Title: Uncommon People
Author/Narrator: David Hepworth
Genre: Non-Fiction / History / Biography / Music
First published: 2017
Edition: Audio book & Paperback, published by Penguin Random House in 2018
The age of the rock star, like the age of the cowboy, has passed. Like the cowboy, the idea of the rock star lives on in our imaginations.
What did we see in them? Swagger. Recklessness. Sexual charisma. Damn-the-torpedoes self-belief. A certain way of carrying themselves. Good hair. Interesting shoes. Talent we wished we had.
What did we want of them? To be larger than life but also like us. To live out their songs. To stay young forever.
Another book club pick and this was a fun one. I had the paperback on my shelves, but I chose to listen to this one on audio. It was a good choice, as the author narrates it himself and does a great job of telling these stories.
He runs through people that could be considered ‘rockstars’ from 1955 (Little Richard) up to 1994 (Kurt Cobain). The latter he considers to be the last true rockstar. The concept was really fun and the people he chose to represent each year were all very interesting individuals and the snapshots of moments in time were definitely vivid enough to be transported to a different time.
I do wonder why he chose this particular group of people and why he excluded someone like Debbie Harry, who certainly to me was a one of the true female rockstars. He talks about Madonna changing the face of music and the birth of the popstar rather than the rockstar, but did people like Debbie Harry not already start that trend? I defiitely understand why he chose to include Madonna, but just saying… 😉
Overall, I really enjoyed the ride and it was a joy to listen to this.
In his epilogue he argues that we know too much of the stars today to truly attribute to them the idea of the rockstar and I think that is right. He also argues that stars that are around today are unlikely to still be playing to huge audiences in twenty years. I beg to differ on that one. Today’s ‘rockstars’ are different, but I think some definitely have longevity. I can see an artist like Beyonce still pulling in crowds in twenty years, same goes for people like Adele and good old Ed Sheeran. Whether they would choose to is a different story.
I definitely noticed a bias in his storytelling due to his age. You could definitely tell which artists he admired more than others. Of course that is perfectly valid as it is his book.
If you are interested in music and its trajectory through the years, I would highly recommend this book. You learn a lot about a variety people in concise well-written chapters.
6 out o 7 stars