Author

Liz has published a number of books, beginning in 1980 with Conclusions on the Wall: New Essays on Bob Dylan which, despite some youthful indiscretions, is not entirely without merit. Three widely praised anthologies – on John Lennon, Bob Dylan and David Bowie – co-edited with the critic David Gutman have been published in a number of editions and have secured a place on university reading lists. In 2012-13, she spent six months chronicling a season in the life of Chickenshed, the inclusive theatre company. And Liz spent 2019-20 writing a biography of Joan Baez, in the process attending concerts in Britain, the US and Spain, where Baez took her final bow.

Joan Baez: The Last Leaf

Joan Baez The Last Leaf cover

Since she appeared unannounced at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, Joan Baez has occupied a singular place in popular music. Within three years, she had recorded three best-selling albums and her voice had been described “as lustrous and rich as old gold”. She has mentored generations of singer-songwriters, including Dar Williams, Josh Ritter, Grace Stumberg and, most famously, Bob Dylan.

But Joan Baez has always been much more than simply a singer. Even before she joined Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. on the podium at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, she had used her gift to bring solace and hope to people who had little of either. In words and deeds, Baez has consistently championed social justice, nonviolence the guiding principle of her life, and the causes for which she has campaigned are legion. Whether playing to integrated audiences in the American south during the years of segregation, in Latin America during the years of brutal dictatorships, or Sarajevo under siege, Baez offered “an act of love, sharing, witness and music”. Approaching 80, she has stepped down from the stage following a worldwide farewell tour and a final, Grammy-nominated album. She is now embarked on a new chapter of life—painting.

Drawing on interviews with long-time friends and musical associates, and on conversations across four decades with Baez herself, Joan Baez: The Last Leaf is a celebration of a timeless figure whose music and influence will endure long after her voice is silenced.

“With decades of access [Thomson] has written the definitive biography” – Michael Simmons, Mojo*****

“I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that this is a book destined to become the definitive word on the life and times of Joan Baez; put it on your list of this year’s essential reads” – Americana UK

“She writes beautifully and covers a cram-filled, spectacular life in a very knowledgeable way… a very well sourced and a very thoughtful book” – Will Swift, author of The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm

Joan Baez: The Last Leaf has been nominated for the 2021 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.    

Joan Baez The Last Leaf back cover
Click on the image to enlarge

(Palazzo Editions, October 2020, UK and US)
ORDER HERE

INTERVIEW
Watch Author Elizabeth Thomson talk fondly about how happening upon Joan Baez Vol. 2 in her sister’s record collection, age twelve, led to her discovery of a woman who not only had a truly magnificent voice but who also became “a sort of Venn diagram” through which to explore music and American social history.

FEATURE in Ham & High
Joan Baez: a tribute as activist heads for 80, her voice now ‘weathered with soul’

EXTRACT in Billboard
How the Folk Icon Ended Up on Vanguard –
extract from Joan Baez: The Last Leaf

ARTICLE in the Sunday Post
From Scotland with love and peace: Folk icon’s songs of justice would be heard around the world

Chickenshed: An Awfully Big Adventure

Chickenshed charts the remarkable 40-year history of the theatre company founded by Jo Collins and Mary Ward – in an abandoned Hertfordshire chicken shed. With faith, hope, charity and hard work, and the support of Princess Diana, Dame Judi Dench and many others, it now sets worldwide standards for inclusive theatre – performers of all ages, not all of them conventionally able, working side by side to create thought-provoking music and drama.

The Stage thought it “a heart-warming and informative celebration”.

(UK, Elliott & Thompson, 2013)

No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan

No Direction Home by Liz ThomsonNo Direction Home was published to celebrate Dylan’s seventieth birthday in May 2011, a “director’s cut” of a book with a vexatious history. Robert Shelton was the New York Times critic whose 1961 review is credited with launching Dylan’s career. The biography he began five years later – the only biography on which the subject collaborated, allowing Shelton unique access to family and friends – had a long and difficult gestation and was finally published in 1986, “abridged over troubled waters” to the author’s dismay. Liz, to whom Shelton was both friend and mentor, revisited the original manuscript, restoring valuable material that was cut from the first edition, so taking readers deep into the smoky coffee houses of Greenwich Village where Dylan began his career, and backstage at Newport and Earls Court during the 1966 and 1978 world tours.

Reviewing the new edition, Australia’s Courier-Mail said: “Mission accomplished”.

Robert Shelton. Revised by Elizabeth Thomson with Patrick Humphries

(UK: Omnibus Press; US: Backbeat; Australia: Hardie Grant; Germany: Edel; Brazil, Larousse 2011)

 

Conclusions on the Wall: New Essays on Bob Dylan

Conclusions on the Wall: New Essays on Bob Dylan

Conclusions On the Wall: New Essays on Bob Dylan was published to coincide with Dylan Revisited 1980, which took place in Manchester. Now something of a collector’s item, it falls firmly into the category of juvenilia but is not without interest. The essays include contributions from Wilfrid Mellers and Christopher Ricks, Michael Gray, Robert Shelton and Steve Turner, as well as the editor’s own essay subjecting Dylan’s song-writing to musical analysis.

Edited by Elizabeth M Thomson

(UK, Thin Man, 1980)

 

The Dylan Companion

The Dylan Companion

The Dylan Companion examines Bob Dylan as musical, literary, political, religious and cinematic icon, rescuing Dylan from the weight of tabloid journalism which, until that point (the book was first published in 1990), had tended to swamp perceptive discussion. From Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg and John Peel to Stephen Spender, Pauline Kael and Frank Kermode, there’s history, sociology, musicology, literary criticism and much besides. Poet Michael Horowitz praised its “subtle balance of themes and chronology… a must for Dylanologists and highly commended.”

Edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman

(UK, Macmillan, 1990; London, Papermac, 1991; US, Delta, 1991; revised edition, US, Da Capo, 2001)

 

The Bowie Companion

The Bowie Companion

The Bowie Companion chronicles the Starman’s ch-ch-changes, rescuing him from the brand of tabloid journalism which “puts you there where things are hollow”. A look at one of rock’s most elusive figures through almost three decades of popular cultural commentary, it gives weight to Bowie’s stage and screen work as well as his music. Contributors include Gordon Burn, Lindsay Kemp, David Buckley, Simon Frith, Patti Smith and John Savage.

“A sort of musical portrait: an excellent set of articles and essays” said Mojo.

Edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman

(UK, Macmillan, 1993; London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1995; US, Da Capo, 1996)

 

The Lennon Companion

The Lennon Companion

The Lennon Companion, originally published in 1987 and updated in 2004, is a collection of specially commissioned essays and long-forgotten but distinguished articles that draw on a variety of critical languages to present an intelligent and accessible form of popular cultural commentary about John Lennon and the Beatles. It features work by writers as diverse as Martin Amis and Gloria Steinem, Tom Wolfe and Philip Larkin, Kenneth Tynan and Joshua Rifkin, as well as William Mann, Adrian Henri and Pauline Sutcliffe. Former Beatles press officer Derek Taylor described it as “the companion to John Lennon, kicking all other books out of the game, bringing to the ‘working class hero’ an unusually broad and affectionate attention”.

Edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman

(UK, Macmillan Press, 1987; Papermac, 1988; US, Schirmer, 1988; Japan, CBS-Sony, 1989; revised edition, US, Da Capo 2004)

 

Finally, three books put together during a two-year tenure as Music Editor for Music Sales/Omnibus Press.

New Women in Rock

New Women in Rock

A celebration of some seventy women who rode to fame, sometimes shortlived, on the coat-tails of punk and new wave. Contributors included some of the big names of 1970s music journalism, among them Jill Furmanovsky, Vivien Goldman and Penny Valentine. The cutting-edge design has made it a collector’s item – as well as a historical curio with three five-star reviews on Amazon! Some of the women play on…

Edited by Liz Thomson

(UK, Omnibus Press 1982)

Songs and Dances of Scotland

Songs and Dances of Scotland and Songs and Dances of Scotland

Simple arrangements for recorder, flute and penny whistle, with full lyrics, chord symbols and guitar chord diagrams. Nice and easy does it…

Edited by Liz Thomson

(Wise Publications, 1982)