Wilko Johnson - Don’t You Leave Me Here: My Life book review

The life and times of a (still) living legend

Wilko Johnson Don’t You Leave Me Here book cover

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Wilko’s life has already sprung two feature documentaries and one co-written memoir. So a fear of anticlimax awaits his own attempt to put it all in perspective.

Fear not. Wilko’s sullen persona is singular and fully formed by the time the tumour arrives. Childhood flood in Essex, the psychedelicised Afghan hippie trail, pop stardom with Dr Feelgood, widowerhood: all these events are contextualised by a touchingly revealing, funny, poetic and erudite voice.

The arrival of the tumour, mooted to be fatal, brings Wilko a new lease of life. Mr Johnson isn’t out to make friends here. Particularly revealing is the story of behind the successful Going Back Home album with Roger Daltrey, while “proto fascism” at the Glastonbury security gate comes in for a righteous kicking. Such blunt honesty is just one of the many endearing qualities ensuring sweet justice is delivered to this man’s extraordinary tale.

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.