Hello. I’m Gavin Edwards, the public speaker and the New York Times-bestselling author of The Tao of Bill Murray, the ’Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy series, and Last Night at the Viper Room. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I like caffeine, boardgames, and lists with three items.

Kindness and Wonder: On Sale October 29th!

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, because we are getting ever closer to the publication of my next book, Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever. The good people at Dey St. slightly revised the cover, which means I have an excellent excuse to share the updated version with you.

Kindness and Wonder will go on sale on October 29th; you can preorder it from almost any place that sells books (I particularly suggest your neighborhood bookstore). It studies the life and the philosophy of Fred Rogers; the first half of the book, “Let’s Make the Most of This Beautiful Day,” is a biography of that remarkable man, while the second half, “Ten Ways to Live More Like Mister Rogers Right Now,” offers guidelines on how you can incorporate the lessons of his life into your own daily existence. My hope is that you will find that the book makes for many snappy new days.

posted 19 August 2019 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

Back to the Garden

Fifty years ago today was the beginning of “an antiquarian exhibition: 3 days of peace & music”–better known to you and me as the Woodstock festival. I wasn’t there, but I feel like I’ve been soaking in it my whole life anyway.

I had the privilege of contributing to a special New York Times section commemorating the concert’s anniversary. If you have the newsprint version from Sunday, fish it out of the recycling pile and savor it–the design department did some extraordinary work. But if you just want a quick taste of what the show was like, check out my debunking of five popular Woodstock myths (featuring Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, and Charles Schulz) and my interview with the legendary photographer Burk Uzzle, who got trapped at the festival and ended up taking the concert’s most iconic picture (the one used on the cover of the soundtrack album to the documentary film, above). He told me, “It was hard, and it was fun, and it was extraordinary.”

posted 15 August 2019 in Articles. no comments yet

Final Draught

Do you live in Charlotte, North Carolina? If you don’t live in Charlotte, can you get to Charlotte? Because on Tuesday, August 13th (that’s tomorrow night as I write this), I will be speaking at Final Draught, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation’s quarterly series of fundraisers featuring “local thought leaders, beer, and books.”

(I believe this is my first time being described as a “local thought leader.” I’m just going to try it on for a while and see how it feels.)

Anyway, admission is $25 and that will get you snacks, a signed copy of my bestselling book The Tao of Bill Murray, and a super-fun evening out. I’ll be providing a multimedia extravaganza on, yes, the tao of Bill Murray. (That means I will have not only a microphone, but also a slide show. Honestly, the slide show slaps.)

Details: 6 pm on Tuesday, August 13th, at Town Brewing Company, 800 Grandin Rd., Charlotte NC, 28208. (Same parking lot as the Charlotte Fencing Academy and a Rhino.) I am told that they’ve sold enough tickets that they are already at 80% of capacity, so if you’re planning on coming, I suggest buying an advance ticket.

(Local thought leader update: my leading thought is that libraries are awesome and we should do everything we can to support them. I hope to see you there!)

posted 12 August 2019 in News, Uncategorized. no comments yet

Signs of the Times

Catching up on a couple of recent articles in The New York Times (in the subcategory of articles that are written by me):

I wrote about the Universal Music Group giving a facelift to a huge chunk of their music-video catalog, upgrading both the audio and the visual. I got on the phone with Billy Idol to talk about “White Wedding”–and why would you want to talk to Billy Idol about anything else? You can read it here.

I also spoke with multiple friends and family members of the late great Donny Hathaway, an R&B legend you may not be familiar with (because of his tragic death in 1979, when he was just 33). The most surprising thing I learned: he played keyboards on Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady.” (And his baby sister was at the studio watching the session!) You can read it here.

posted 5 August 2019 in Articles. no comments yet

The Official VJ 1980s Lyrics Quiz

Today is August 1st, which means that it’s 38 years since MTV went on the air, playing music videos 24/7, interspersed with visits with the original five VJs: Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson, and Martha Quinn. Celebrate!

Since today is the MTVaversary, and the book I wrote with the aforementioned VJs—VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave—is finally on sale in paperback, it’s time for something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: THE OFFICIAL VJ 1980S LYRICS QUIZ.

Here’s the deal: VJ (a New York Times bestseller, by the way) has 50 chapters. We gave each of those chapters a title drawn from the lyrics of a popular MTV video of the 1980s—with no repeated artists, so by 50 different acts. I’m going to roll out all 50 of them, and your job is to identify them. Give yourself one point if you can name the song and one point if you can name the artist. That’s a maximum of 100 points, which means that it’s easy to grade yourself: anything above 65 is passing, while 99 or 100 makes you an A+ student of 80s music.

Some of these lyrics are fiendishly obscure; some of them are actually the title of the song. Feel free to grade yourself as strictly or leniently as you like. (If there’s a parenthesis in a song title, do you need it to get full credit? Up to you!) But don’t Google—what’s the point of that? I’ll post the answers in the comments here–and you can share your score there.

(By the way, if you haven’t checked out VJ, I recommend the experience. The AP called it “Nirvana for pop culture fans… a totally tubular testament to the excess of the ’80s,” while CBS described it as “Dishy, hilarious, wild, and poignant.” Get it from your local bookstore and learn how all all these lyrics were apropos as titles for their chapters!)

1. Got My Back Against the Record Machine
2. Changes Come Around Real Soon, Make Us Women and Men
3. Welcome to Your Life
4. Step Right Up and Don’t Be Shy
5. Let’s Make Lots of Money
6. There’s Always Something Happening and It’s Usually Quite Loud
7. Don’t Talk to Strangers
8. Sometimes You Tell the Day by the Bottle That You Drink
9. Ain’t Nothing Gonna Break My Stride
10. Here in My Car, I Feel Safest of All
11. I Hope That When This Issue’s Gone, I’ll See You When Your Clothes Are On
12. I’m a Cool Rocking Daddy in the U.S.A. Now
13. Hot in the City
14. Throw Your Arms Around the World at Christmastime
15. Take My Tears and That’s Not Nearly All
16. I’ll Kick You Out of My Home if You Don’t Cut That Hair
17. And Now You Find Yourself in ’82
18. I Know There’s Something Going On
19. Things Can Only Get Better
20. I Spend My Cash on Looking Flash and Grabbing Your Attention
21. She’s Precocious and She Knows Just What It Takes to Make a Pro Blush
22. They Told Him Don’t You Ever Come ‘Round Here
23. I Might Like You Better If We Slept Together
24. You Must Be My Lucky Star
25. Every Time I Think of You, I Always Catch My Breath
26. That’s My Soul Up There
27. I’ve Seen You on the Beach and I’ve Seen You on TV
28. I Want to Be the One to Walk in the Sun
29. You Play the Guitar on the MTV
30. You May Find Yourself in a Beautiful House with a Beautiful Wife
31. My Beacon’s Been Moved Under Moon and Star
32. Jokerman Dance to the Nightingale Tune
33. The Kids in America
34. I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me
35. What a Pity You Don’t Understand
36. I Said to the Man, “Are You Trying to Tempt Me?”
37. I Was There to Match My Intellect on National TV
38. There Comes a Time When We Heed a Certain Call
39. Love Is a Battlefield
40. I Guess I Should Have Known by the Way You Parked Your Car Sideways That It Wouldn’t Last
41. The Kid Is Hot Tonight
42. I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight
43. Every Now and Then I Get a Little Bit Nervous That the Best of All the Years Have Gone By
44. The Five Years We Have Had Have Been Such Good Times
45. The Party Boys Call the Kremlin
46. I’m a Man Who Doesn’t Know How to Sell a Contradiction
47. We’ll Be Moving on and Singing That Same Old Song
48. After the Fire, the Fire Still Burns
49. Don’t You Forget about Me
50. We Can’t Rewind, We’ve Gone Too Far

posted 1 August 2019 in Buy My Stuff, Excerpts. 1 comment

R.I.P. Dr. John

Dr. John, the New Orleans singer and piano player so mighty that he exerted his own gravitational force, died last week. I wrote his obituary for the New York Times. (The vagaries of obituary writing being what they are, I actually wrote it three years ago, but I’m thankful that he stayed around for as long as possible.)

I was reminded of an interview I did with Hugh Laurie (the actor most famous for House, but also a singer and pianist who idolized Dr. John) some years ago where he told me about Dr. John’s guest appearance on Laurie’s album. “He can be quite ornery,” Laurie said fondly, “but he was in really good form. We played for half an hour, and then he sat in the control room and told stories for a while. It was such a good day, I wanted it to end so I could have the chance to replay it in my head. Isn’t that twisted? You’re great–now get out so I can think about how great you are.”

The best way to think about the greatness of Dr. John is by playing his music, so I suggest you do that.

posted 10 June 2019 in Articles, News, Outside. no comments yet

I Know Times Are Changing

A few weeks ago, I was driving across North Carolina to interview a photographer–but halfway to my destination, I needed to pull over someplace where I could do two crucial interviews for an article I was writing for The New York Times about Originals, the next album drawn from Prince’s vaults. That’s how I ended up spending an hour at a random Hardee’s just off Interstate 87, talking on the phone with Susanna Hoffs and Questlove. (I bought an apple pie I didn’t eat, to justify my time in the Hardee’s booth.)

The album collects Prince’s demo versions of songs he gave away to other artists, and so I also spoke with his longtime collaborators Susannah Melvoin and Jill Jones, plus Troy Carter (advisor to the Prince estate)–and I swapped emails with Jay-Z. The story was a joy to write, and contains the insider scoop on how Prince ate Doritos: “He’d crunch really fast and chew really fast, but his hands were so delicate when he’d reach into the bag.”

You can read the article here.

posted 6 June 2019 in Articles, Outside. no comments yet

Kindness and Wonder

Hello, neighbor. I am very pleased to tell you that I have a new book coming later this year. It’s called Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever.

The book is a biography of Fred Rogers, an exploration of his philosophy, and an appreciation of his role in our world and our popular culture.

It’ll be out on October 15, published by the good people at Dey Street Books. You can preorder it now, of course, either from the Internet retailer of your choice or your local bookstore. I am of the belief that the book will make it a beautiful day in your own neighborhood.

posted 8 April 2019 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

Kurt Cobain, 25 Years Later

Kurt Cobain died twenty-five years ago today. When I heard the news, I was sitting at my desk at Details magazine, where I was working as a music editor. (The office was on the corner of Broadway and Canal Street; I had a great panoramic view of Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, and New Jersey, when I remembered to turn my chair away from my desk and look out the window.) I had spent time with Nirvana in both Germany and Seattle over the previous two years for a pair of feature articles, a span of time that felt endless then and seems like an eyeblink now.

Another editor came into my office and said she had heard that Kurt Cobain was dead. At first I assumed this was just a jumbled rumor—only a few weeks earlier, he had been hospitalized in Rome for what was billed as an overdose (only later explained as a suicide attempt). I had been told what he said as he came out of his coma–“Get these fucking tubes out of my nose”—which had been spun as a manifesto of his indomitable will to live, or something like that.

Assuming that I would get an official explanation of how it was all a big misunderstanding, I called one publicist at Geffen Records who worked with Nirvana and got his voicemail, and then another one, with the same result. Then I called a third one, who hurriedly rushed me off the phone and forwarded me to the first one, who said wearily that Geffen didn’t have a statement to make yet. By the time I was done making my phone calls, cable news had photos of Cobain’s dead body.

Only moments for shock and grief to settle in: we had to figure out how we were going to cover the story. After a quick editorial huddle with my boss, David Keeps, I rushed out of the office to get my Nirvana notebooks, which had various useful addresses and phone numbers. I took the subway home to Brooklyn and spent an hour going through all my files, with MTV on in the background, where Kurt Loder covered the breaking story, interspersed with Nirvana music videos. For the life of me, I could not find the notebooks.

Defeated, I came back to Manhattan, and found that I had stashed the notebooks in a desk drawer in my office (reasoning that they were unusually important and I would want easy access to them at some point). Of course. The magazine put contributing editor Mim Udovitch, who had recently interviewed Courtney Love for the release of Live Through This, on the last plane to Seattle that day—where she found herself boarding with a small cohort of other New York writers on the same grim mission. Mim went under protest, saying that if she stayed home, Courtney would call her. We all scoffed at this, thinking that it was hubris, but Mim turned out to be right: she got nowhere in Seattle, but there was a message on her answering machine when she came home. (1994: not a time when most people had cell phones.)

We also paid for Dean Kuipers to report what he could from the Seattle rock scene that weekend; we never printed the results, but I read his dispatch. I remember it as a ten-page fax, eloquently written, laying out everything he did in Seattle, and how everyone he spoke to was gobsmacked with grief and politely made it clear they had zero interest in cooperating with the media.

That night, I kept listening to Nirvana’s music, and it tore me inside-out. I ended up writing a remembrance of Cobain for the magazine, trying to make sense of his life and death. You can read it here. If you’d like to read the 1993 cover story I wrote on Nirvana (at the time of In Utero), I archived it here. If you’d like to read the roundup I did this week for the New York Times on Cobain-oriented things to watch or read (books, articles, videos, poems, comics), it’s on their website here.

Can I say that I feel like Cobain’s death marks the end of my youth without it sounding melodramatic and “the day the music died”? Because it wasn’t that I woke up the next day a changed person, having shed my innocence. But I was just a year and a half younger than Cobain and, aside from that one kid in my high school I wasn’t close to, I don’t think I had known anyone my age who had died before him. Certainly not anyone I had spent hours talking to about life and art, as I had with him.

Nirvana was one of the first bands I ever wrote about: the first time I hung out for hours backstage, the first time I rode on somebody’s tour bus. I made mistakes in how I covered Kurt—there’s things he said that I had accepted too credulously, there’s a secret somebody else told me that I shouldn’t have shared. We had been friendly, if not close, but by the time he died, I’m pretty sure he had crossed me off the list of journalists he liked. (I didn’t know it at the time, but I figured it out later.) Kurt’s death was a lot more than my life lesson, but it nevertheless made me step back and think hard about a lot of things, and to change some of them.

I look back now and I can see how I hurtled through my early 20s, full of enthusiasm and good intentions, and how that often worked out for me, both in my writing and in my personal life, and how I learned that wasn’t always enough. Vulnerable and confused and loud, Nirvana is still the soundtrack for that time in my life.

posted 5 April 2019 in Archives, Articles. no comments yet

Holiday Shopping: How to Get Signed Copies of My Books

The holiday shopping season is nigh, and nothing says “I love you” like a copy of The World According to Tom Hanks. Unless maybe it’s a copy of The Beautiful Book of Exquisite Corpses.

I encourage you to buy either of those books from your favorite book purveyor–but if you would like to give your nearest and dearest a copy that’s been autographed by me, your best bet is to get in touch with the cool people at my local bookstore, Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina. They will be happy to sell you a copy of the book and ship it to you, and I will be equally happy to come by the store and sign it before they pack it up (or even to personalize it with your name, or the name of someone you love, or the name “Jeremy” just because you like how that sounds).

Call them up at 704-525-9239, or if you’d rather email them, drop them a line at orders@parkroadbooks.com. Operators are standing by.

They currently have copies of The World According to Tom Hanks, The Beautiful Book of Exquisite Corpses, and The Tao of Bill Murray in paperback. If you want a copy of Last Night at the Viper Room, Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?, or The Tao of Bill Murray in hardcover, they should be able to accommodate you, but call them as soon as possible so they get it out to you in a timely fashion. (In any case, my suggestion is that if you don’t want to pay for express shipping, you should order the books two weeks in advance of when you need them–e.g., by December 10th if you want to make sure they arrive before Christmas.)

posted 21 November 2018 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet