"Hold On to Your Dreams" is the first biography of the musician and composer Arthur Russell, one of the most important but least known contributors to the downtown New York music scene during the 1970s and 1980s. With the exception of a few dance recordings, including "Is It All Over My Face?" and "Go Bang! Number 5", Russell's pioneering music was largely forgotten until the issue of two albums in 2004 triggered a revival of interest, which gained momentum with the release of additional albums and the documentary film Wild Combination. Based on interviews with more than seventy of his collaborators, family members, and friends, "Hold On to Your Dreams" provides vital new information about this singular, eccentric musician and his role in the boundary-breaking downtown music scene. Tim Lawrence traces Russell's odyssey from his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa, to countercultural San Francisco, and eventually to New York, where he lived from 1973 until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1992. Refusing definition while dreaming of commercial success, Russell wrote and performed new wave and disco as well as quirky rock, twisted folk, voice-cello dub, and hip-hop inflected pop.
Biography of Arthur Russell, an avant-garde art musician and composer who produced popular dance music in the 1970s and 80s
"With rich and animated detail, Tim Lawrence tracks Arthur Russell's insatiable drive to integrate so-called serious music and pop. This definitive biography is both an engrossing record of Russell's musical ambitions and a compelling account of the fertile downtown scene that supported his admirable dreams." Matt Wolf, director of Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell "Tim Lawrence has written a fascinating and insightful biography of a sensitive and searching soul. Arthur Russell was a personal artist whose musical vision led him to coexist in seemingly incompatible worlds. Through the lens of Arthur Russell's life (never clouded with material success or celebrity), Tim Lawrence gives us a sharp and singular portrait of late-twentieth-century American life. A fine read, with a depth and detail that resonate with Arthur Russell's sparkle and wit."--Peter Gordon, Love of Life Orchestra "Hold On to Your Dreams tells the story of an artist whose life becomes more intriguing with every turn. Inspiring and written with love, this book takes us to the roots of Arthur Russell's music, from the streets of New York to the cornfields of Iowa."--Jens Lekman, musician "[H]is overriding thesis--that Russell's boundary crossing was as important as the work he made--is sound, paying tribute to a man who was a connector as well as a spark." Michaelangelo Matos, TimeOutNY "[A] sensitive and thorough biography...Tim Lawrence presents more than enough evidence to suggest that Russell belonged to that unique line of wayward American composers...who placed personal vision and relentless innovation over easy acceptance...As the author of the excellent Love Saves the Day: A History Of American Dance Music Culture 1970-1979, Lawrence is particularly adept at exploring Russell's links with the New York club scene...The connection he establishes between the haunting songs for cello and voice Russell recorded on 1986's World Of Echo, and the empty dancefloors of Lower Manhattan as AIDS starts to take its toll, is particularly affecting." Ken Hollings, The Wire "Lawrence brings to life this advocate of avant-garde pop music, one of the forgotten innovators of the New York dance scene...Lawrence's writing style mirrors Russell's musical approach, fusing divergent disciplines and catering to different audiences in a single work. Serious scholars and academics will be pleased with the depth of research, and fans will enjoy the illustrations and anecdotes of Russell's life."--Joshua Finnell, Library Journal, 15th Oct 2009 " With co-operation from family and collaborators, Lawrence maps out Russell's chaotic, troubled but cathartically-creative life. After starting his career backing lifelong friend Allen Ginsberg on cello while living in a San Francisco Buddhist commune, Russell moved to New York in 1973, immersing himself in the downtown scene: avant-garde, new wave (he nearly joined Talking Heads, while Columbia A & R legend John Hammond saw him as the next Dylan), then disco, resulting in other-worldly creations as Dinosaur L and Loose Joints while running the Sleeping Bag label. Spectral electronic love songs dominated Russell's later work, before he died of AIDS in 1992. While the book provides many fresh insights into the 80s downtown hotbed, Russell emerges as a strange, fragile figure, in a monumental work. Hold On To Your Dreams is a captivating record of a true original's all-too brief life." - Kris Needs, Record Collector "Now an inspiration to a new generation of dancefloor free spirits, most notably DFA's James Murphy, in the two decades preceding his death from Aids in 1992 Arthur Russell created a dizzying array of recordings, from experimental disco to cello recitals. Born in Iowa, Russell drifted through the late-60's San Francisco to New York where he immersed himself in the downtown avant-garde before emerging as a pioneering dance producer... Lawrence is a fervent admirer of Russell's work, and his book is strong on context." Rupert Howe, Q
Contents; Illustrations; Preface; Acknowledgments Introduction; 1. Formations (1951-1973); 2. Explorations (1973-1975); 3. Alternatives (1975-1977); 4. Intensities (1977-1980); 5. Variations (1980-1984); 6. Reverberations (1984-1987); 7. Tangents (1987-1992); Epilogue Notes; Discography; Bibliography; Index