Thursday, September 27, 2007

Book Review: Songs In The Key Of My Life
by Ferentz Lafargue

Much like Nick Hornby's Songbook, Songs In The Key Of My Life is a song by song, chapter by chapter examination of various pop songs and their effects upon the author. But unlike Hornby's book, Songs In The Key Of My Life is intended as a memoir, rather than just a collection of personality-driven record reviews.

The book's format is established in the introduction: Lafargue details the recurring presence of Stevie Wonder's 1976 record, Songs In The Key Of Life, during his relationship with his one-time fiancee/current ex, and examines the way in which certain songs gained and lost significance depending on the state of their union. From there, the book jumps back and forth through time, chronicling the personal tragedies and comic moments that served as hallmarks in Lafargue's life, as well as a few of the highs and los in the last twenty years of pop music. Chapter two, for example, is a funny story about how a nine year old Lafargue used his mom's love of Billy Ocean to woo, and then lose, and then slightly re-woo the affections and attentions of a female classmate. Chapter three is an interesting look at how a "big, black Haitian kid who idolized hairy white boys" suddenly found himself feeling like less of an outsider due to the release of RUN DMC and Aerosmith's Walk This Way video.

An excerpt:
"Dancing to Walk This Way I felt less like a chubby Haitian kid rambling across his parents' room, and more like a man exuding the same swagger shown by the men performing on the TV screen. These perceived changes were affirmed that Monday in school. Everyone was talking about the Walk This Way video; and not only was everyone talking about it, but they were talking about it to me. They presumed that since I liked heavy metal I knew everything about each and every rock band. I remember being peppered with questions about Aerosmith: 'Who are they?' 'Do they like black people?' 'Do they have any other songs like this?'"

And on it goes, detailing Lafargue's thoughts on politics (via 2 Live Crew's Me So Horny, Destiny's Child's Bills, Bills, Bills and Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA), spirituality (Kanye West's Jesus Walks), the loss of a loved one (Bone Thugs' Tha Crossroads) and the loss of innocence (Micheal Jackson's Thriller).

Songs In The Key Of My Life is a quick read. I read the whole thing in one afternoon -- while at work. This is largely due to the author's conversational and unpretentious style of writing. Lafargue's prose possesses the same pared down, easy-flowing quality that many of his favorite songwriters employ.

Click here to visit the author's website.