Paul Kelly: The Man, The Music and the Life in Between by Stuart Coupe

‘Over more than four decades Paul’s built an enviable body of work.’

In this book, Stuart Coupe (music journalist, author, and one-time manager of Paul Kelly) examines Paul Kelly’s life.  Plenty of different people were interviewed, and their views shine a light on different facets of a man who is one of my favourite Australian singers and songwriters.  I am listening to his music now, as I write this review.

Mr Coupe takes us back to the beginning, to Adelaide, where Paul Kelly was born (in 1955) as the sixth child in a family of nine children, through to today.  A lot has happened along the way.

What did I learn that I did not already know, from reading Paul Kelly’s ‘mongrel biography’ ‘How to Make Gravy’?  Or from listening to his music, or reading through the poems selected in ‘Love is Strong as Death’?

I did learn more about some of the earlier music and different bands Paul Kelly was part of.   There are images of a complex, creative, reserved (and at times difficult) individual.   But the most important aspect of this book, for me, was reading about his work with other artists especially with Archie Roach, Kev Carmody, and Vika and Linda Bull.  Who can forget Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly performing ‘From little things, big things grow’ at a memorial service for Gough Whitlam in 2014?

Listening to Paul Kelly’s music, reading ‘How to Make Gravy’ and ‘Love is Strong as Death’ has given me space to reflect and has brought me much joy.  Learning a bit more about the man behind the books and the music enables me to appreciate some of the complexity of this creative genius.


Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AussieAuthor 2020