RICHARD THOMPSON WITH ELVIS COSTELLO
Montclair Literary Festival
Tuesday, April 6, $20 ($35 with book), 8:00
“There is dust, and then there is dust. It’s thickest here, in my memory. This remotest room of my mind has been shut up for years, the windows shuttered, the furniture covered with dust sheets. Light hasn’t penetrated into some of these corners for years; in some cases it never has. If something is uncomfortable, I shove it in here and forget about it. When was the last time I dared look? I don’t want to remember, but now it is time to think back. The arrow is arcing through the air and speeding towards its appointed target.”
So begins British folk-rock legend Richard Thompson’s new memoir, Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice 1967–1975 (Workman, April 2021, $27.95), written with Scott Timberg and illustrated with personal photographs. Thompson, who turned seventy-one last week, is one of the world’s finest guitarists and songwriters and a musicologist; he has made classic records with Fairport Convention, French Frith Kaiser Thompson, his then-wife, Linda Thompson, and as a solo artist. His project 1000 Years of Popular Music features tunes that go back to 1068. He peppers his extraordinary live shows with engaging patter with the audience, highlighting a snarky sense of humor and a wry smile. During the pandemic, he put on a series of living room concerts with his partner, Zara Phillips, from their home in Montclair, New Jersey, and released the six-track EP Bloody Noses, which he debuted from their house. So it is fitting that on April 6, he will be launching the book at the virtual Montclair Literary Festival, discussing it with Elvis Costello, who wrote his own memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, in 2015. Tickets are $35 with a copy of the book, $20 without.
Thompson will be back online April 15 for the 92Y presentation “Beeswing: Richard Thompson in Conversation with David Fricke,” speaking with the longtime Rolling Stone journalist about the memoir, named for one of his most popular songs, an autobiographical tune about falling in love as a teenager. “She was a rare thing / Fine as a beeswing / So fine a breath of wind might blow her away / She was a lost child / She was running wild, she said / As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay / And you wouldn’t want me any other way,” he sings. Exploring his formative years, the book features such chapters as “Instead of Bleeding,” “Yankee Hopscotch,” “Tuppenny Bangers and Damp Squibs,” and “Bright Lights.” Thompson will be bringing his guitar with him to play a couple of songs as well.
As he writes in the afterword, “Like Fairport, like so many of my contemporaries, I don’t know when to stop — and hooray for that. There are more mortgages to be paid off and bills piling up, but more motivational than that, there is still an audience. It may be twenty thousand at a festival, a thousand in a theatre or ten in a retirement home, but the desire to communicate from my heart to their heart is the strongest pull, and the sweetest feeling.” If you’re not yet part of that audience, now’s the time. Hooray for that.