Although guitarist and singer-songwriter Richard Thompson was born in 1949, his lovely memoir, Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice: 1967-1975, starts when he's 18. The book does dip back in time, as to touch on young Thompson's quest for a guitar (by age 11, "posing in front of a mirror with a tennis racquet would no longer suffice"), but fittingly, Beeswing really begins when Thompson's life begins: when he becomes a musician.
Thompson was a founding member and, while he was in the group, the guiding spirit of the mythic British folk rock band Fairport Convention. In Beeswing, he chronicles his early days--both with and without Fairport, both on and off the road--with specificity and an utter lack of pretention. Fans will quaver as Thompson walks readers through the album tracks he worked on and shares his impressions of his peers, including the mercurial singer Sandy Denny ("She possessed a tremendous empathy for others. She lacked a layer of skin"), who died at age 31. Thompson comes across as a visionary holding firm against the dominating influence of American rock in order to create a distinctly British musical sound.
Beeswing leaves off in the mid-1970s, not long after Thompson has embraced Sufism and while he's making now iconic records with his then-wife, Linda. One needn't be an acolyte of Thompson's music to appreciate the story of an artist fighting the tide of commercialism while on a path beset by Spinal Tap-evoking mishaps ("Somehow we contrived to take the wrong train twice"). --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer