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Parallel Lives: The Biographies of Ralph McTell

Parallel Lives offers an artistic biography of the English singer-songwriter Ralph McTell. It sets out an account of his own family background when growing up in post war Britain and his emergence as a significant musician as part of the folk boom of the later 1960s. As well as exploring numerous songs, it includes quotes from Ralph drawn from extended interviews with him. The book also includes a series of interludes that approach the nature of the creative individual from a socio-cultural, psychological and ‘spiritual’ perspective.

The paperback version is no longer available, but the eBook – following up on two sold out physical editions – is fully revised and includes a new Forward and Post-script.

Paperback, eBook (pdf) 182 (eBook), 198 (paperback) English 2022 Second printing 2017 978-09935670-3-2 978-0-9935670-1-8 --- N/A

Meet The Author

Second Edition

Ralph McTell is the leading singer guitarist of his generation and has built up a formidable catalogue of songs and poems. His reputation is for carefully constructed songs with sensitive lyrics and exquisite melodies. In this book, Michael Grenfell explores the way biography features in Ralph’s work: his own background in London, those who surrounded him in his personal life experiences, his contemporaries, and artistic influences. It also considers the various characters Ralph has invented – Michael in the Garden, Dancing Doreen, Clown, and many others – as a way of getting his message across – and the form that message takes.

The chapters are based around Ralph’s work and personal life story, and include extensive extracts from interviews the author has conducted with him. There is also extended coverage of Ralph’s attachment to the poets Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath, as well as the influence of the Blues on his musicianship. The discussion is set within the story of the times in which Ralph grew up and the music field, which shaped him. We learn about the way creativity is given birth to and how it is expressed.

What emerges in the expanded, edited and revised second edition is a highly engaging account, which ends up examining the impact of music and the arts on their audience, and indeed the nature of biography itself – a fascinating and truly original book of a unique and influential musician.

The paperback versions are no longer available, but the new eBook is fully revised and includes a new Forward and Post-script.

“It has been a revealing and emotional experience working with Mike Grenfell on this book. His scholarly interpretations and evaluations of my songs are most gratifying and I have been moved very much by what he has written. His perceptiveness and conclusions are truly illuminating to me.” Ralph McTell 2016, Second Edition

See author interview:


Book Type

Paperback, eBook