My Story, My Life: Val Doonican - The Complete Autobiography by Val Doonican
|My Story, My Life: Val Doonican - The Complete Autobiography by Val Doonican|
|Reviewer: John Van der Kiste|
|Summary: A self-portrait in words from the Irish entertainer, looking back on a career which as he says includes over 60 years in a job he truly loves.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: October 2009|
|Publisher: J R Books Ltd|
In the 1960s, if Harold Wilson was the personification of politics and the Beatles the collective icon of youth culture, Val Doonican was similarly at the very apex of light entertainment. He may no longer have such a high profile – but he's outlasted them both. Over four decades he has refused to bow to passing fads and fashions, remained true to himself, and in the process he has never really put a foot wrong. As he says towards the end, When you find out what it is you do best, and what the public wants from you, then stick with it, and do it as well as you can. With the possible exception of his contemporary and long-time professional and personal friend Rolf Harris, it's difficult to think of another person in showbiz who comes across as more genuinely likeable, and more a genuine case of 'what you see is what you get'.
Born Michael Valentine Doonican in Waterford 1927, the youngest of eight children, he tells in this book of enjoying the customary joys of a closely-knit family, frequently getting into mischief with the usual punishments when he was a boy. It was a happy childhood but it came to an abrupt end when he was fourteen, his father died of cancer and he had to leave school in order to go to work and help support them financially.
From taking a job in a factory with his brothers, it was only a short step to indulging himself in his love of music, inspired by singers like Perry Como and Bing Crosby and the great jazz guitarists. Stints in groups as arranger, singer, guitarist, mandolin player and occasionally drummer, led to radio work in Ireland and then England. Then there were the lucky breaks like a spot on Sunday Night at the London Palladium which launched him on a very fruitful career with his own show on TV, as well as a Top 20 regular.
Having been extraordinarily successful for so long, he might be allowed a certain amount of self-congratulation. But he is refreshingly self-deprecating throughout, eternally grateful for his talent as an entertainer and even more grateful that people have enjoyed what he does for so long. Lest he should ever be tempted to take it all for granted, he appreciates the occasional little setback, or what he calls the tug on the choke chain, to bring him back down to earth. It might be a disappointingly empty house, a tour that doesn't go to plan, or being accosted by the husband of a fan who's convinced he is Andy Williams and won't be told otherwise. But in the grand scheme of things, these count for very little.
Apart from the tragedy of losing a baby daughter, a cot death victim, his family life with wife Lynn, daughters and grandchildren has clearly been equally happy. His stories of meeting other stars and heroes, from Arthur Askey and Burl Ives to James Galway and Paul Simon, all fall readily into place without a hint of name-dropping, and we learn how the rocking chair became as much a part of the act as those pullovers which were essential to his wardrobe.
One hesitates to nit-pick, though I detected the occasional factual slip-up with regard to his recording history in places. Yet it does nothing to detract from a thoroughly warmhearted and delightful memoir which had me hooked, often with a smile on my face and the occasional chuckle at some of his stories. It's good to report that at 82 he is still not completely retired, and though he was wise enough to finish his TV career while he was still ahead with huge ratings, those 'laps of honour', or concert performances on stage, are not yet over.
If regular airings of songs like 'Paddy McGinty's Goat' on the radio weren't part of your formative years, I'm tempted to suggest that you missed out. If they were, or if you have ever had a soft spot for the man, you will genuinely relish this book.
For a similar read on the subject, may we also recommend Turned Out Nice Again: The Story of British Light Entertainment by Louis Barfe.
You can read more book reviews or buy My Story, My Life: Val Doonican - The Complete Autobiography by Val Doonican at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy My Story, My Life: Val Doonican - The Complete Autobiography by Val Doonican at Amazon.com.
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