Quill & Quire
As the former frontman for the Canadian rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears, David Clayton-Thomas is no stranger to the spotlight. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and been given a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. As if that weren’t enough, Clayton-Thomas can now add memoirist to his list of accomplishments.
Clayton-Thomas opens his book with an introduction that prepares readers for a raw and honest account of his life. What follows is a highly personal and passionate description of child abuse, prison, poverty, artistic longing, and the price of success. His rise from the depths of Canada’s prison system to centre stage is an incredible story, one he relates in a voice that is sensitive and, at times, quite funny. Readers will also be drawn into the turbulent 1960s milieu, with its tales of drug binges in artists’ enclaves and shared moments with musical legends.
While the memoir succeeds on that level, however, it fails entirely on another. Throughout the book, Clayton-Thomas takes the opportunity to settle decades-old scores with family, former business partners, and current members of BS&T. While readers should never expect a memoir to be wholly objective, many of the vitriol-laced rants in this book distract from the story and leave a bitter aftertaste. The book is also laden with contradictions, as Clayton-Thomas embraces his own life choices, then vilifies others for making similar choices.
For fans of BS&T or Clayton-Thomas’s solo work, this memoir delivers the rawness and honesty that it promises. It sheds light on the darker side of the author’s life and the inspiration behind some of his music, but for casual readers, the enjoyment of the story is mitigated by the narrative’s anger and contradictions. The story of a nuanced character battling internal conflicts can make for fascinating reading, but watching Clayton-Thomas wrestle with his demons on the page is a lot less enjoyable than listening to him sing them out.
“A remarkable story of redemption…. Clayton-Thomas writes with wry humour and grace in a straightforward style that’s as subtle as a split lip. The reader always feels he’s getting the straight goods…. The book deserves to be as big a hit as ‘Spinning Wheel,’ the best song Clayton-Thomas wrote for the jazz-rock outfit Blood Sweat & Tears…. His book is honest and unflinching. It reveals a man who is tough and cynical, funny as hell, but also vulnerable and insecure. Haunted by his violent childhood, Clayton-Thomas turned himself into a music legend—a singer and songwriter above all things. That’s worth much more than a standing ovation.” - Ottawa Citizen
“David Clayton-Thomas has some skeletons in his closet, but he’s setting them all free and it feels mighty good…. A genuinely inspirational rags-to-riches story.” - Toronto Star
“Clayton-Thomas[’s] memoir shows brilliance…. What’s critical for an autobiography is, first of all, a good story and Clayton-Thomas has one, for sure.” - Winnipeg Free Press
“The David Clayton-Thomas book is an amazing roller coaster ride though the dreams and nightmares of a Canadian kid who, against all odds, became one of Canada’s greatest singer-songwriter-performers. His voice and songs are known everywhere in the world. I knew of his legend and many of the stories but to hear them first hand from his own recollections was a great read for me. David, thanks for the great story and the great music.” - Randy Bachman
“Clayton-Thomas opens his book with an introduction that prepares readers for a raw and honest account of his life. What follows is a highly personal and passionate description of child abuse, prison, poverty, artistic longing, and the price of success.” - Quill & Quire
“Terrifically entertaining…. Clayton-Thomas is a natural storyteller, and Blood, Sweat and Tears is a true page-turner of the rock and roll bio variety.” - See Magazine
“There’s a lot about David Clayton-Thomas that will impress you, besides his rich, raspy voice…. In his memoir, aptly titled Blood, Sweat and Tears, he shares his personal history that reflects and defines a distinctive era in music and pop culture. His is a true rags to riches story…. Clayton-Thomas delivers on his promise to write as “nakedly honest” as possible…. His author’s voice is much like the lyrics to his songs—intuitive, direct and genuine.” - Toronto Books Examiner