Biography

Awakening: Four Lives in Art

Eileen Chanin, Steven Miller
Biography, Books
Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2015. 229pp. Paperback
ISBN: 978 1 74305 365 2
www.wakefieldpress.com.au
Reviewed by , February 1st, 2016

Four inspiring women, though not exactly household names today, are given some much-deserved attention in this engrossing publication. Dora Ohlfsen, Louise Dyer, Clarice Zander and Mary Cecil Allen, born in Australia in the second half of the nineteenth century, all achieved prominence in areas that were often regarded as the exclusive province of males. These… continue reading »


Beyond Black and White – My Life in Music

Roger Woodward
Biography, Books
Sydney: HarperCollinsPublishers Australia Pty Limited, 2014. 609pp ABC Books under licence.
ISBN: 978 0 7333 2303
www.harpercollins.com.au
Reviewed by , June 1st, 2015

In contrast with the austere black and white dust jacket, the first thing one sees when opening this book is the vividly coloured endpaper, painted by the nine year old author; such talent would surely lead to a future as a visual artist. Soon it becomes clear, however, that he was headed for a career… continue reading »


Gudinski. The Godfather of Australian Rock‘n’Roll

Stuart Coupe
Biography, Books
Sydney: Hachette Australia, 2015. 326 pages
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2015

Stuart Coupe has written an extraordinary book in Gudinski. The Godfather of Australian Rock n Roll. The amount of research to present the Mushroom history within the Australian music industry is a recommendation in itself. Then, because he has hung this around the biography of the compelling Michael Gudinski, his book is a tale of… continue reading »


I am Melba – a Biography

Ann Blainey
Biography, Books
Black Inc Publishing
ISBN 9781863953672
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2014

Ann Blainey makes no apology for adding to the already substantial collection of biographies of Miss Nellie Mitchell. In her Preface, she acknowledges her debt to her forerunners Agnes Murphy, John Hetherington, Thérèse Radic and Pamela Vestey, but claims the right to add to the shelf on several grounds, all of them supported, in her… continue reading »


I’m Talking. My life, my words, my music

Kate Ceberano, assisted by Tom Gilling
Biography, Books
Sydney: Hachette Australia, 2014. 324 pages
ISBN 978 0 7336 3023 1 (pbk)
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2015

“Eclectic” is surely a key word in the story of Kate Ceberano. In case you are unaware, she has achieved success singing rock, pop, jazz, funk, dance, the role of Mary Magdalene in a highly successful production of Jesus Christ Superstar, and more. Success and even stardom. In pop and rock she has sung with… continue reading »


Keith Humble, Music and Me – Memories of a Shared Life

Jill Humble
Biography, Books
Healesville, Victoria: Fernmill Books, 2015 (121 pages). Available by emailing John Whiteoak, whiteoak@hotkey.net.au or writing to Fernmill Books PO Box 395, Healesville 3777
ISBN 978-0-646-93884-4
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2015

I had the honour in 1971 of organising and promoting the premiere performance of Keith Humble’s Nunique VI in the Great Hall of The University of Sydney. I spent three days prior to the performance working with Keith and his long-time collaborator, Jean-Charles François, to facilitate the spectacle. It had many contrasting elements including a… continue reading »


Riding This Road. My life – making music and travelling this wide land with Slim Dusty

Joy McKean
Biography, Books
Sydney: Hachette Australia, 2014. 343 pages
ISBN 978-0 7336 3154-2. Paperback
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2015

All who have achieved my hand-trembling years will know who Slim Dusty was. Many of this doddering horde will also know that his wife was Joy McKean, who performed his music with him all over Australia. In fact she wrote some of his songs. Young as you may be, you should know this too if… continue reading »


Rules of Engagement

Kim Williams
Biography, Books
Melbourne: Miegunyah Press, 2014. 322pp
ISBN 9780522866933
www.mup.com.au
Reviewed by , May 1st, 2015

For decades, Kim Williams has held significant management roles in the arts and media sector in Australian. His memoir, Rules of Engagement, provides us with a beautifully written insider account of the personal, policy and corporate struggles that occurred behind the scenes of some of our largest and most important institutions. Rules of Engagement is… continue reading »


Serious Fun: The Life and Music of Mike Nock

Norman Meehan
Biography, Books
Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press, 2010
ISBN 978-0-86473-636-9
www.victoria.ac.nz/vup
Reviewed by , September 3rd, 2014

Mike Nock has been a stalwart of the Sydney Improvised Music Association and was a star turn at its August celebration of its 30th anniversary. In the general spirit of reminiscence, he offered The Music Trust this biography, published in 2010, for review. It was published around the time of Mike’s 70th birthday celebrations so… continue reading »


Sophisto-Punk: The Story of Mark Opitz and Oz Rock

Luke Wallis, Jeff Jenkins and Mark Opitz
Biography, Books
Sydney: Ebury Press 2012, 361pp.
ISBN 9781742757933
www.randomhouse.com.au
Reviewed by , March 1st, 2014

It’s rare that a book on the Australian music industry provides a perspective from behind the mixing desk. That’s why Sophisto-Punk, the biography of award winning producer Mark Opitz, is so valuable. Co-writers Luke Wallis and Jeff Jenkins met Opitz when they interviewed him for the Triple M radio network. Opitz had so many stories… continue reading »


Steady, Steady by Henry ‘Seaman’ Dan and Karl Neuenfeldt

Steady, Steady

Henry ‘Seaman’ Dan and Karl Neuenfeldt
Biography, Books, Ethnomusicology
Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2013. 170pp.Includes CD, Seaman Dan, Still on Deck : Personal Favourites, 2013, Steady, Steady Music
ISBN 9781922059208
Reviewed by , March 2nd, 2014

Canadian-Australian academic Karl Neuenfeldt first met Torres Strait Islander singer Seaman Dan in 1999, the year Dan turned 70. Neuenfeldt, then a researcher at Central Queensland University, was on Thursday Island at the local radio station, 4MW (Meriba Wakai), conducting interviews with Torres Strait Island musicians. He asked Dan to sing a few songs, and… continue reading »


The Bee Gees: The Biography

The Bee Gees: The Biography

David N Meyer
Biography, Books
North Sydney: Ebury Books, Random House, 2013, 319pp.
ISBN 978 1 74275 157 (pbk)
Reviewed by , March 2nd, 2014

The Bee Gees are one of the great enigmas of popular music – nothing seems to be consistent. Unfairly derided, they are among the world’s biggest selling acts: only the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Garth Brooks outsell them. Yet, they tend to remain forgotten, although the nostalgia plaguing modern culture currently (see Reynolds, S, Retromania:… continue reading »


The Beethoven Obsession. The story of Gerard Willems recording of all Beethoven’s piano works on the Stuart piano

Brendan Ward
Biography, Books, Musicology
Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2013, 269pp.
ISBN 9781742233956 (pbk)
Reviewed by , January 1st, 2015

Ward recounts the fascinating story of three men, and their project to record the complete Beethoven piano works on the unique Australian made Stuart piano. These three men are Brendan Ward a former TV cameraman from Kingaroy QLD, Wayne Stuart the piano designer and pianist, and Sydney Conservatorium academic Gerard Willems, the Dutch immigrant who… continue reading »


The Best Years of Our Lives: Richard Clapton

Richard Clapton
Biography, Books
Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin 2014. 337 Pages
ISBN 9781760110598
http://www.allenandunwin.com
Reviewed by , September 1st, 2014

The Best Years of Our Lives is Richard Clapton’s account of his roller-coaster life in the fast lane of Australian popular music. With a recording career stretching back to the early 1970s, he has a lot to draw on. The book opens in the mid-sixties as Clapton the young fan spends a day with The… continue reading »


The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story: Life, Countdown and Everything in Between

Ian Molly Meldrum with Jeff Jenkin
Biography, Books
Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, 2014. 456pp.
ISBN 978 1 76011 205 9 (hardback)
Reviewed by , March 1st, 2015

The Executive Producer of Countdown, Michael Shrimpton once said that Molly Meldrum was ‘a collection of nouns searching for a verb’. Actually, Molly has done a lot of verbing in his life, much of it with a capital ‘V’. One could almost call him verbose! He also cites many nouns, particularly the proper variety (though… continue reading »


The Shock of Recognition: the books and music that have inspired me

Barry Jones
Biography, Books, Music Criticism
Sydney: Allen and Unwin 2016. 412 pp. Paperback
ISBN 9781741759662
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2016

Barry’s open house: a classic’s classics. A visit to a colleague’s house will often bring you face to face with their books and music, sometimes on display, sometimes stacked haphazardly throughout rooms. A window into their interests and influences, a scan of their collection can help find common ground, or not, as the case may… continue reading »


The Youngs: The brothers who built AC/DC

Jesse Fink
Biography, Books
North Sydney, Ebury Press, a division of Random House, 2013, 313 pages
ISBN 1 74275 979 1
www.randomhouse.com.au
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2014

  Writing a book on AC/DC is difficult. The achievements are immense. The second biggest selling rock album of all time: Back in Black(only beaten by Michael Jackson’s Thriller, according to most sales statistics). A live act which remains energetic and vital into their sixties. A signature sound that is easily copied, but never duplicated…. continue reading »


Wotan’s Daughter. The Life of Marjorie Lawrence by Richard Davis

Wotan’s Daughter. The Life of Marjorie Lawrence

Richard Davis
Biography, Books
Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield Press. 331pp.
ISBN 9781743051221 (pbk)
Reviewed by , March 2nd, 2014

The story of soprano Marjorie Lawrence has all the threads common to Australian musicians who get themselves to the other side of the world and establish international reputations. Outstanding talent and unshakable belief in their worth, willingness to pursue the dream despite all vicissitudes, and courage. Surely none of them has shown the courage that… continue reading »


The Remarkable Mr Morrison. The Virtuosity and Versatility of Australia’s Master Musician

Mervyn E. Collins
Biography, Books
Melbourne: Melbourne Books, 2014, 317pp.
ISBN 9781922129444 (pbk)
www.melbournebooks.com.au
Reviewed by , August 1st, 2015

Jazzman James Morrison was born with exceptional gifts which became evident from early childhood when he tried playing all the instruments his older brother brought home from school. He started playing in bands at the age of eight, first at Mona Vale Primary School on Sydney’s northern beaches and later in a group at the… continue reading »


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