It is said Jimmy Barnes is the heart and soul of Australian rock and roll…if you like his style. His rasping voice was the sound of the Eighties and everyone knew his song lyrics. Four decades later and he’s still going strong.
James Dixon ‘Jimmy’ Barnes (né Swan) was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 28 April 1956 and raised in Elizabeth, South Australia. His career as the lead vocalist with the rock band Cold Chisel, and later as a solo performer, has made him one of the most popular and best-selling Australian music artists of all time.
From 1973–present, Barnes career has spanned singer-songwriter-musician with vocals, guitar, harmonica and flute and he has received tonnes of music awards (and two Australian Book Industry awards) been inducted twice into the ARIA Hall of Fame and presented with the Order Of Australia medal.
Underneath the gravelly vocals and rough exterior, Jimmy Barnes struggled with an inferiority complex which manifested itself in alcohol and drug addiction for many years. The question on everyone’s lips was ‘How did he survive?’ Barnes wrote two autobiographies ‘Working Class Boy’ and ‘Working Class Man’ to answer this question.
I doubt his first book ‘Working Class Boy’ (published 2016) was fully edited. Raw and basic, it is a litany of hope, fear, addiction and the search for acceptance. Acceptance from his violent father, his mates and his audience. He writes about childhood abuse, how he ran amok through the towns of Elizabeth and Adelaide and later the Australian east coast, singing, drinking, finding a dealer, finding a girl and not sleeping for 24 hours or more. A son, performer David Campbell, is the result of a fling in his teenage years. Barnes’ second father, the man whose name he adopted, was a mentor of sorts until rock music became the epicentre of his life.
Barnes second book, a sequel titled ‘Working Class Man’ (published 2017) chronicles his thoughts of suicide and his continuous drug-taking and excessive alcohol consumption to the point of tedium. A horrible thing to say when I think of the mental and physical torment he was trying to escape. Still, it didn’t stop him singing—albeit clutching a Vodka bottle on stage every night—nor did it stop him gaining more and more success and greater financial stability as his music career took off. He began to live the life of a rock star.
Then Jimmy Barnes body let him down. After surgery, he tried to calm down and write his life story. It’s not a pretty read, examining old memories, but it’s honest. There are plenty of photographs and name-dropping, and Barnes talks about his wife Jane Mahoney, their children and extended family. He is now a grandfather and this shocked me the most!
“If you want to write a memoir, you’ve got to be ready to bare your soul” Jimmy Barnes
No rating because of the ‘chicken and egg’ situation, did his fame boost the books or did the books boost his fame?
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Press Interview and Movie Clip https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/for-hyperactive-jimmy-barnes-new-album-and-tour-is-just-the-beginning-20190528-p51s26.html
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