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read bill graham’s book

March 14, 2010

Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and OutAnyone who’s ever enjoyed the hell out of a really great rock concert should recognize their debt of gratitude to the late Bill Graham. As Pete Townshed said “Bill changed the way rock evolved.” It’s a strong statement but after reading his semi-auto biography I understand that it is clearly true.  Bill Graham Presents is not written as a narrative but as a conversation with dozens of people steered by the voice of Bill himself. The style is similar to another of my favorite rock bios, David Crosby’s Long Time Gone. I don’t know if that style was the original concept for the book or if it was born out of necessity when Graham’s life was cut tragically short in a 1991 helicopter accident. But every time I sat down to read it I thought “Thank God they started working on this before his death.” Because honestly, to not have the thoughts and memories of this truly unique force in rock history recorded would be a real tragedy.

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Bill GrahamAs someone who spends a good portion of their free time reading about musicians this book was a whole other experience altogether.  Reading about the biggest events in rock – Monterey Pop, the Acid Tests, Woodstock, Altamont, The Last Waltz, Live Aid – from Bill’s perspective has given them a whole new dimension. And though I’d always known the basic trajectory of Graham’s career – the Fillmores, the Winterland, the tours – I had no understanding of the man himself and his incredible life story. I want you all to read the book so I won’t spoil any of it by saying much about the substance. Especially since, for me one of the great joys of reading it was all of the discoveries and connections made along the way.  He was the right man, in the right place, at the right time and rock & roll will forever be in his debt.

This post also appears in the Books section of the very work-in-progress Library.


musicnotes“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” In the book Bill says that when Otis Redding played three nights at the Fillmore in December of ‘66 they were the best shows he put on in his entire life. After reading his passionate description of them, you’ll know why.

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