Will the Real Author (Bill Wyman) Please Stand Up?
Bill Wyman, longtime music writer and former editor at NPR, recently published an unconventional review of Keith Richards’ new autobiography, “Life.” Rather than doing the typical third person examination of the book, Wyman took on the persona of Mick Jagger, writing as if he were the Rolling Stones’ lead singer responding to his musical partner of more than 50 years.
Wyman’s piece began with this editor’s note:
On a recent morning, the journalist Bill Wyman received a UPS package containing a typed manuscript. On reading it, he saw that it seemed to be the thoughts, at some length, of singer Mick Jagger on the recently published autobiography of his longtime songwriting partner in the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards. A handwritten note on an old piece of Munro Sounds stationery read: “Bill: For the vault. M.”
From this, Wyman surmised that the package was intended for Jagger and Richards’ former band mate, the bassist Bill Wyman, who has assiduously overseen the band’s archives over the past five decades and with whom Wyman the journalist coincidentally shares the same name. Wyman the journalist, a longtime rock critic, was once threatened with a cease-and-desist letter from Wyman the bassist’s Park Avenue attorneys and felt no compunction about perusing the contents of the package. The manuscript he received is reprinted below.
Shortly after it was posted, the piece was widely tweeted and passed around the internet. Many readers (this reporter included) believed it was indeed from the desk of Mick Jagger. Wyman says he did not intend to fool people.
“I meant the intro to be puckish, a little playful,” he said.
Listen to an interview with journalist Bill Wyman:
Wyman’s creative leap certainly makes for an interesting read, as Wyman addresses the power of Jagger and Richards’ musical partnership, as well as the personal trials and frustrations that came with drug use, deaths of friends, and the challenges the band faced to capitalize financially on their cultural success.
In a recent follow-up blog post, Wyman recounted how he spent months poring over books, videos, documentaries on the Stones, and talking to people that had worked with the band.
“I was supposed to do a short, straight review,” Wyman said. “But I had all these notes and they started coming together and it just sort of seemed to flow.”
“There was an enormous amount of reading and research involved and I’m pretty confident that everything in the piece is very, very true,” Wyman said in a recent phone conversation. “I can’t speak for Mick Jagger’s voice, of course.”
Meanwhile, Slate eventually added a sentence to the headline to clarify what readers were getting into: “Imagine if Mick Jagger responded to Keith Richards about his new autobiography.”
“On the internet and on Twitter particularly, there were a lot of people tweeting, saying it was real, but they were almost always uniformly and immediately corrected. So it is interesting how the internet does correct misinformation in a certain way.”