I AM MY FATHER’S SON: A MEMOIR OF LOVE AND FORGIVENESS by Dan Hill (HarperCollins), 396 pages, $29.95 cloth. Browse novel. Rating: NNNN
Sappy? Earnest? Snicker-worthy? If you remember those words as descriptors for singer/songwriter Dan Hill, I Am My Father's Son will change that. I used to call him Down Hill, and I found this memoir moving.
It tracks Hill's relationship with his hugely accomplished father, also named Dan Hill, whose experience of racism in the States - his stint in the army was brutal - drove him to move with his white wife to Canada.
Hill Sr. (actually Dan Hill III) was opinionated, unusually progressive - he hated the war in Vietnam - and ambitious. On the strength of his credentials as a sociologist, he was named the first head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and later became Ontario's first ombudsman.
He expected as much success from his sons. Author Lawrence Hill (The Book Of Negroes), came close, but Dan spent his life trying to impress his father. Even an enormously successful career as a musician (Dan IV could live off the royalties for Sometimes When We Touch alone) couldn't cut it.
But Hill Sr. was also a loving and loyal father and husband, giving heroic support to his wife and daughter, who both suffered from manic depression. And while the pressure he put on his son was debilitating, his love for Dan was unconditional.
I am My Father's Son is about racism, being a mixed-race kid in Don Mills, family connection and the difficulties of getting out from under a domineering and charismatic father.
It also covers the author's music career. The account of his rise, fall and resurrection is fascinating, as are his detailed descriptions of the excesses of music biz execs. You'll cheer the Internet for sending the contemporary equivalents of those egotistical exploiters into the tank.
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