The Soul Of It All: My Music, My Life
Michael Bolton Center Street; First Edition
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.