Dance of Death

Dance of Death
Dance of Death

Dance of Death

The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist
By Steve Lowenthal, Foreword by David Fricke


240 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Mobipocket, EPUB, PDF, Trade Paper

PDF, $9.99 (US $9.99) (CA $12.99)

ISBN 9781613745205

Rights: WOR

Chicago Review Press (Jun 2014)


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John Fahey is to the solo acoustic guitar what Jimi Hendrix was to the electric: the man whom all subsequent musicians had to listen to. Fahey made more than 40 albums between 1959 and his death in 2001, most of them featuring only his solo steel-string guitar. He fused elements of folk, blues, and experimental composition, taking familiar American sounds and recontextualizing them as something entirely new. Yet despite his stature as a groundbreaking visionary, Fahey’s intentions—as a man and as an artist—remain largely unexamined. Journalist Steve Lowenthal has spent years researching Fahey’s life and music, talking with his producers, his friends, his peers, his wives, his business partners, and many others. He describes Fahey’s battles with stage fright, alcohol, and prescription pills; how he ended up homeless and mentally unbalanced; and how, despite his troubles, he managed to found a record label that won Grammys and remains critically revered. This portrait of a troubled and troubling man in a constant state of creative flux is not only a biography but also the compelling story of a great American outcast.


"Offer[s] a sympathetic portrait of a troubled yet undeniably talented man." —Booklist

"Dance of Death benefits from astute research and interviews with friends, contemporaries, fellow musicians, and family, painting a vivid picture of a remarkable man." —Under the Radar

"If you have any love for the sound of a guitar and haven't heard him, hustle to your music source and get "The Best of John Fahey" to listen to while reading Lowenthal's book. You won't be disappointed." —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

"The fate of the markedly talented and decidedly peculiar, even misanthropic Fahey is told engagingly and with insight by Steve Lowenthal in a compact but potent new biography, Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist." —

"Lowenthal deftly balances Fahey's achievements and shortcomings, and in the process humanizes an extremely talented and profoundly troubled man." —Baltimore Magazine

“The wonderfully inventive, even utopian guitarist John Fahey spun what seemed to be an impenetrable web around his life, but Steve Lowenthal has picked away the strands with dogged research and eloquent passion, revealing an artist worth knowing and caring about.” —Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams and Visions of Jazz  

“John Fahey was a renegade, an outlier of the academy investigating the true mystic roots of the American blues psyche. It is our great fortune to have Steve Lowenthal’s steadfast and diligently researched biography of this remarkable iconoclast who inarguably inspired a generation and beyond of radical/traditional music freaks.”  –Thurston Moore

"Heartfelt but evenhanded." —The Big Takeover

Author Biography

Steve Lowenthal started and ran the music magazine Swingset; his writing has also been published in Fader, Spin, Vice, and the Village Voice. He ran the record label Plastic for five years and currently runs the VDSQ label, which specializes in solo instrumental acoustic guitar music. He lives in New York City. David Fricke is a senior editor at Rolling Stone magazine.