“Looking To Get Lost” and Peter Guralnick

by Chris Murray on March 26, 2021

A friend asked me the other day what I had been reading. I told him the best book I have read this year is a collection of essays by my favorite biographer, Peter Guralnick. Guralnick’s biographies of Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, and Sam Phillips are masterworks. Adventures In Music & Writing is the subtitle of Guralnick’s new book Looking To Get Lost (Little, Brown and Company), and it is an apt description of Guralnick’s life as an author.

Looking To Get Lost is a collection of essays on musicians Robert Johnson, Skip James, Bill Monroe, Lonnie Mack, Joe Tex, John R. Cash, Tammy Wynette, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry and more. One of my favorite chapters, toward the end of the book, is “My Father, My Grandfather, and Ray Charles,” a deeply personal account of Guralnick’s own life, his family, and his career as an author. I admire Guralnick so much that it was wonderful to read his personal story of becoming a writer.

Skip James at the Newport Folk Festival, 1964. Photograph by Dick Waterman.

Looking To Get Lost includes a collection of photographs that illustrate his essays. His “Fan Notes” at the end of the book are themselves a remarkable resource for anyone interested in the extraordinary musical artists he depicts in the book. 

I am deeply honored that Peter Guralnick contributed essays for two of my books, Between Midnight & Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive featuring the photographs and stories of Dick Waterman, and Elvis At 21: New York To Memphis featuring Alfred Wertheimer’s photographs and stories. 

In his new book, Guralnick writes about talking to Ray Charles not long before he died. Ray was describing to Peter the spiritual he had sung at Sam Cooke’s funeral. “I gave my heart to it, man,” he said. “Everything that came out of me that day was truly genuine. There was nothing fake about it.” The same can be said for Peter Guralnick’s writing. 

If you are interested in great American music, and the journey of America’s greatest music biographer, Looking To Get Lost is a treasure.

 Peter Guralnick and Chris Murray, Library of Congress, December 2nd, 2015. Photograph by Carlotta Hester.
Category: Blog, The Back Room   

1 response to ““Looking To Get Lost” and Peter Guralnick”

  1. Christine Nassikas says:

    What a fabulous read!!! Thank you Chris

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