The Soul Of It All: My Mu­sic, My Life

Michael Bolton Center Street; First Edi­tion

NZ Today - - ON BOOKS -

I should prob­a­bly start this with a dis­claimer: I am in no way a Michael Bolton fan.

Right, now that’s out the way I can tell you that I did en­joy this book. Oh, sure, when it gets to the part of the mega-suc­cess and the poodle-hair/Fabio-look, I switched off some­what. I don’t ac­tu­ally be­grudge Bolton his suc­cess, he’s not the enemy. It’s easy to not lis­ten to his mu­sic and it’s easy to not be of­fended by him – he just filled a need in the lives of many; those vac­u­ous sorts that like “what­ever’s on the ra­dio”. If it weren’t him, it’d be some­one else.

But, be­fore we get to that, the book is in­ter­est­ing. You see this guy’s “overnight suc­cess” came af­ter 18 years of slog­ging it out with some half-dozen record­ings and as many record­ing con­tracts trail­ing in his wake.

Mr Bolton wanted to be a rocker – and he spent the 1970s and early 1980s open­ing for Bob Seger, wor­ship­ing Joe Cocker and Spring­steen and Three Dog Night and at­tempt­ing to cre­ate some­thing along those lines. Okay, so that in it­self might not be riv­et­ing to hear about – or orig­i­nal to hear – but I en­joyed the rags-to-riches tale. And that Bolton earned his suc­cess the hard way, sch­lep­ping gear and slurp­ing drinks in and through beat-up bar-rooms across Amer­ica.

He also has some aware­ness; he’s of­ten self-ef­fac­ing, he’s aware of how he’s per­ceived by a great many. He was raised on hip­pie-cul­ture and learned to play in­stru­ments – worked hard at song­writ­ing.

Of course you can im­me­di­ately hold all of that against him when he does the gi­ant sell-out; which is kinda what makes him in­ter­est­ing and then sorta stops his book from be­ing in­ter­est­ing – once you get to the soppy bal­ladry and bak­ing­pa­per soul mu­sic it’s hard to care (un­less you’re a fan of that cold, heart­less, art­less mu­sic).

But I still ap­plaud where this is com­ing from – the sen­ti­ment of a fam­ily man want­ing to earn a crust; try­ing to pro­vide. He hit up the jin­gle-cir­cuit, did a bunch of ad-work. He talks of how Luther Vandross never gave that work up, even af­ter fame. He turned up for the easy cheque and slipped into the back­ground as back­ing singer for ra­dio jin­gles and TV ads. Bolton made his first de­cent money do­ing the same.

He kept work­ing at his writ­ing, pro­vid­ing hits for other pop-stars, ghost-writ­ing, rak­ing in pub­lish­ing dol­lars. He even tells a great story of be­ing sum­moned to write with Bob Dy­lan.

I’m no Michael Bolton fan but I can ap­pre­ci­ate the tal­ent, and this book shows you that a lot went into that overnight pop suc­cess.

Si­mon Sweet­man

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