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 Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever. If you’re interested in hiring me, click here for more information.

R.I.P. Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts (right) and friend, circa February 1970.

The first obituary I ever wrote for The New York Times was back in 2017: the subject was Charlie Watts, the quietly indispensable drummer for the Rolling Stones. (To the best of my knowledge, he never missed a gig in over 50 years, although there are [bizarrely] a few Stones tracks he doesn’t drum on, most notably “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”)

Long-lead obituary writing puts you in a strange place, mentally. I find that I am often proud of my work—but I hope that people don’t read it for a long time, because every day that an obituary sits on the shelf is a day that the worthy person I wrote about stays on this planet with us. For Charlie Watts, that day came on August 24th, so four years after I wrote it, I hope that now you will read my effort to sum up his life and his music.

Another advantage of long-lead obituaries: having the time to consider and research the subject without massive deadline pressure. In the case of this obituary, that meant tracking down a copy of Max Weinberg’s fascinating but out-of-print book The Big Beat, where he interviews various drummers. The ever-modest Charlie didn’t say anything hugely quotable in his conversation–but that book is where I found a great line by Bruce Springsteen.

In his introduction, the Boss wrote: “As much as Mick’s voice and Keith’s guitar, Charlie Watts’s snare sound is the Rolling Stones. When Mick sings, ‘It’s only rock ’n’ roll but I like it,’ Charlie’s in back showing you why!”

Goodbye Charlie Watts and thanks for everything (but especially “Let’s Spend the Night Together”).

posted 13 September 2021 in Articles. no comments yet

Twentieth Anniversary

On September 11, 2001, I lived in lower Manhattan, one block away from the World Trade Center. I wrote a long letter to friends about what had happened to me that day: if you’re interested in my experiences very close to the center of the tragedy, you can read that letter here.

Twenty years later, my interest in wallowing in the worst day of my life is minimal. Moving on has meant finding context for it, both politically and personally.

One of my first attempts to do that came in the summer of 2004, when I tried to make sense of what it meant to live in the neighborhood that most of the world called Ground Zero. Carrying a coin and a camera, I took 48 random walks through the financial district, discovering where chance might take me and stumbling into some hidden beauty. Walk with me.

posted 11 September 2021 in Archives. no comments yet

In Memoriam

I recently wrote two obituaries in The New York Times on two amazing musicians with very different sensibilities: Johnny Ventura and Nanci Griffith.

Johnny Ventura was a mainstay of modern merengue, while Nanci Griffith was one of the great folk-music voices of recent decades. They were both grounded by their homes–the Dominican Republic and Texas, respectively–but they both made beautiful music that went outside those boundaries. Take a moment to think about them, to listen to them, and to celebrate their lives.

posted 16 August 2021 in Articles, Outside. no comments yet

Having Fun On Stage With Everybody

(Photo taken by me at a 2013 M.I.A. concert at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles.)

Back in 1995 (or thereabouts), I made something—a mixtape? an audio art project? an interstitial supercut? banter-o-rama? Well, I cut together an hour-long cassette tape that was sufficiently its own thing that a quarter-century later, I’m still not sure what to call it. It did have a name, which was Having Fun On Stage With Everybody. It answered the previously unasked question “What would a live concert album sound like with all the songs taken out?”

I dubbed two copies and sent them to my friends Rob Sheffield and Ted Friedman. And I figured that was about the natural size of its audience.

A quarter-century later, here in the year of our internet 2021, I realized that while this project wasn’t for everyone, it was possible that the interested listeners might number in the previously unthinkable double digits, or maybe even triple digits. So I am pleased to share it with you: check it out on Bandcamp, on SoundCloud, or at the Internet Archive. It’s absolutely free at all of those places (and I’ve given it a Creative Commons license: in keeping with its audio-scavenger aesthetic, you’re free to slice it up or use it for your own purposes, so long as it’s not for commercial gain).

The sound quality reflects the limitations of its sources (vinyl to cassette to digital files), just as the material reflects the limitations of my record collection back then. If I was making this today, I’d make different choices (but honestly, I’d probably just tweet about it as a thought experiment rather than spending the time required to make it a reality).

Oh: the title was drawn from the record that inspired me: Elvis Presley’s 1974 album Having Fun with Elvis on Stage.

I believe that this project is a textbook example of fair use, but it won’t shock me if it runs afoul of copyright bots, so if this is something you’re interested in, I suggest you listen to it and/or download it as soon as possible. Enjoy Having Fun On Stage With Everybody!

posted 23 July 2021 in Unpublished. 3 comments

Bad Motherfucker

I have a new book coming out, called Bad Motherfucker: The Life and Movies of Samuel L. Jackson, the Coolest Man in Hollywood. It’ll be published by Hachette Books on October 19, but until then, I invite you to judge the book by its cover.

You say you want to preorder now? Well, I can’t argue with that.

You can order the book at your local indie bookstore, or at other retailers including Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Bad Motherfucker: ask for it by name.

posted 17 June 2021 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

The Enormous Head and the Disco Chicken

In the latest issue of Our State, I wrote about public art in Charlotte, specifically Metalmorphosis by by David Cerny and the Firebird by Niki de Saint Phalle. I also got to quote my awesome wife Dr. Jen Sudul Edwards and my awesome friend Beth Troutman (although the magazine removed the part where she called herself “a goober”). In the article I alluded to the similarities between the Firebird and a certain Flaming Lips album cover—judge for yourself.

posted 16 April 2021 in Articles. no comments yet

Holiday Shopping 2020: How to Buy a Signed Copy of One of My Books

I don’t really trust anything on the 2020 calendar at this point, and time seems to have no meaning, but nevertheless, it appears that the holiday season will soon be upon us. You might not be thinking about shopping for your loved ones yet, but you probably should be.

Might I suggest that you consider one of my books as a gift? You can buy my books at your local bookstore (an excellent idea in a hard year for bookstores!), or at major retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Powell’s. If, however, you want a copy that’s been signed and inscribed by me, your best bet is to call up my local bookstore, Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina. They will be happy to sell you one or more of my books and ship them to you (or anywhere else in the world you like)—and if you like, before they send them out, I will swing by the store with a Sharpie and personalize them. (If you want me to do that, just be sure to let them know the name of the recipient.)

I know they have plenty of copies in stock of The Tao of Bill Murray, The World According to Tom Hanks, and Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever—and they tell me they can quickly procure my other books, such as Last Night at the Viper Room. (I’m sure they’ll also be happy to sell you books by people who are not me, which is a great idea! Books are awesome!)

The phone number for the good people of Park Road Books is 704-525-9239, or you can reach them via orders@parkroadbooks.com. If you want to be certain that the books will get where they’re supposed to by December 25th, you should place your order not later than Friday, December 11th (allowing extra time for the package to make its way through our nation’s overstressed shipping system). And please have a safe, healthy holiday season.

posted 24 November 2020 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

The Great Lost Alan Moore Interview

Back in 2006, I went to Northampton to visit the greatest living Englishman, comics writer Alan Moore, author of Watchmen and From Hell. We had a fascinating three-hour conversation, on subjects including magic, Finnegans Wake, and pornography (his latest book at that moment was the erotic fantasia Lost Girls)–but when Rolling Stone bumped the article for several issues before killing it, the interview lay fallow for over a decade. In 2018, Dirk Wood was starting a hardcover anthology for IDW Publishing called Full Bleed, and hearing through a mutual friend that I had this interview on my hard disk, was excited to run it (at much greater length than it would have originally seen). That issue of Full Bleed is now out of print, so I am pleased to share it with you here.

“People have asked me why, in the first chapter of my first novel, I decided to write it in some form of sub-English that readers would certainly find off-putting. The best answer is that I wrote it that way to keep out the scum.”

posted 20 November 2020 in Articles. no comments yet

Gathering the Magic

“Manic Scribe” would be a good job title to put on a business card, actually.

If you pick up a copy of today’s Washington Post, you will find my first article for that fine publication, about the card game Magic: The Gathering, the player Lee Shi Tian, and what heroism means in 2020—both in card games and in what we still like to call the real world.

I don’t think I’ve ever had an article take so long between the reporting and the publication—roughly nine months passed between my attending a Mythic Championship tournament in Richmond, Virginia and the current moment—and given how life has turned inside-out for everybody, at various points I assumed this piece would never run. So my thanks to the good people at the Post, especially editor David Rowell, for not only sticking with it but making sure that it felt relevant and resonant when it finally was printed.

You can read it here.

posted 9 August 2020 in Articles. no comments yet

Alex Trebek: the Man, the Myth, the Mustache

Alex Trebek (left) and me in 2000.

One of the weird things about writing advance obituaries: you immerse yourself in somebody else’s life, striving to get the details right and to sum up the broad strokes of their existence. If you do that right, you’re proud of the results (and likely sympathetic to your subject)—but then you may have to wait years for the obituary to be published. You want people to read what you wrote, but not at the price of the subject having to die.

When Alex Trebek announced last year that he had advanced pancreatic cancer, Rolling Stone asked me to write an appreciation of the man (and the story of my appearance on Jeopardy! back in 2000), anticipating that he might have only weeks left among us. And then, stubbornly and gloriously, Trebek has stayed alive.

So this outcome was an unexpected delight: Rolling Stone decided to publish my article today. I’m glad Alex Trebek can read it, and I’m glad you can too.

posted 21 July 2020 in Articles. no comments yet