Beeswing is an intelligent story telling of a rich productive life, showing a greater understanding of self than is common in most people. Richard Thompson was the co-founder of the legendary folk-rock group Fairport Convention. He is now a solo performer and hopefully be performing again soon in post-COVID lockdown times. His mastery of the guitar and songwriting is much admired, not only by fans, but by other musicians. In my opinion he underplays this as he writes about his musical journey.
The book, in the main, is about the music. He tells us about his early life and how he developed a love of music and guitars. It leads us into his musical career swiftly, his writing about his personal life is clear but concise. Unusually, his friendships have remained fairly constant and despite band breakups, and changes of musical direction the camaraderie has remained. His relationship with his ex-wife, Linda is discussed in relation to the music and, for me, the book shows a respect for others that is not always maintained when telling a life story. He writes about his conversion to Sufism but this is in main, to explain the effect that had on his music. It had a genuine and life changing effect.
Richard tells the reader when he doesn’t have a clear memory of events, often when he was in the recording studio. I guess his mind was full of the creative process at the time. He tells us a lot about the musicality and what he gains from song writing. At other times, he recalls things with amazing clarity. He gives us an appendix with a record of his dreams that I found fascinating. There is a section with a record of the songs he recalls in the body of the book. Discussions over musical production add to knowledge and understanding of process.
I recommend this book as a telling of part of musical history, the struggle to find a voice, and an audience for his craft. Richard Thompson chose to leave Fairport as he felt he was moving in a different musical direction to his band members, his integrity is refreshing to read about. The inner conflict and reflection on his personal development make for an enjoyable read. The reading of the book has not changed my opinion of one of my musical heroes.
Richard Thompson: BEESWING -Fairport, Folk Rock and Finding my Voice 1967-75 will be published by Faber on 15th April 2021
Find out more about Richard Thompson, his music and this book on his official website.
Review by Carolyn Batcheler