Written by Stuart Coupe, a music journalist who was for a good number of years Paul Kelly’s manager, Paul Kelly – the man the music and the life in between makes an interesting read into the miniature that makes up the life of a musician, a man who is today considered as one of the leading singer songwriters over the past thirty years or more; that man is Paul Kelly.
Paul Kelly had already written his own ‘memoir’, How To Make Gravy, released in December 2018, therefor looking at his life from a vastly different perspective, that of his family, friends, and those he worked with over his many years of creating music, presents many an interesting aspect of this iconic figure.
Born into a devout Irish Catholic Adelaide family of nine children, he was the sixth child, probably the least musical, but definitely the most introverted of the Kelly mob. He was the one watching and listening when the other were performing; adored from birth by his older sister Sheila but the one who lacked confidence when playing an instrument or singing.
He was happier writing poems, finally asking his sister Sheila to teach him a few guitar chords in his teens, which happened to be the four chords from the Peter, Paul and Mary song “I’m in love with a big blue frog’.
Kelly’s Dylanesque looks, his brooding emotions and his drive to perfect his music saw him living the life of a musician in the heady, euphoric days of the ‘80’s; sex, drugs and poverty the underlying factors.
But as time and a change in performance venues saw Paul Kelly and whatever band he was playing in become better known, so to came a more stable lifestyle, a higher standard of music and a bigger than ever desire to perfect his craft. Bursting onto the nation’s stage or consciousness in 1991, he recorded with The Messengers the beautiful ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’, written by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody in a tribute to the indigenous people of Australia’s struggle for land rights and recognition.
The rest is music and Australian history: how friends and former bandmates remember him is also history, or rather intriguing, as their stories have added a further dimension to a man who, like a good wine, has definitely matured with age.
If you are a Paul Kelly fan, this will be an enjoyable read, if not, it certainly makes a very interesting biography of a very intellectual man who has influenced the Australian and activist landscape of Australia for many years with his poetry and music.