(Robert Stephen Spitz)
AWARDS, HONORS: Four gold records; Best Books of 2005 selection, Library Journal, for The Beatles: The Biography.
The Making of Superstars: Artists and Executives of the Rock Music Business, Anchor Press (Garden City, NY), 1978.
(As Robert Stephen Spitz) Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969, Viking Press (New York, NY), 1979, revised edition published under the name Bob Spitz, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1989.
Dylan: A Biography, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1989.
Shoot Out the Lights: The Amazing, Improbable, Exhilarating Saga of the 1969–70 New York Knicks, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1995.
The Beatles: The Biography, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to Life, New York Times, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Mirabella, and the Washington Post. Also ghost writer of an unpublished memoir by Jerry Leiber.
SIDELIGHTS: Bob Spitz, a veteran of the music industry, has parlayed his experience and interest in music into his writing. He has authored nonfiction books on topics ranging from the workings of the industry in The Making of Superstars: Artists and Executives of the Rock Music Business, to the famous Woodstock concert in Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969. Spitz's biography of Bob Dylan, Dylan: A Biography, which was published in 1989, continues to be viewed as relevant and, as of 2005, remains in print. The Beatles: The Biography, however, is Spitz's most widely reviewed book; it has been called "the definitive Beatles biography" by numerous critics.
Given that there have been several hundred Beatles biographies published in the last fifty years, this assessment is a powerful one. Perhaps it can be attributed to the fact that Spitz spent eight and a half years researching and writing the nearly 1,000-page volume. A quarter of that time was spent "on the road, traveling from the U.K. to Hamburg and throughout the U.S. talking to anyone who was part of the Beatles' amazing story," Spitz told Steve Marinucci in an interview posted on the Abbeyrd's Beatles Page Web site. Spitz also stated that he conducted "more than 600 interviews" while preparing the book. The author related to Marinucci that he did all of this because "I wanted to write as straightforward a biography as possible, relying on the facts, and leaving opinions up to the reader. I was also determined to source my book so that readers would know, without a doubt, where the facts and quotes came from."
The Beatles chronicles the rise and fall of the famous rock group over the course of several decades and provides detailed biographies of its individual members as well. Of the chronology, reviewers felt that the first half of the volume was more successful than the second. "The beginning of the book is more interesting than its end, which is pretty much the Yokotastro-phe you'd expect," noted Lev Grossman in a Time review. Some critics, albeit those in the minority, took issue with perceived negative portrayals of the band members. "This obese book seems less the 'definitive biography' Spitz proclaims than another exercise in ax-grinding for profit," a Kirkus Reviews contributor complained. A Publishers Weekly reviewer, on the other hand, called Spitz's biography "the best of the bunch," while Bob Cannon, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called it "the most vivid portrait [of the Beatles] ever." Equally positive was Village Voice critic Richard Gehr, who called the book a "sprawling, meticulously researched, and carefully sourced action verb of a biography." Perhaps reviewers were impressed by the book because, as another reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted, it portrays the Beatles in a multifaceted light. This continued: "Spitz writes economically, and with flair, letting the facts and characters speak for themselves. In doing so, he captures an ironic sadness that accompanied the Beatles' runaway success—how their dreams of stardom, once realized, became a prison."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 1995, Wes Lukowsky, review of Shoot Out the Lights: The Amazing, Improb-able, Exhilarating Saga of the 1969–70 New York Knicks, p. 1052.
Entertainment Weekly, November 4, 2005, Bob Cannon, review of The Beatles: The Biography, p. 81.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2005, review of The Beatles, p. 1016.
Library Journal, September 15, 2005, Lloyd Jansen, review of The Beatles, p. 67.
New York Times Book Review, November 27, 2005, Jane and Michael Stern, review of The Beatles, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, January 30, 1995, review of Shoot Out the Lights, p. 91; October 3, 2005, review of The Beatles, p. 64; October 3, 2005, Andrew Richard Albanese, "PW Talks with Bob Spitz: 'The Long and Winding Road,'" p. 58; Publishers Weekly, October 17, 2005, review of The Beatles, p. 50.
Time, November 7, 2005, Lev Grossman, review of The Beatles, p. 117.
Village Voice, November 18, 2005, Richard Gehr, review of The Beatles.
Abbeyrd's Beatles Page, http://abbeyrd.best.vwh.net/ (March 29, 2006), Steve Marinucci, "An Interview with Bob Spitz, Author of The Beatles."