by Bernie Taupin ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
A feast for fans of celebrity gossip; less interesting for those curious about where the music comes from.
Elton John’s longtime songwriting partner tells his life story.
Taupin (b. 1950) spent his early years in rural Lincolnshire, England, where his father was a farm manager. Early on, he imprinted on American country music and rockabilly performers and Western movies. After hearing Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” Taupin realized that he “wanted to write stories.” Dropping out of school at age 15, he worked at odd jobs, first at a printing plant, then a poultry farm, while absorbing more American roots music from Yanks stationed at a nearby Royal Air Force base. At age 17, Taupin answered an ad in a music magazine for a songwriter, and he traveled to London and met a piano player named Reg Dwight, later to become famous as Elton John. The two hit it off immediately, although it took a good bit of time for their collaboration to spark an eventual string of hits. Taupin interestingly chronicles their first years working together; when the fame finally arrives, the book turns into a string of encounters with celebrities, interspersed with tales of rock-star excess around the world. While some of the bits are insightful or revealing, there are dozens of variations of these escapades available elsewhere. Only in the last couple of chapters, when Taupin writes about settling down on a California ranch to raise cutting horses and live out his childhood cowboy dreams in rodeo competition, does the book recover some sense of the author as an individual. A late-life venture into visual art adds another dimension to the self-portrait. The author’s main insight about songwriting is that his material comes from observing what goes on around him. “My penchant for observation was a constant,” he writes. “I loved writing, I loved chronicling life, and every moment whether I was cogent, sober, or blitzed, I was forever feeding off my surroundings.”A feast for fans of celebrity gossip; less interesting for those curious about where the music comes from.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: June 15, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023
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by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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by Barbra Streisand ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 7, 2023
What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
A gloriously massive memoir from a sui generis star.
When Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen published 500-page memoirs, that seemed long—but as we learned, they really did have that much to say. Streisand doubles the ante with 1,000 pages. In addition to chronicling her own life, the author offers fascinating lessons on acting, directing, film editing, sound mixing, lighting, and more, as revealed in detailed accounts of the making of each of her projects. As Stephen Sondheim commented about her, “It’s not just the gift, it’s the willingness to take infinite pains.” The pains really pay off. With every phase of her life, from childhood in Brooklyn to her 27-year-romance with current husband, James Brolin, Streisand throws everything she has—including her mother’s scrapbook and her own considerable talent as a writer—into developing the characters, settings, conversations, meals, clothes, and favorite colors and numbers of a passionately lived existence. In the process, she puts her unique stamp on coffee ice cream, egg rolls, dusty rose, pewter gray, the number 24, Donna Karan, Modigliani, and much more. Among the heroes are her father, who died when she was very young but nevertheless became an ongoing inspiration. The villains include her mother, whose coldness and jealousy were just as consistent. An armada of ex-boyfriends, colleagues, and collaborators come to life in a tone that captures the feel of Streisand’s spoken voice by way of Yiddishisms, parenthetical asides, and snappy second thoughts. The end is a little heavy on tributes, but you wouldn’t want to miss the dog cloning, the generous photo section, or this line, delivered in all seriousness: “Looking back, I feel as if I didn't fulfill my potential.”What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods.
Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023
Page Count: 992
Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023
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