Review Blog

Sep 23 2020

Paul Kelly, the man, the music and the life in between by Stuart Coupe

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Hachette, 2004, reprinted 2020. ISBN: 9780733642340.
(Age: Adult) Stuart Coupe, former manager of Paul Kelly, says he was motivated to write this biography of the musician because there was so much missed out of Kelly's autobiography How to make gravy, published in 2010. Coupe's book fills in the early career, and portrays a driven and ambitious artist who was totally focussed on himself. "He had this philosophy of being true to yourself, which basically meant ignoring everyone else". Kelly's years of heroin addiction are also given plenty of attention, along with the whole world of drugs and the music scene at that time.
In writing the book Coupe obviously had access to the confidence of many fellow musicians and friends, including Kelly himself, though the women in Kelly's life have been more reticent. It makes for a long and detailed collection of snippets about the singer songwriter's journey to success.
Interestingly the book does reveal the full circle of his life, describing how Kelly came to seek out collaboration with new talent, particularly Indigenous musicians; he helped to highlight the work of people like Vika and Linda Bull, Archie Roach, and Kev Carmody. Recognition of this led to Kelly being awarded the Order of Australia in 2017 for his service to the performing arts and the promotion of the national identity through contributions as a singer, songwriter and musician. However Coupe's book neglects to include Kelly's more recent encouragement of Dan Sultan.
If you are a serious fan of Paul Kelly and you want to look back at every step along his career, or if you are interested in the rough side of the music scene, this book has it all. However if you are more interested in the inspiration and thoughts of the artist, How to make gravy might be a better read.
Helen Eddy

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