his book about his family’s annual trips to England over a six year (actually nine) period, I feel as if I know not only him but them as well! His writing is fluid, to the point, and extremely witty, and his English sense of humour and Dagenham, Essex upbringing sparkle in A Yank Back To England which is charming and authentically English.

Denis Lipman, at first glance, may seem an unassuming sort of English gentleman who has become fairly Americanized, but his life has been anything but mundane. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 to become an apprentice printer and within a week realized that magic was his calling so he left to pursue a career as a magician and magic dealer. It was this endeavor that initially led him to the United States where he would later meet his wife, Frances Erlebacher, and together, they and their only child, Kate, would spend their annual vacation visiting Denis’ elderly parents, the somewhat eccentric Lew and Jessie, in the Old Country.

When magic lost its luster, Denis experimented with writing scripts, songs, and even album production and after years of trying on different occupations for the right fit, he ended up relocating to Washington, DC where he became a senior writer for a major advertising agency and a playwright for the Washington Theatre Festival. In the early 1990s, Denis and Frances started their own agency, The Creative Shop.

It was Frances who decided that they should take advantage of their yearly sojourns to England when they would visit Denis’ parents and relatives and really get to know the country, both as tourists, and as their second home. Denis wasn’t initially all that keen on traipsing around to see the sites, but in spite of his reluctance, discovered that he really did enjoy his homeland and even fell in love with it. I certainly fell in love with the England (Hammill, close to Sandwich) he described in Year Six: A Regency Cottage on a Bridle Path as their accommodation at Madrigal Cottage is how I have always envisioned the beauty and charm of the English countryside.

This affectionate memoir actually reveals more about the characters portrayed in it than the sites that they visit. Restaurant and hotel names are not mentioned, although cities, towns and villages are, as well as some of the prominent sites one would associate with those places, which according to Denis are all within a half-day trip from London. Meals are described in such a way that you sometimes salivate and occasionally crinkle up your nose in disgust while tea and Jack Daniels flow copiously. The weather is always a force to be reckoned with and the countryside as charismatic and as challenging as one could imagine. This is a depiction of the reality of travel and it’s not always brilliant but it is remarkable.

A Yank Back To England is just as much about Denis getting to know his aging parents as adults, friends and grandparents as discovering what makes England the historical, magnificent country that it is. The events here are not sugar-coated in any way and Denis describes his parents, in particular, in a very honest and not necessarily flattering manner but you fall in love with them anyway. We also meet Denis’ aunts Flo, Vi and Mary and cousins Pam and Kevin and his wife Maxine, and briefly Denis’ brother Tony and his wife Tricia. We get a glimpse of Kate’s early years and recognize that Frances is ever thoughtful, practical, diplomatic, and easy to get along with and Denis owes the success of this book to her.

A travel memoir cannot be easy to write as it would be hard to remember entire conversations the way that Denis has written them here, but because he has managed to do so, the book reads like a novel and when it ends you find yourself sighing, smiling, reflecting and utterly yearning for your next vacation abroad. And don’t forget to dress in layers and place a bet on the horses while you’re at it!

Dad, Me, and Muhammad Ali: A Father and Son Story by Felix Manuel Rodriguez

Book Review
Title: Dad, Me, and Muhammad Ali
Author: Felix Manuel Rodriguez
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Released: May, 2009
Pages: 108
ISBN – 1440146241
ISBN – 9781440146244
Stars: 4.0

It is not often that I can say that I am truly honoured to write a review for an author whose acquaintance I made on the Internet, but in this case, I most certainly am.

This weekend, I read an absolutely wonderful, positive story about the relationship between a father and his son, to my 7-year-old niece and nephew (who came to my home for a sleepover) and we all loved it! Although I must report that Ethan was disappointed that the Blue Jays didn’t win the baseball game against the Yankees in the beginning of the book – we are after all, Ontarians!

Felix Manuel Rodriguez of Waterbury, Connecticut wears many hats. He is a writer, state child welfare employee, vice president of a local non-profit human service organization, and professional boxing inspector. He is also an assistant youth coach, police commissioner, but most importantly, he is a proud father of two children, Felix Joezā (a.k.a. Jo-Jo) and Jalissa, who are featured in Dad, Me, and Muhammad Ali, and who are very fortunate to have such a loving and interactive father; one who is described in detail in the book.

In Felix’s words:

“…the story is based on true events involving my son and me in Harlem, NY. Read my bio on my website www.dadmeandali.com. I wrote this book because I value fatherhood. I grew up a fatherless child along with my six siblings living in the public housing projects. I am the youngest of the boys and it was tough growing up without a dad. So I made a promise to my kids that I will always try to be there for them. That is a big reason why I wrote this book. I wanted to share a father and son story sprinkled with Latino culture flavorings.”

Honest and sentimental without being syrupy in any way, Dad, Me, and Muhammad Ali tells the story of young Jo-Jo, who learns a valuable lesson the hard way when while playing ball with his sister Jalissa in their father’s sports room, the unthinkable happens! They accidentally hit one of their father’s prized collectables that’s hanging on the wall: an autographed photo of Felix’s hero, Muhammad Ali; which falls to the floor, crashing the glass frame, and damaging the photo. Realizing what he’s done, Jo-Jo is sick with worry and expecting the worst when his father gets home.

Felix, who does everything he can to promote respect and sportsmanship, realized that the event was an accident, but also that the children should have listened to what they had been told. He exhibits understanding under the circumstances but Jo-Jo feels so guilty about ruining his father’s cherished photograph that he decides, with the help of his mother, to come up with a way to make it up to him even if it means spending his very last dime and then some. Father and son end up having an adventurous journey to Harlem, New York where Felix finally gets to meet his hero.

This heartwarming story is about the importance of being a good father and a hero and describes exactly what being a hero means. I was able to explain that concept to my niece and nephew who didn’t understand it when I began reading the story and asked, “What’s a hero?”

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something deep inside…a desire, a dream, and a vision. They have to have the skill and the will…but the WILL, must be stronger than the SKILL.” – Muhammad Ali

Dad, Me, and Muhammad Ali has lots of great facts in it about The Greatest of All Time including Ali’s professional boxing record at the back of the book, a questionnaire for budding “Aliologists”, and a Certificate of Aliology for those who can answer the questions correctly. It is an excellent educational book that would fit in well in sports collectibles shops and every public school’s library in North America, as well as a charming tribute to the importance of being a father and being there for your children.

“Life is like boxing, it doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down. What matters most is how many times you get back up.” – Felix Manuel Rodriguez

Illustrators Noé Peralez and Francis Philibert contribute excellent black and white sketches, primarily of Muhammad Ali, at the beginning of every chapter and Erika and Ethan’s favourite is the one of Jo-Jo being hugged by Ali. They thought that was just great!

I highly recommend the fun-to-read Dad, Me, and Muhammad Ali to parents of children ages 6-12, as well as boxing fans and budding Aliologists everywhere. This is a book that the great Ali himself would be proud of.

For more on Felix Manuel Rodriguez and Muhammad Ali, visit www.dadmeandali.com.

American On Purpose: The Improbable Adventures Of An Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson

Book Review 
Title: American on Purpose
Author:  Craig Ferguson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: September 22, 2009
Pages: 288
ISBN 10 – 0061719544
ISBN 13 – 978-0061719547
Stars:  4.0

I have been a fan of CBS’ The Late Late Show host, Craig Ferguson, since I first saw him in the 1999 film, The Big Tease, followed by 2000’s Saving Grace: a gem of a comedy written, co-produced, and starring Ferguson that has since become one of my all-time favourites. I never really watched him play Drew Carey’s drunken boss, Nigel Wick, on The Drew Carey Show (1996-2003), although I might have caught the odd episode, but I have been watching him faithfully on The Late Late Show since July 2005.

Craig Ferguson is a wonderful actor and one of Britain’s (and America’s) leading comedians, who has written and performed three albums of stand-up comedy, as well as this year’s DVD – “A Wee Bit O’ Revolution” – filmed at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston. His self-deprecating humour is infectious and almost no subject in his own life is taboo. He’ll discuss everything from his personal vacations, to his failed marriages, lust for Beyoncé, enormous penis, and past alcohol and drug addiction. He’s often “irreverently outrageous, but never mean-spirited,” and he can just as easily make you cry with his emotional intelligence and integrity.

Craig is an exceptionally fine writer and in 2006, his first novel, entitled Between The Bridge and The River was published, receiving impressive sales and positive critical reviews. His latest effort, American On Purpose, is an autobiography, and although I knew about a lot of what was shared in the book because I watch his show regularly, I was still mesmerized by his elegant prose and didn’t want to put it down.

American On Purpose is a poignant and positively witty memoir that begins with an auspicious invitation to perform at the 2008 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in front of the least popular President in the history of the United States, and then revisits 46 of his tumultuous years on the planet in a very fast-paced, enthralling manner. Craig, who is candid about his 15 years as a blackout drunk, was exceptionally careful about what he revealed about his life and sometimes changed names to protect those who might now be uncomfortable or offended if he hadn’t. I was a bit disappointed that he simply wrote that he’d dated some well-known actresses before he met and married his third bride, Megan Wallace-Cunningham, but never revealed who any of them were. He did speak very respectfully and lovingly of all of the serious relationships he had with the women who came before Megan, and I was especially moved by the last chapter in the book in which he talks about the death of his mother in 2008. If anything, I found when I’d finished reading American on Purpose that I was selfishly wanting more details about this remarkable man.

This hardworking, insecure Scottish immigrant who loves the philosophical and emotional concept of America never spares himself: whom he refers to as an uncool, “middle-aged white man with graying hair, a thickening waist, and a creepy laugh.” No matter how much therapy he’s had, or how successful he’s become in many areas of his life, he can’t quite believe that it’s as a result of his own talent and strength of character (which it undoubtedly is!).

“…I’m still doing lame comedy now and the show is doing great. Maybe that’s because it’s my lame comedy. I am my lame self and make the lame comedy my own.”

Craig Ferguson is only two years older than me, and he came of age in the same, debaucherous decade that I did. I can relate to the feelings and experiences that led him from the dreary back streets of Cumbernauld and his intoxicated, punk rock youth, to the relief he felt at being able to pay off over $250,000 of debt after 7 years of sobriety, and his incredulity at now owning a home with a swimming pool in Hollywood, and being a protective, loving father to his 8-year-old son, Milo. For a self-professed control freak, this man is honest, diligent, intelligent, handsome, funny, kind, and sensitive, and there is nothing that I read in American On Purpose that will convince me otherwise.

If you’re not already aware of the incandescent beauty that is TV’s Craig Ferguson, you are really missing out, because every day that Craig Ferguson is on the air is a great day for America! I will wait with anticipation for more of his brilliant writing in the future.