book reviews

A review of Lenny Kravitz’s Let Love Rule…

The official video for Lenny Kravitz’s hit song and the title of his book.

As a child of the 70s and 80s, I was a big fan of The Cosby Show, before we all found out what a molesting creep Bill Cosby is. Lenny’s first wife, Lisa Bonet, starred as Denise Huxtable on that show, as well as A Different World. But I didn’t know until much later that Lenny’s mom was also someone I admired, Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on The Jeffersons, another show from my childhood that I loved. With all of these relics from my youth in his life, it was only natural that I’d want to read Kravtiz’s recent book, Let Love Rule, which he co-wrote with David Ritz. Let Love Rule was just published last month and, unlike I was when his music first came out, I was an early partaker. I bought it just two days after it was released. Sadly, I no longer read as fast as I used to, and I just now finished reading it this morning.

I love a good memoir, especially when it’s about a musician I really admire. Although I wasn’t one of Lenny Kravitz’s earliest fans when he burst into the limelight about thirty years ago, once I did discover his music, I became a devoted fan. He’s someone who takes familiar sounds of other artists– people like Prince, Jimi Hendrix, or John Lennon, or bands like Led Zeppelin or Earth, Wind, & Fire, and turns them into something uniquely his. I think the first song I ever heard by Lenny was “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over”, which reminded me so much of Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World”, yet with a unique and original twist.

The song that introduced me to Lenny Kravitz.

Let Love Rule is a breakdown of Lenny’s first 25 years of life. Even if he hadn’t been an incredibly talented rock star, I’d say his first 25 years were book worthy. Born in New York City on May 26, 1964, he is the only child of the aforementioned elegant, Christian, Black actress, Roxie Roker, and White, Russian Jewish, NBC television news producer, Sy Kravitz. He spent his earliest years in New York, dividing his time between his mother’s Bahamian parents’ house in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Manhattan. Lenny Kravitz is a second cousin of television weather man Al Roker’s. Their grandfathers were brothers. He was named after his father’s brother, Private First Class Leonard Kravtiz, who was killed in action during the Korean War.

By the time he was five years old, Lenny– who in those days spelled his name Lennie– knew he wanted to be a musician. He started with banging pots and pans in the kitchen and graduated to guitar and singing. His mother, in particular, encouraged Lenny’s artistic and musical pursuits and took him to a lot of shows, including The Jackson Five at Madison Square Garden. His father, who was also a jazz promoter, introduced him to great jazz musicians like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and Sarah Vaughan. Then, in 1974, Roxie Roker won the role of Helen Willis on The Jeffersons, and Lenny moved from New York City to California– ironically so his mom could star on a show set in New York City!

Lenny Kravitz had a tough time adjusting to California. Other kids made fun of his New York accent, and he missed the dense neighborhoods and proximity to his grandparents. His father was also not a fan of California and, though he stayed married to Roxie Roker, declined to make the move to California at first. Fortunately, Lenny was able to take advantage of the many artistic avenues available in California. At his mother’s urging, he even joined the highly esteemed California Boys Choir, where he was exposed to classical repertoires. His mother pulled strings to get him into Beverly Hills High School, which was not in his neighborhood, solely so he could take advantage of the music department there.

Although he was clearly a gifted musician, Lenny Kravitz was not a good student, and he ended up having to drop out of Beverly Hills High School in favor of an alternative school. However, the teachers there still let Lenny jam with his former classmates, which included people like Slash from Guns N’ Roses and actor Nicholas Cage. Kravitz enjoyed a privileged upbringing in a nice house in Los Angeles, mixing with talented people and smoking a lot of weed, developing his craft. He also had a religious experience, even though he was not raised by particularly religious parents. When he was thirteen, he became a Christian.

Lenny and his father didn’t get along very well. They would butt heads over grades and discipline, and the elder Kravitz would say disparaging things to his son, who disappointed him by not being a good student. Things got bad enough that one day, when Lenny was still a teenager, he and his father almost came to physical blows. And although the house they lived in was paid for by Roxie Roker, thanks to salary from The Jeffersons, the senior Kravitz then gave Lenny that age-old ultimatum– “If you walk out that door, don’t bother coming back.” Sure enough, Lenny left, and never lived with his parents again.

Lenny’s mother, being a traditional Bahamian woman, didn’t want to divorce Lenny’s father. She eventually did when it became painfully clear that he was unfaithful to her and was busted by Lenny himself. That was when he really got on track to becoming the rock star he is today. He eventually met Lisa Bonet, fell in love, and together they became parents to Zoë Kravitz, now a musician and actress in her own right. Lenny clearly loved, and perhaps even still loves, Lisa Bonet very much. He writes lovingly about their relationship, and how they had so much in common. Lisa is also biracial, having been born to a White Jewish mother and a Black father. And clearly, her holistic, creative, nurturing proclivities had a big effect on Lenny and helped him launch his career. The book ends as Lenny’s career is taking off and he’s a new father to baby Zoë, whose creation was behind Lisa Bonet’s temporary departure from The Cosby Show and her permanent departure from A Different World. Lenny does spill the tea on how it went down when Lisa Bonet and Debbie Allen (who directed A Different World) told Bill Cosby about her pregnancy.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed Let Love Rule. David Ritz did a great job making this book seem like it came straight from Lenny himself. I felt as if Lenny Kravitz was sitting in a room telling me about his early life and development into a big star. I also loved some of the personal anecdotes shared in this book, especially about Roxie Roker. I always thought she was such a beautiful, classy lady, but she was also clearly a warm, caring, supportive mother, who was not afraid to discipline her son, OR even his friends when they needed it.

I could relate to Lenny’s comments about his difficulties with his father, too. My dad and I also had a difficult relationship. Lenny’s father had been in the military, as mine also was, and would alternate strict discipline with frank neglect or abuse. Of course, my situation wasn’t nearly as extreme as Lenny’s was, but I could still relate to him because there were some similarities. And there were also similarities in that sometimes, Lenny’s dad, like my own, would believe in him and come through for him.

And finally, while I may never be a rock star like Lenny is, I can relate to being a musician and wanting to make music. I understand the thrill of creating something good or even just hearing something really fantastic. I enjoyed feeling like I have something in common with Lenny Kravitz, besides being a fellow Gemini. And I love how he pulls together all of his many musical influences and makes music that thrills on another level. The first time I ever heard “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, it was being performed as a cover by my cousin, Justin, who is a professional musician in Nashville. I loved my cousin’s version so much, I had to go listen to the original, which blew my socks off.

This song still kills me, even decades after it was first released.

I guess the only thing I didn’t like about Let Love Rule is that it ends rather abruptly, just as Lenny is about to take off into the stratosphere. I know this book was only intended to be about his first twenty-five years, and he does mention that his story will continue, but the ending still felt like it came at the wrong time. It was like riding the crest of an orgasm and then never quite getting that burst of anticipated pleasure built up by excitement and tension. And I worry that when the next volume does come out, I may not be riding the crest anymore, if you know what I mean.

Still… I really enjoyed this book and would certainly recommend it, not just to people like Lenny Kravitz’s music, but also anyone who was a fan of his mother’s work, or even those who just like a good story. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I think Lenny would have had a book-worthy story even if he never became famous. And I am very touched by how much he loves his family, as well as his honesty about his devotion to God.

I look forward to the next book about Lenny Kravitz’s remarkable life. I hope it’s as hard for me to put down as this one was.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon from sales made through my site.

Standard
music

When rock stars are locked down…

Because we’re stuck at home, I’ve been spending even more time on YouTube than usual. In recent weeks, rock stars and musicians have been reaching out via YouTube and Facebook. I’ve been following star bassist Leland Sklar on Facebook for a long while now. I think he’s funny, and I admire his work as a bass player for such stars as James Taylor, Carole King, Phil Collins, and Jackson Browne, among many others. Facebook recently put Lee in “jail” because of his inflammatory comments about the orange turd, so he’s been doing daily YouTube videos that I have really been enjoying. Here are a few of them.

He has so many videos… and a lot of them have great stories with them, as well as samples of his mad bass skills.
I actually have a picture of myself flipping off the camera. Maybe I should send it to him.
This is a great video about how Lee met an Irish family with a little boy who thought he was Santa. The little boy grew up and he and his family are still friends with Lee.
This is FIERCE! Watch this to hear Leland play along with a psychedelic 70s song.

Other musicians are also entertaining the masses on video. Most of us have probably seen Neil Diamond’s adorable coronavirus version of his hit song, “Sweet Caroline”. I had no idea he was so quirky and funny!

So cute!!! And I love seeing all of these folks’ dogs, too!

Yesterday, I caught Dennis DeYoung’s video. I was listening to it, and Bill said, “Which Gibb is that?” I said, “WHAT DID YOU SAY?” Bwahahahaha! And a friend got a kick out of Dennis’s hairpiece. To be honest, I hadn’t noticed it, but apparently that toupee is the stuff of many jokes. I guess Bill forgot that there’s only one Gibb left– oldest brother, Barry, who, to my knowledge, doesn’t wear a hairpiece.

He still sounds pretty good! Maybe we can find a way to make this the “best of times”.

And not to be outdone, Dennis DeYoung’s former Styx bandmate, Tommy Shaw, also sang to his dog! I love that he did it dressed comfortably. That’s how I’d do it, too.

Oh my God… he is still so cute, even in his jammies! And he sounds great! The dog doesn’t seem too impressed, though.

Paul Simon and Edie Brickell sang a duet and looked totally adorable doing it…

This is so sweet!

And here’s The Immediate Family sharing their gifts with us… Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, Waddy Wachtel, Russ Kunkel, and Steve Postell, some of the best session musicians in the business! I can’t believe that as of this writing, they only have 120 subscribers! If you check out only one video in this post, I highly recommend The Immediate Family. These guys helped make people like James Taylor, Phil Collins, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and Bonnie Raitt as great as they are, especially back in the 70s.

Bwahahahaaha! This makes me gleeful! They’ve all worked with some of my favorite 70s artists! And apparently, they’ve all been fired by James Taylor… Really?
Love this, too! Lee Sklar is particularly good on this one! Sigh… now I miss the 80s again. I think I might like this more than the 80s version.

Keb’ Mo’ plays beautifully at home. I wanted to see him in January, but we had a house guest and then Bill had a bunch of business trips. Keb’ comes to Europe a lot and will supposedly be in Mainz on our wedding anniversary this year. If we’re still in Germany and allowed to go to concerts, maybe we’ll attend. I would LOVE to see Keb’ Mo’ play live. I love his music and love these videos from home.

God, he’s soulful.
Fantastic!

Ron Block, who besides being a great musician and songwriter solo, plays with Alison Krauss and Union Station, has also done some online quarantine jamming. I love Ron Block’s solo stuff and own a lot of his albums. I’ve found him very normal and approachable online, too. Like, at one time (before he had a fan page) we were “friends” and he actually commented on something I posted.

This reminds me… time to cut Bill’s hair again.

And Carole King has also joined in…

Her piano playing is so distinctive. I could pick it out anywhere.
And she sounds as plaintive as ever on the elegant classic, “So Far Away”… I think we’re all feeling it.

I find all of this stuff inspiring and a real morale booster. I may have to do some more music myself today. So what if it’s Sunday and we’re supposed to be quiet? Fuck it… I’ve been good. I wore a mask yesterday and everything. On the other hand, I could just lie around like a sloth and hunt down more videos of rock stars doing what they do best. I’m sure for some of them, this is a way to keep people thinking about them so they won’t be forgotten when they can play live again. For others, I’m sure it’s a way of staying sane and having fun doing what comes naturally.

Well… I could probably post a bunch more videos if I wanted to… but I have laundry to fold. I hope some of you will take a few minutes to check out some of these videos… especially Leland Sklar’s! I think he should write a book. He’s got so many great stories and he’s made me want to learn how to play bass. If this coronavirus crap goes on much longer, I may have to order a guitar and learn some chords.

Standard
book reviews

Repost: Linda Thompson dishes on loving Elvis Presley, being Bruce Jenner’s wife, and being David Foster’s wife…

Elvis Presley, the so-called “King of Rock and Roll”, died when I was five years old and living in England.  I grew up knowing who he was, hearing his songs, watching movies about him, and not really having an appreciation for why he was considered so great.

Bruce Jenner, now out as a transgender and living his life as Caitlyn, won the gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon in 1976.  I was four years old and living in England, so I didn’t see his big win.  I did hear about it, though, and I remember watching him act on shows like CHiPs.  I also remember seeing him on a Wheaties box or two.

David Foster is famous for writing intricate melodies and dazzling orchestral arrangements.  I remember hearing his work on Earth, Wind, & Fire’s beautiful ballad, “After the Love is Gone” and Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”, as well as on countless other projects.

These three people all have the distinction of dating and/or marrying Memphis raised Linda Thompson, a former beauty queen, actress, and lyricist, and the mother of Bruce Jenner’s two sons, Brandon and Brody.  Last year, Thompson published a book about her experiences entitled 

A Little Thing Called Life: On Loving Elvis Presley, Bruce Jenner, and Songs in Between.  I think I downloaded the book some time ago, but I only just got around to finishing it.  It was a surprisingly interesting read.

Although I had heard of Linda Thompson before I bought her book, I think I was mostly familiar with her because I knew some of the songs for which she’d written lyrics.  Thompson explains that she’s always enjoyed writing poetry and while she was dating Elvis Presley, a musician noticed how well the words flowed.  He set her words to music and sang for her and that was when she realized she was a songwriter.  But before that happened, she was a beauty queen whose brother worked as one of Elvis’s bodyguards.  

Elvis Presley was apparently quite taken with Linda and she became his live in girlfriend and caretaker for almost five years.  She was in her 20s and he was in his 40s.  He used a lot of drugs and wasn’t entirely faithful.  She lost her virginity to him and several years of her youth taking care of him after he took too many sleeping pills.  She learned how to make his famous peanut butter and banana sandwiches and shares the recipe in her book.  She also took care of his daughter with Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie.

Elvis and Linda broke up less than a year before he died.  He’d already found another caretaker, though, a woman named Ginger, who also has a book.

I was probably more interested in reading about Linda Thompson’s relationship with Bruce Jenner.  When they met, he was still married to his first wife, Chrystie, and had a son and a daughter from that marriage.  In the wake of his divorce, Bruce and Linda started dating and married.  She bore him two sons and he secretly borrowed her favorite silk blouse, which he smeared with makeup and stretched out.  One time, Linda was cleaning up around their house and she found an unlabeled video tape.  Thinking it was a film of her sons, she put it in the VCR to watch and was stunned to see Bruce parading around in women’s clothing and looking very much like a woman.

To her credit, Thompson did see a therapist about the situation with Bruce.  The therapist wisely told her that Bruce is transgendered and thinks he’s a woman.  It was a condition that would not change.  Feeling uncomfortable with the prospect of being married to a woman, Linda decided that she and Bruce should divorce.  She did not ask for child support or alimony… and sadly, Bruce Jenner was evidently an “absentee father”.  Thompson repeatedly writes that she did encourage a relationship between her sons and their dad.  She also writes that she feels there is “no excuse” for a parent missing their child’s upbringing.  Frankly, I agree.  However, there are plenty of parents out there who don’t want the other parent involved and do their best to break that bond.  I’m glad to read that Thompson didn’t do that.  Or, at least that’s what she claims.

My husband’s mother was married to a transgendered female for a couple of years.  He was a good looking man, very artistic, and had a son from a prior relationship.  Pretty soon, it became clear that he hoped my mother-in-law would teach him “how to be a woman”.  Naturally, the relationship failed within four years.  While I have a lot of empathy for transgendered people, I also have empathy for people who end up in relationships with them not knowing that they are transgendered.  I also have empathy for Bill, who was abused by his ex stepfather.

After she divorced Jenner, who went on to marry Kris Kardashian and have two daughters with her, Linda Thompson met David Foster.  He was married at the time they met and had children from prior relationships.  He divorced, and he and Thompson started dating.  Thompson writes that Foster is incredibly talented to the point of being a genius.  However, he’s also very tyrannical about some things and seems quite narcissistic.  Their marriage lasted nineteen years.  It ended after Thompson forgave Foster for having an affair and then caught him in another lie.  The shitty part of it was that she caught him due to a friend’s lack of discretion and it happened to be their wedding anniversary.

I have always admired David Foster as a musician, but as I read about Thompson getting involved with yet another self-absorbed overachiever, I started wondering what it was that attracted her to these types of people.  If you think about it, Thompson’s major relationships have involved people who are bonafide superstars in their fields.  According to Thompson, they each repeatedly treated her with disrespect.  She has reaped some benefits from her relationships with these guys.  Thompson is famous in her own right, knows a lot of elite people, and lives very comfortably.  But she has not been lucky in love.

I suppose the main thing I got from her book is that you should be careful what you wish for when you look for a mate.  Would it be exciting to be in a relationship with a famous person?  Maybe.  There’s a lot that famous people can offer that ordinary people can’t.  For instance, Elvis Presley gifted Linda with a house and took her on trips in his private airplane.  

But there is a price to pay for the trappings of that kind of success.  I think to be a really famous superstar, one has to be somewhat narcissistic.  I don’t think every superstar is a narcissist, but I do think a whole lot of them are.  And most narcissists are assholes.

Is it better to live in the lap of luxury yet constantly be disrespected by your mate?  Or is it better to have less material wealth but a mate who loves, respects, and encourages you to live your best life together?  I think all three of Linda’s loves did encourage her to some extent– they weren’t total assholes by her account.  There were good times and she has been able to be friendly with them in the wake of their failed relationships.  But she had to go through a lot of pain to get to that point.

Once again, I look at my Bill and thank God I found a guy who’s just plain good.  No, he’s not rich, famous, or possessing of an extremely rare talent (unless you count profound empathy and kindness), but he always treats me with love and respect.  I love being with him.  I know where he is at night and who he wants to be with.  And that’s worth more to me than a mansion.

Anyway, I found Linda Thompson’s love life interesting.  There are a lot of tidbits in there for those who like to read about celebrities, too.  She even includes some anecdotes about Kenny Rogers and Michael Jackson.  It’s well worth the read if you have the inclination to pick it up.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon from purchases made through my site.

Standard
videos

Wonderful old ladies in Heaven, documented on YouTube…

Sometimes the strangest things can make a person fall down a rabbit hole. Last week, my friend Joann, apparently watching old Road Runner cartoons posted a status update about how the Road Runner theme song was wrong when it included the words “Poor little Road Runner never bothered anyone.” Obviously the Road Runner bothered Wile E. Coyote, right?

I got a kick out of that status update, mainly because my husband’s ex wife reminds me of Wile E. Coyote. I never liked Road Runner cartoons when I was a kid, but I have a new appreciation for them now. So I decided to look on YouTube for the theme song, and I ran across this gem…

OMG… how cool!

Thanks to Joann, I learned about Barbara Cameron, the woman who composed the theme song for The Road Runner Show. Barbara Cameron, a native of Dayton, Ohio, passed away in January 2013, just a month shy of her 87th birthday on Valentine’s Day. Her children, Cam and Doug, are both professional musicians. That’s her son, Doug, playing violin in the above clip. Doug has two sons who are also musicians. Check out YouTube and you’ll find lots of videos of them playing violin with their talented dad.

After I watched Barbara, a former torch singer who once took over a singing job from Doris Day, singing the famous theme song she composed, I ended up watching the memorial video her son made for her. It’s kind of a long video, but very well done and moving. Barbara was obviously a wonderful lady who had many people in her life who loved her dearly.

I didn’t know Barbara Cameron, except for her catchy theme song. What a life she led!

I’m amazed by the things I find in unexpected places and under unusual circumstances. My friend Joann mentions the Road Runner, a cartoon I never even liked much, and suddenly, I’m learning all about the composer of the theme song, a marvelous, talented, charming woman. And I was also introduced to Doug Cameron, who has put out some great jazz albums and apparently shows up on cruise lines like Azamara. I have heard good things about Azamara. I might have to try them sometime, even if they are owned by Royal Caribbean. For more on Barbara Cameron, check out this link. Another blogger was more prepared to pay tribute to Barbara than I am.

YouTube algorithms being what they are, I also somehow wound up getting videos from Phyllis Stokes. I don’t know how I ended up getting her videos, although I guess they are appropriate. Phyllis Stokes died on January 25, 2020, having had a very tragic 2019. In the spring, she was diagnosed with cancer that affected her liver, gall bladder, and bile ducts. A few months later, her beloved husband of 36 years, Bucky, died. A few months after that, Phyllis herself was gone.

Until a couple of days ago, I had not heard of Phyllis Stokes, author of a Web site called SouthernFrugal.com. Phyllis also made many videos showing how to make wonderful southern delicacies without breaking the bank. I love southern food and I used to love to cook… well, usually anyway. Maybe I’ll get back into cooking once I have my own kitchen. She was a very popular vlogger, and I have since seen many tribute videos to her made by total strangers who loved her work. There was also a touching video made by her son. I think I might have watched the below video before I ever watched any done by Phyllis herself. I was compelled to watch Phyllis when I heard her son talk about her.

Phyllis’s son explains…
Phyllis announces her husband’s death in July…

The above video is probably the first one I watched by Phyllis herself… I was very moved by it, which led me to watch one about how she and her husband met. It took me several videos before I finally watched one about what attracted people to her channel in the first place– her southern recipes. People really seemed to connect with Phyllis’s very sweet, southern demeanor. She lived in South Carolina, which I also did for three years. Listening to her speak kind of takes me home.

What a sweet couple they were. Glad they are together again, but sorry for those who miss them the most.

I am kind of envious of women like Barbara and Phyllis. They have the kind of personalities that draw people to them. Barbara Cameron was still so beautiful and elegant, even in her 80s, and still game for singing her famous song on her son’s jazz album and in concert. She really had a spark and, I can tell she was just a delight to everyone. Phyllis Stokes just oozes southern sweetness and humanity. My heart just broke for her as she held back tears and talked about losing her husband, yet cared so much about her viewers, even though she was desperately ill herself. What a lovely woman she was. They were both wonderful women, and people to emulate.

I do love wasting time on YouTube, but sometimes I find content well worth viewing… stuff you’d never see otherwise. What a gift YouTube is to the rank and file who have things to say, but never would have had a vehicle for it if not for the Internet. I’m beginning to think I should spend more time on YouTube than Facebook. But then, if not for Facebook, I never would have fallen down the rabbit hole in the first place.

Anyway… if anyone from Barbara’s or Phyllis’s families happens to read this post, my heart goes out to you for your tremendous losses. They were both very special ladies indeed. Thank you for continuing to share them with the world, even after they’ve gone.

Standard
book reviews

Andrew Ridgeley’s love letter to George Michael…

Bill and I just spent an explosive evening in Landstuhl, so he could get a colonoscopy. I brought my iPad to pass the time and thanks to Bill’s early morning laxative dose, I was wide awake to finish Andrew Ridgeley’s book, Wham!, George Michael and Me: A Memoir.

You remember Andrew Ridgeley, right? He’s the less famous half of Wham!, one of the hottest pop acts of the 1980s. As a child of the 80s, I was a Wham! fan. I remember when they burst on the scene around 1983, then lit up the airwaves with their hit song, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”, which I learned from Ridgeley’s book was based on a note he’d left for his mother.

Published in October 2019, Wham!, George Michael and Me: A Memoir is the story of how back in 1975, Andrew Ridgeley, the son of a Scottish mother and an Egyptian/Italian father who’d anglicized his name, befriended Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, the son of an English mom and Greek dad. George– then affectionately known as Yog, because it was easier to pronounce than his real name– was a shy new kid, and Andrew volunteered to show him around their school at Bushy Meads School. The two boys became fast friends who hung out with each other, got in trouble together, and eventually formed a super popular band and began keeping company with the likes of Freddie Mercury and Elton John.

Although George Michael was definitely the better known and probably the more musically talented of the pair, Ridgeley was the one who had come up with the idea for starting a band. They teamed up with some local lads, including Andrew’s brother, Paul, and managed to write some songs that eventually caught the ears of a promoter at Innervisions Records. In the meantime, the two watched “X rated” Saturday Night Fever, snuck into porn shows, got drunk for the first time, went to dances and parties, and went through the usual growing pains that come from being an adolescent.

Apparently, though Michael eventually came out gay, he dated girls when he and Ridgeley were in school. And Michael was not nearly as much of a clothes horse as Ridgeley was, although he did become rather obsessed with his hair. At one point, Ridgeley notes dryly that his friend and bandmate looked a bit like Princess Diana. Since Ridgeley is generous with photos, I got a look back at George Michael’s appearance back in the 80s and, I have to agree– he and Diana had very similar coifs.

Boy, does this bring back memories…

Wham! consisted of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, but there were also two women in on the act who danced and sang to the music. Shirlie Holliman Kemp was a local girl who used to date Andrew Ridgeley. The band hired her to dress up the act. Singer-dancer Helen “Pepsi” DeMacque-Crockett rounded out the group.

This was one of my favorites… on cassette, of course. The lyrics were definitely dirtier…

Wham’s! time at the top was short lived, but burned brightly. George Michael turned out to be a bonafide star, not only a great singer with a lot of charisma, but also a great songwriter. Ridgeley started out as legitimately half of their duo, but Michael overshadowed him and, in 1986, the group disbanded so that Michael could go solo and released his incredibly successful debut album, Faith. Ridgeley points out that he and George had started out as two young, hedonistic, party boy types who appealed to teenagers. But when George Michael went solo, he attracted an entirely different audience. I thought Ridgeley was extremely complimentary and kind to his old friend, who ended up being a lot more famous and arguably more successful… except when you consider the fact that George Michael died on Christmas Day in 2016 and Andrew Ridgeley is still alive and kicking.

And of course, the annual favorite, made more poignant since George died on Christmas. Andrew has some funny tales about this video, too.

I enjoyed reading Wham!, George Michael and Me, although it was a bit skimpier on details than I was expecting. The writing is basically solid and easy to understand, but it seems like it was a bit short. I was surprised this morning when I got to the end. It was almost like Ridgeley skipped from 1986, when Wham! was doing its farewell concert in London to finding out about George Michael’s sudden and completely unexpected death thirty years later. Still, I found Ridgeley very likable as a storyteller and some of his tales about growing up with George are downright hilarious. I especially enjoyed his commentary about their fashion choices.

I’m glad I read this book, since it framed George Michael in a more down to Earth, human, light. And I was charmed that Andrew Ridgeley got starstruck meeting people like Jimmy Page, whose daughter was a big Wham! fan, and The Bee Gees, who invited George and Andrew to lunch. As George and Andrew had been hugely influenced by Saturday Night Fever, that was a real honor. I also liked reading about how Wham! played in China at a time when no one else was playing in China, and they were offered bicycles as payment… and how they, the children of fathers from other countries, assimilated in Britain. Apparently, George Michael was a very good student, too, and his traditionally minded father had dreams of him going to university and getting himself a “proper job”. I’d say that despite Andrew Ridgeley’s “negative” influence and bent toward hedonism, George did alright with his career.

I think I’d rate this book four stars out of five, because it was fun to read, but a little lighter on details than I would have liked. I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in Wham!

As an Amazon Associate, I get a tiny commission if you buy this book through my site.

Standard