‘Widow Basquiat’ by Jennifer Clement is one of those books that once you pick it up you don’t want to put it down. Written in conjunction with Basquiat’s muse Suzanne Mallouk it’s a sometimes distressing read into life and love with the artist. It doesn’t hold back about their various drug addictions as well as opening the door on the 80s New York scene – the galleries and the parties. The author attempts, and manages, to open the door on Basquiat’s paintings, giving a clear understanding of their meanings. I am not really one for books on art but if they were all like this one I’d be an expert.
For a quick overview of Basquiat’s life I’d suggest listening to the Radio 4 show – Decoding Basquiat which we’ve ripped below. The show was produced by Somethin’ Else (fine work chaps) who have a history in clubs so if anyone is reading this from there and wants us to pull it down get in touch.
In Decoding Basquiat, the poet Benjamin Zephaniah travels to New York to speak with Suzanne Mallouk (who chooses Riding With Death from 1988 (above) as her favourite painting), gallerists, musicians and graffiti writers who knew the artist. One of the most interesting parts is when Mallouk works through the various stages of the artists career in tangent with his drug habits. I’ve listened to the show twice and could happily listen to it again.
Next up is Quincy Jones and ‘Q – The Autobiography of Q’. If you’re a musician, or anyone that needs a kick in life, this is a good one to read as the mans work rate is ridiculous and pretty inspiring. He doesn’t seem to be put off by anything, loves a challenge and by 25 was already one of the greatest arrangers in the world.
From there it’s living a life of jazz, soundtracks and producing the best selling album ever recorded in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. To give you some idea of the magnitude of his life’s work the awards and honors list last 18 pages. The BBC come through again in support as there are two shows currently on the BBC iPlayer from BBC 4 covering firstly 1933-1974, the jazz years to his soundtrack work, then 1975 – 2008, covering the years with Michael Jackson and his Qwest record label. There is some great footage of Jones in the studio and includes interviews with all key players. Buy the book, watch the shows.