Dave Stewart is many things: A founding member of the Eurythmics, a gifted songwriter and guitarist, a father, acclaimed producer, husband and raconteur. This last skill comes in handy between the covers of this cradle to middle age memoir which chronicles Stewart’s childhood in England during which he began plucking away at guitar after a sports injury. By the end of his teens Stewart was a working musician, writing songs and on a collision course with fame. At an age when most young men are turning up for lectures at university, Stewart was living in London and occasionally taking pay in illicit substances from the offices of Elton John’s vanity label, The Rocket Record Company.
The young guitarist was a member of Longdancer just then, a band that could have had some success if everyone had just laid off the drugs a little and focused on the music. (Although, as it turns out, getting wasted actually didn’t hurt the band all that much. At least not at first.) After two records with Longdancer, Stewart was in dire straits (no, not the band) but quickly rebounded in the company of a singer from Scotland who’d dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music. Annie Lennox had talent, patience and charm and she used them in equal measure to maneuver through her early relationship with Stewart.
That romance almost outlasted the pair’s turn in The Tourists, an outfit that had some success outside the US. Despite a taste of the brass cup, the group and the romance between Stewart and Lennox were both over. It’s a testament to the kind of man that Stewart is that he cherishes the friendships he has. If his romance with Lennox flared out after five years their bond has lasted to this day, whether they’re writing and recording new music or taking to the world’s stages or not. Not is most often the case, though Stewart insists the pair remain best of friends.
Although the Superheavy man has a lot of those. There’s a cast of ‘em large enough that following the connections is dizzying at times. Names and situations pile up faster than they do in a Jacobean tragedy or Shakespearian comedy. Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Bono, Stevie Nicks, Robert Altman (who loved a good spliff) and Jon Bon Jovi all crop up with some regularity in these pages and, for the most part, unless removed from the picture by death, tend to stick around. (Jagger even penned a lovely foreword to the book.)
If there’s balance and fidelity to be found in those relationships, Stewart isn’t shy about revealing that he’s a bit of a wanderer, snapping up homes in various locales the way that some might snap up vintage records or collectible toys. These places became his home whenever he was and he and his first wife Siobhan Fahey soon populated those homes with children whose sense of adventure quickly rivaled their father’s. The Stewart clan even attended a kind of roving school that went wherever Dad did.
Although Stewart toured the world and elsewhere in his days with the Eurythmics, it was really once that life quieted down that his traveling adventures really began. But he was already an explorer, having written and produced a series of albums with Lennox that were endlessly inventive and hold up unsurprisingly well.
Reading Stewart’s recollections on making music with Lennox is easily the best element of the book, though when he writes about more recent collaborations you get the sense of just how strong his creative drive is. You also realize, he really is the strange and eclectic character you’d believe.
Not everything in these pages gets the kind of attention it should: Stewart became so involved in so many projects from the late ’90s forward that it becomes difficult to keep track of them all or even to know if he’s been able to. A fine series of solo albums he made while living in Nashville in recent years aren’t afforded the full dimension they deserve. One would trade a few paragraphs of encounters with this famous friend or that for a little more of a glimpse behind the magic of these fine latter day records, especially in light of the A Life In Music portion of the title.
It’s also refreshing to read a memoir in which the author doesn’t find it necessary to dish dirt on the dysfunction of their creative and personal relationships. Stewart’s first two marriages dissolved but he appears to have maintained a good relationship with both women; he and Lennox have a professional relationship to this day even if they don’t make records each year or even each decade. Though that partnership must surely have had moments of difficult passage those times are kept where they belong, between the people who experienced them.
Admirably, Stewart is the first to admit his faults, including his heavy drug use/abuse in the early days of his relationship with Lennox and although he still appears to have a good time when the opportunity presents, it’s nothing more shocking than the kind of trouble your grandad might get up to during an average weekend trip to the sea. Perhaps we can count on this being the first volume of the story as Stewart shows little sign of slowing down creatively. His wild, enterprising mind no doubt has many surprises for us in the decades to come.