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How’s Your Dad?- Book Review

September 12, 2010

How’s Your Dad? Living in the Shadow of a Rock Star Parent
Zoe Street Howe
Omnibus Press Sept 2010, $24.95, 272 pages

Chatty, and loaded with stories about debauched dads and devoted ones, this was a great fun read. Even when name-checking rockers I only vaguely knew. (For example, I couldn’t have told you any of the names of members of Yes, before reading this.) Some of the characterizations were about what I expected. Ozzy Osborne, Frank Zappa, and Brian Wilson are legendarily weird. Yoko Ono is beyond strange, with John a huge presence in both his son’s lives. Reading this, I really felt for Julian. Of course living in their houses would be strange. I knew Paul McCartney gave his kids a cozy and supportive home life.

Some stories of sweet moments made me grin. I love the Rolling Stones. So seeing Keith Richards be a proud and caring dad made me say “aww” out loud (and earned me a couple odd looks on the subway.) Ringo telling inept bedtime stories made me giggle.

The book was well organized, with chapters devoted to the kinds of things fans and readers would most want to know. What’s teenage embarrassment like, when your father is famous, and sometimes badly behaved? What are tour buses like when you’re a toddler? The answer- apparently great fun. Unsurprising. Of particular interest in discussions of children who went for the music business- not every father helped launch a musical kid. Though some later played together, some talented dads seemed to shrug and let their kids figure it out. Drugs- for father rockers who used with their kids, and the dads who impressed me more, by steering their children away from drugs. Discussions of absent fathers, whether standoffish or touring, were well constructed, affecting without being mawkish.

On the whole- a fantastic book. There were a few bits that lost me, because the book is definitely British. So I was missing a little bit of the context on some of the rockers and their kids, as well as some of the events. But, keeping it mostly a British perspective makes sense. As the author quotes Bob Geldof, “London doesn’t have a Hollywood,” so rockers are the reigning and most interestingly lionized celebrities.

Thanks to Beth Brody for sending me this to review.

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