CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 19 . . . . May 27, 2005
Mr. Tambourine Man is the story of Gene Clark, a founding member of the Byrds, one of America's most influential popular musical groups in the 60's and a man considered to be a pivotal figure in folk-rock and one of rock's founding fathers. The book will appeal to anyone with a deep interest in the music industry from the 1960's to 1991 when Gene Clark died at the age of 46. There are 339 pages filled with very detailed information and over 100 interviews as well as a number of black and white photographs.
As someone familiar with the Byrds, but not with the later solo efforts of Gene Clark, I found the amount of information almost overwhelming at times. The book begins with a bit of the history of Gene Clark's family, then takes the reader from his birth to his garage band days, through the peak of his brief career with the Byrds, then through the turmoil and ups and downs of his tortured life until his death. The book is full of details of the period and the many characters and large egos in the music industry and Hollywood who crossed Gene Clark's path.
I suspect that, outside of those who followed his musical career after the Byrds, the story of what happened to Gene Clark after he left that group in early 1966 at the height of their fame will come as a surprise as it takes up the bulk of the tale. By page 88 he is on his own. The book describes the brilliance of the man as a rock music innovator, both as a singer and as an important song writer, who could apparently create brilliant music with little effort. The downside of Gene Clark's career is his person demons that eventually destroy him.
What is of interest are the interviews with people who knew him well. These include musicians and former band members, record industry executives and managers, family members and hanger's-on. Famous musicians and Hollywood characters pass through the chapters of this book. The interviews are with his detractors as well as his friends and often result in contradictory points of view.
If I have a criticism, it would be with the length and amount of detail, although this might not overly concern someone interested in the Gene Clark story or the music of the period. It would have been helpful to have a discography listing his albums under the various group names and a list of his published songs to give the novice reader a better picture of the vast scope of the material. More photographs would have been of interest; however, of the thirty some pictures included, most are of a more personal nature rather than posed studio publicity shots. Included is a picture taken of Gene Clark one month prior to his death, a picture that shows better than words could the effect of his lifestyle and his declining health when you compare it to the earlier pictures of the robust young entertainer who started out.
A well researched biography, this book would appeal to anyone interested in the life and times of Gene Clark. It should also be of interest to someone following what can happen when a talented individual, following instant fame, takes a drug and alcohol induced self-destructive spiral down to the depths. The author does not spare the reader the gory details. The book might be of special interest to anyone seeking their own fame and fortune in the music industry.
Ronald J. Hore, involved with the Canadian Author's Association and writer's workshops for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.