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Chris Salewicz, who lives in London, has documented world popular music and culture for over three decades, both in print and on television and radio. His writing, on subjects from film to foreign affairs as well as music, has appeared in the Sunday Times, the Independent, the Guardian and in many other publications. As a senior features writer for NME from 1975 to 1981, he saw service at the frontlines of glam rock, punk rock, reggae music, and the Los Angeles and New York music scenes and their subcultures.
As a contributing editor of Time Out, he wrote pieces on glue-sniffing gangs, filming in Nicaragua, and housing estate horrors, amongst many others. For the Sunday Times Magazine during the 1980s, he wrote on subjects as varied as Polish Solidarity, the restoration of Robert Owen's New Lanark model village, and a twenty page cover story on reggae music. After writing many of the early cover stories on The Face, he provided two of the cover stories in issue one of Q. For The Sunday Correspondent he wrote regularly, on such diverse topics as the civil war in El Salvador and healing through dolphins’ energy. He also wrote for and syndicated to countless publications worldwide.
Part of the team that set up MTV-Europe, Chris Salewicz presented Kino, a weekly film programme, and edited and directed. He has written 17 books, including biographies of Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, George Lucas, Oliver Stone, Noel Coward, and Bob Marley - the last, which was authorised by Marley’s family, the result of his abiding love of Jamaica. In 1995 at the instigation of Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell, he and directors Don Letts and Rick Elgood went to the island to develop film ideas. Fired by the idea of a film that showed the moral redemption of a Kingston killer cop set in the style of a Hong Kong action movie, and drawing on extensive research, Salewicz embarked on the writing of Third World Cop – the most successful film ever in the Caribbean.
Following his time living in Jamaica, Chris Salewicz wrote Rude Boy: Once Upon a Time in Jamaica, a critically acclaimed book that was part-thriller, part-travelogue, part subjective history of the island. Reggae Explosion: the Story of Jamaican Music, and Mick and Keith, a joint biography of two Dartford schoolboys, followed.
Mick and Keith was ‘probably’ the last book read by Joe Strummer, according to his widow. In October 2006 Salewicz published Redemption Song: the Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer (HarperCollins), an exhaustive, epic biography of the Clash frontman, a best-seller; it was published in the USA by FSG the following May.
Chris Salewicz edited Keep On Running: the Story of Island Records, published on June 1 2009; Bob Marley: the Untold Story, his definitive biography of Bob Marley was published in the UK in September 2009, and in the US in June 2010; and he was the onscreen narrator of Beats of Freedom, a documentary feature film about how Polish rock’n’roll helped bring down Communism – Beats of Freedom is Poland’s most popular theatrically released documentary .
In 2012 he revisited Jamaica, making a series for the BBC’s Radio 4 about the making of the classic movie The Harder They Come and its social consequences.
Perhaps as a result of this Chris then scripted a screenplay for a ‘re-visualisation’, an update, of The Harder They Come, before he embarked on writing about the phenomenon of ‘The 27 Club’: those artists – Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Robert Johnson – who passed away during that year of their lives. Dead Gods: The 27 Club was published in 2015.
In 2017 Chris Salewicz presented Get Up Stand Up: the Story of Polish Reggae, a 60-minute radio documentary, for the BBC World Service.
July 26 2018 saw the publication of Jimmy Page: the Definitive Biography, a 500-page book he was inspired to write after it was suggested to him in a dream he had.
A frequent speaker at such literary festivals as Hay and Port Eliot, Chris Salewicz specialises in stories of the underbelly of rock’n’roll, including tales of the music press, and assorted cultural areas.
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