cover image Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of the Byrds' Gene Clark

Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of the Byrds' Gene Clark

John Einarsen. Backbeat Books, $19.99 (339pp) ISBN 978-0-87930-793-6

""For Gene, it was all about the lyrics,"" states Einarson at the outset of his latest book on rock music. Einarson devotes several pages to exploring Clark's gene pool, dwelling on the singer's Native American blood. The tale spins on through Clark's recording of ""Blue Ribbons"" at the age of 14 to his move to California in 1963, when he joined the New Christy Minstrels. Einarson gives background on the musicians who, with Clark, would form The Byrds, focusing on their influences and the Folk music scene that brought them together. About a third of the volume is devoted to Clark's time with The Byrds, their formation, internal power struggles and reactions to sudden fame and fortune, often describing Clark as the ""country boy in the big city."" The rest of Einarson's story covers less familiar territory, including Gene Clark & The Group and the singer/songwriter's time with the Firebyrds in the 1980s, as Clark swam uneasily through the music world, keeping his head above water until his death from alcohol at the age of 46. The chatty prose is easy to read, and much of the book is quoted material from interviews with Clark's friends and relatives, who gave detailed accounts of personal relationships and contributed previously unpublished photographs. What emerges is a portrait of a talented, troubled man who was underappreciated as an artist, which Einarson attempts to remedy by stressing Clark's songwriting achievements. It's ironic, then, that Einarson chose his title from a song Clark did not pen. 30 b&w photos.