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

4.2 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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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: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #683,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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By Takoma on September 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
All Fahey fans should get this book and read it. It is really the only serious Fahey biography or documentary currently available on any media. I would venture that this is the only real biography or documentary on Fahey, period. Either way it is unlikely to be exceeded.

What about the "Blind Joe Death Saga of John Fahey DVD"? Well, get that too. The creative people did a great job setting beautiful imagery to Fahey's music. You can pretty much skip the interviews on that DVD as they are 50% content free for all but diehard Pete Townshend fans.

What makes this book so great?

It focuses on Fahey himself. Lowenthal obviously made a huge effort to interview ALL of the key people throughout Fahey's life, not just the readily accessible handful who came to know him over his last decade. Fortunately, they are included as well.

Next, it stays away from the music itself. Yes, Lowenthal dutifully cites the well worn "Ives/Bartok/classical music over traditional fingerpicking" quote which has never really applied to more than a handful of Fahey's compositions. Fahey was a creative genius composer who listened widely to all types of music. The closest that we're ever going to come to understanding his creativity is found in the rambling text in "The Best of John Fahey 1959-1977 tablature book. This book actually does reference some of that as well, so it really is as good as it gets on his music and Lowenthal wisely knows when to stop.

Finally, it focuses on the people and experiences in Fahey's life and through them we come to understand Fahey about as well as we can. If you've spent time reading his liner notes, his books, etc then you will enjoy getting a better understanding of the faces, emotions and histories behind the liner notes.
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a Fahey fan since the 1960's and learned much new to me about him from this book. If you were going to buy only one bio, this is the one I'd recommend.

y'r ol' Bud,

Fike
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who enjoys John Fahey's music enough to have more than one of his albums will enjoy this book. It is capably written, beautifully printed and well documented, and the author knows enough about music to write credibly about Fahey's works. More photographs would've been enjoyable, but the ones used are apt and help tell the story.

I have to say for me, though, the experience of reading it was somewhat painful. Like any Fahey fan I knew the sad way his life ended, and experiencing this uniquely American artist's decline was challenging.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At last someone has written a John Fahey biography! About time too. Steve Lowenthal doesn't get caught up in a morass of endless detail. He mostly just sticks to the essentials. What's really great about this book is Lowenthal's filtration of real history from Fahey's self mythology. There are a couple of areas he could have expanded upon though - he says nothing about "Days Have Gone By" or "Red Cross", two of the man's best albums. But in all it's a great book. And at approximately 250 pages it is a good economic read. And fun.
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