The frontman of Wilco on vulnerability, creativity, and taking the long cut.
Tweedy (Adult Head, 2004) would like to avoid the usual trappings of the rock memoir: stories of sexual exploits, drug use, and endless road tours. Of course, these elements are present in his memoir, just not in the manner one might expect. The author, lead singer of the American rock band Wilco and founding member of alt-country group Uncle Tupelo, actively demythologizes the rock-’n’-roll hero. Instead of painting a self-indulgent portrait of bravado, unflagging charisma, and innate musical talent, Tweedy relates tales of social awkwardness and panic attacks overcome by hard work and an encyclopedic knowledge of rock history. The author lays claim to vulnerability as his defining artistic trait, a characteristic that fuels an intense openness to emotions, musical influences, and artistic relationships. Fans will appreciate early sections recounting the search for obscure albums and the necessity of playing dilapidated venues. Tweedy also details productive yet embattled relationships with the two Jays, fellow band mates Jay Farrar and Jay Bennett. Some of the most powerful sections cover Tweedy’s lapse into, and recovery from, opioid addiction. Jettisoning the hackneyed image of the womanizing rock star, the author also recounts an anguished story about a sexual encounter with an older woman when he was 14. Taken as a whole, the memoir provides lessons in making art from a person who needed to create in order to combat loneliness and despair. At times, the writing meanders, though this could equally be described as the book’s changing tempo, as it alternates between plot-driven sections and more ruminative pieces. The introduction, moreover, is discordantly jokey. Sincerity is what bolsters this book. Tweedy writes movingly about his parents, his wife and children, and his desire to find an artistic home for his band.
Thoughtful, earnest reflections on family, creative integrity, and a life in music.