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Duff McKagan and The Art of the Celebrity Bio

August 16, 2021 in Books

duff02I didn’t declare it as my major, but it’s quickly becoming apparent that I will end up having Celebrity Trash Biographies as a thematic focus of this endeavor of ours. It takes the edge off 50/50 to read absorbing personal stories with page-turning writing, what can I say? I just turned the last page of a celebrity rock bio that I’ve been wanting to read since before it came out: It’s So Easy (and Other Lies) by Duff McKagan.

Duff McKagan was the bassist in Guns n’ Roses. Originally a rock guitarist, he quickly realized that LA’s rock scene had its fill of guitarists, so he set out to make his name in bass. And how. The story begins with his younger years in Seattle, his interaction with the rising Seattle music scene, and his arrival in LA. Welcome to the jungle indeed. He gives insight into how musicians work together (or don’t), what it was like to work with record labels, how it feels being on the road, and the image vs. the reality.

Parallel to the rise of Duff as music superhero, we witness his rise as a serious alcoholic and party boy. What makes the book unique is not its honesty – we’ve seen that with other biographies (The Dirt about Motley Crue immediately comes to mind), but his eloquence in telling his tale. The turning point comes when his pancreas bursts (?). I’m not saying I understand the medicine, but I understand the quick 180 he does on his life, realizing how much he has to live for.

Rather than go to rehab as so many artists have successfully done, Duff worked out his demons with some new “addictions” — much healthier ones that I’ll let you read about yourself. Prepare to be inspired.

duff01This one started slowly for me – sure, I was waiting for the appearance of one Axl Rose, which didn’t come til midway through, but once it got its pace it kept going and I was very interested in how that particular interaction ended (won’t include it here – no spoilers!). In The Dirt, a trashy but compelling and sharply written autobio about Motley Crue, the musicians wrote the book with a smart observer, Neil Strauss. You quickly come to think Strauss was the brains behind the operation. Here, Duff himself is the smart observer, willing to poke fun at himself and the rock image, conveying a genuine love of life and the people around him, and showing what can happen and how much your life can change if you just let it.

It’s So Easy is one of the most inspiring rock bios I’ve personally read. It’s even worth having the song on repeat in your head for the few days you’re reading it. I’ve admired Duff McKagan’s work with Gn’R, for a long time (and I may or may not have nearly lost it when he walked onstage with Alice in Chains a few years back), but now I’m a fan of him as a person. And this, my friends, is the litmus test for a celebrity trash bio. Duff gets an A.

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