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Richard Thompson: The Biography Hardcover – February 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Schirmer Trade Books (February 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0028647521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0028647524
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

After 30 years of recording and performing, Richard Thompson remains the nightmare of every marketing department: he is an obvious genius who simply can't be slipped past the radar of the mainstream audience. Thompson himself seems nonplussed. He continues to write marvelously mordant songs, and to wring his own brand of Celtic angst from the electric guitar. Meanwhile, the journalist Patrick Humphries has taken on the Boswell role, taping hours of interviews and running down all the requisite sources. The result is this lively Life of Thompson, which includes an airtight discography and some goofy photos that only a fearless man would allow to be published.

From Booklist

Richard Thompson blends folk, jazz, Cajun, and rockabilly elements in songs, powered by his own brilliant guitar playing, that plumb the nether regions of romance. For this, he has won virtually unmatched acclaim (Entertainment Weekly recently deemed him "the British Neil Young"). Humphries interviewed Thompson extensively (and quotes him at such length that, at times, this book reads like an autobiography) as well as many musicians who have worked with him, including his former wife and co-headliner, Linda. He traces Thompson's career from his days in the groundbreaking British folk-rock group Fairport Convention to his perhaps less dazzling but steadfastly rewarding recent work. Breezy but chock-full of information, Humphries' effort offers genuine insight into Thompson's music and a revealing examination of the enigmatic performer's life, including his conversion to Islam and rancorous divorce from Linda. Hugely respected by critics and fellow musicians, Thompson has only a cult fandom in the U.S.--one sizable and enthusiastic enough, however, to warrant library purchase of this exemplary biography. Gordon Flagg

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Anthony G. Traguardo on October 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Let me begin by saying that this book is mandatory for any hardcore fan of Mr. Thompson's. While I appreciated the thorough coverage of Thompson's adventures (and mis-adventures), I believe that it would not entertain the unconverted. Most non-fans or newcomers could probably best spend their time simply reading Humphries' reviews.
One problem that I had with the book is the author's insistence on repeating certain phrases or ideas to describe Thompson's enigmatic position in the industry, or to express the difficulties in his personal life. If I saw Thomspon ... along with two or three other artists of the genre, for that matter ... referred to as "a bard of the bedsit" one more time, I think I would have closed the book and not re-opened it.
What strikes me when reading this author's work and I've read two of his books) is that he should: conduct all of the interviews that are used in his work (his skills in this area are very strong), utilize all of his knowledge as a fan and fact-finding skills to compile discographies, etc., and find himself a far better editor, or link with a writing partner who could check him for repetitiveness and verbosity; both of which became more problematic as the book wears on.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is worthwhile simply because it is the only one out on the subject. But there are few revelations, it merely conslidates information that has appeared in articles and interviews over the years. The interviews are rewarding, but should have been edited for coherence and attribution. The writing is trite, hackneyed, and the author too frequently inserts himself and his very biased opinions into the story. And a number of factual blunders calls all the apparent research into question. Disappointing, sometimes apalling, but the only game in town.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bob Dubery on December 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I've read this. I think it's unremarkable. I'm not sure that's Humphries' fault - or anybody else's for that matter.

Humphries is quite obviously a Thompson fan. Mostly he makes a fair fist of remaining objective about Thompson's work, though he does get on the soapbox from time to time to air his own views.

The real problem with this book is that there's no real revelation. Some people might be surprised to know that RT is fond of scrabble, cricket and gardening (the anoraks amongst his fans knew all that already), but that's about it really.

The real problem - and it's not really the author's fault - is that Thompson, apart from his music, is a very ordinary person. English post-war middle class upbringing, two marriages, one divorce, one religious conversion (which hasn't coloured his work in the long run). Still touring hard in his middle age but there's no sex and drugs, no groupies, just a bit of scrabble at the back of the bus. Where's the best seller in that?

So full marks to Humphries for trying and full marks to the very private Thompson for agreeing to go along with it all, but unless you're a Thompson completist save the cash and buy the CDs instead. That is where all the truly remarkable things about Richard Thompson are to be found.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tricky Sam on October 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book rates down there with Chris Murphy's Miles To Go as one of the most amatuerishly written biographies I have read. Most of the other readers' reviews here, and especially the Kirkus review, touch on my frustrations, but I think they are being FAR too polite. Yes, it's the only bio of this musical genius, so I guess the intention was good. But unfortunately, the author apparantly thinks that HE is part of the story! There are lots and lots of personal opinions, recollections, critiques that have no place in a bio purporting to tell the life story of its subject. The admittedly good interviews often were strung back to back without editing, then followed by a passage by the author retelling the same facts just discussed by the subjects. The ramblings and redundancies became so tedious to me that I was not only tempted to put it down, but throw it at the wall. Only my love for Richard Thompson prompted me to plow through it.
OK, I admit that the pictures are worth having, but you will probably learn as much from the booklets included in the 2 excellent RT box sets. And you will have the pleasure of listening to Richard's wonderful music.
It IS the only available RT bio, and a lot of work went into it. If you're a fan you're going to buy it anyway, and you probably will be glad to have a copy. The intentions were noble, so I'm raising my rating to 2 stars. :o)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Weller on February 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you're reading this it's probably because you are a Richard Thompson fan. And if you are a real fan, you should get this because: 1) There are no other Richard Thompson biographies (books) 2) It has good reference material in the appendices (although inevitably it's out of date) 3) No one's going to get rich off of writing a Richard Thompson bio, and we should support whoever makes the effort, espcially when it's not THAT expensive 4) You will find out something(s) you didn't know [Afghanistan & "Shoot Out the Lights"; scrabble; "Walking on the Wire" was before the breakup] 5) This book looks like it might be going out of print. Get it while you can. HOWEVER: A good biography makes the person come alive; it succeeds as a story on its own. This doesn't make it on that level. (Yeah, it does have an index [required] but the index didn't have Pentangle, mentioned several times in the text...) SO there's my Caveat Emptor. The passersby could bypass this with no worry; but if you're a fan....
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