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Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist Hardcover – June 1, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (June 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1613745192
  • ISBN-13: 978-1613745199
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

John Fahey is hardly a household name, yet it is surprising that this is the first biography of the idiosyncratic acoustic guitarist. Fahey, who died in 2011, was a singular if peculiar figure in the music world, a cult figure, really. Even as a high-school student, Lowenthal notes, Fahey felt like an outsider, “more miserable and alienated” than the average teenager, and he sought refuge in music. Fahey recorded more than 40 albums, mostly folk and blues in the so-called American Primitive style—he was a virtuoso finger-picker—while releasing some experimental material later in his career. But he struggled with many inner demons, including a bad case of stage fright and addiction to alcohol and prescription pills. Prone to self-destructive behavior, he even ended up homeless at one point. The fact that Fahey was able to maintain a long career and establish his own record labels, Takoma and Revenant, is in itself remarkable. While not always engaging, journalist Lowenthal does offer a sympathetic portrait of a troubled yet undeniably talented man. --June Sawyers

Review

"Offer[s] a sympathetic portrait of a troubled yet undeniably talented man." —Booklist

"Dance of Death benefits from astute research and interviews with friends, contemporaries, fellow musicians, and family, painting a vivid picture of a remarkable man." —Under the Radar



"If you have any love for the sound of a guitar and haven't heard him, hustle to your music source and get "The Best of John Fahey" to listen to while reading Lowenthal's book. You won't be disappointed." —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel


"The fate of the markedly talented and decidedly peculiar, even misanthropic Fahey is told engagingly and with insight by Steve Lowenthal in a compact but potent new biography, Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist." —NewRepublic.com

"Lowenthal deftly balances Fahey's achievements and shortcomings, and in the process humanizes an extremely talented and profoundly troubled man." —Baltimore Magazine

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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I am about 2/3 of the way through this book.
JS
If he wrote a book on, say, the insects of Uruguay, he'd keep your interest long past the point when you'd decided to put the thing down.
bgandl
I found this book very well written and very informative in regards to the life and death of John Fahey.
Fred Harrison

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tat - Ace on May 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I went with 5 stars because it is a well written book and I didn't feel disappointed that I spent twenty bucks for the privilege of reading it. I sat down with it in the morning and, aside from a few breaks went through it from cover to cover by bedtime at 11PM. Say that to say that the text flowed and held my interest. Of course only a Fahey devotee would be interested in reading a 188 page biography of this man. A great and innovative guitarist but flawed human being, like as we all are.

I was introduced to his Takoma releases beginning with Blind Joe Death in the early 1970s. I would be classified as one of those aging hippies he disliked because they wanted him to continue to play the same stuff he had composed in the 1950s. I remember being put off by his liner notes with the 'put ons' that he wrote.

I recall his editorials in Guitar Player magazine way back then, with phrases including, "the ontological fixity," drew a lot of ridicule from readers who commented in letters to the editor. They thought him pretentious if I remember correctly. Of course Fahey would have classified such critics as the "midgets" he said he was surrounded by, and maybe that is right.

So it is a sad story of a man whom I suppose you could accurately say was a tortured genius, whose personal demons derailed his life. I am curious as to why the author didn't include more on Fahey's relationship with Stefan Grossman. He recorded a live concert for Grossman, and a guitar lesson series, with an interview. Bottom line is for those who are curious as to the life of John Fahey I recommend the book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By bgandl on May 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lowenthal is a writer's writer. If he wrote a book on, say, the insects of Uruguay, he'd keep your interest long past the point when you'd decided to put the thing down. Here he does the subject justice, and then some. But what a subject! Even after reading his two frightening semi-fictional autobiographies, I had no idea how strange this man's story really was, with huge ups and crushing downs. This book opens new doors to the man, and is a stunnlngly told tale of genius, spirituality, mental illness and addiction. It honors his contribution to music, and is full of surprises, pleasant and otherwise. If his music speaks to you, get this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Fahey afficionado on May 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well written by an author who got down to a lot of the basic sources, especially the women in Fahey's life. Sweeping detail about a life that went awry... but the music he composed and played can never be denied. Best Fahey biography out there!
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By Ingrid R. Guerci on July 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book was very interesting but a little boring. I do like John Fahey's older music and I can't thank the man enough for recording Leo Kottke's first album.

However, I was shocked about how he died. I did not know he had had heart surgery and went into a coma never to recover. If you are interested in Fahey, get the book. If you've only heard his music a few times and don't really know anything about him, don't waste your time.
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By Chester on June 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Very good original interviews of some of the more important people surrounding Fahey's life made for an excellent book, probably the best thing done on the subject to date.
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By JS on June 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I am about 2/3 of the way through this book. An excellent story written in a very engaging way. John Fahey would approve of this book I am sure!
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