Synopses & Reviews
In his commanding new book, the eminent NPR critic Tim Riley takes us on the remarkable journey that brought a Liverpool art student from a disastrous childhood to the highest realms of fame.
Riley portrays Lennon’s rise from Hamburg’s red light district to Britain’s Royal Variety Show; from the charmed naiveté of “Love Me Do” to the soaring ambivalence of “Don’t Let Me Down” from his shotgun marriage to Cynthia Powell in 1962 to his epic media romance with Yoko Ono. Written with the critical insight and stylistic mastery readers have come to expect from Riley, this richly textured narrative draws on numerous new and exclusive interviews with Lennon’s friends, enemies, confidantes, and associates; lost memoirs written by relatives and friends; as well as previously undiscovered City of Liverpool records. Riley explores Lennon in all of his contradictions: the British art student who universalized an American style, the anarchic rock ’n’ roller with the moral spine, the anti-jazz snob who posed naked with his avant-garde lover, and the misogynist who became a househusband. What emerges is the enormous, seductive, and confounding personality that made Lennon a cultural touchstone.
In Lennon, Riley casts Lennon as a modernist hero in a sweeping epic, dramatizing rock history anew as Lennon himself might have experienced it.
"Is there room for another big biography of John Lennon, just a few years from Philip Norman's doorstopper, and four years from Bob Spitz's epic history of the Beatles? Journalist and NPR media critic Tim Riley (the author of previous books on the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Madonna) proves there is with this insightful, page-turning examination of Lennon's roots, his Beatle fame, his art, his manic personality and relationship with Yoko Ono, and the peace he finally seemed to find, only to have his life cut tragically short by a crazed gunman. By now, the broad strokes of Lennon's life have been largely sketched, and Riley doesn't veer far from that script a volatile early childhood; the groundbreaking success of the Beatles; the crumbling of the group as personal ties frayed, business soured, and artistic paths diverged; and Lennon's erratic, activist post-Beatle life with Yoko Ono in America before he settled down to be the father he never had to son Sean. Riley makes his mark in the details. With an impressive array of sources, he soberly explores Lennon's many contradictions, ably separating myth from reality. The result is a book that at once enriches our appreciation of Lennon's larger-than-life genius and his mortality. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
NPR critic Tim Riley has authored four previous books about popular music, including the influential Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary. He reviews pop and classical music for WBUR-FM's Here and Now, and has written for the Washington Post, Slate, Salon, the Huffington Post, and many other publications. He was the founder and editor-in-chief of Millennium Pop, an early Web journal devoted to serious commentary about popular culture. Trained as a classical pianist at Oberlin and Eastman, he lectures widely on censorship and the arts, rock history, the British Invasion, and rock criticism. Online, Riley edits the music metaportal the rileyrockindex.com, and blogs at artsjournal.com/riley. He is a professor of journalism at Emerson College in Boston and lives in Concord, Massachusetts, with his wife and two sons.