I am delighted to share my review today for Windswept & Interesting: My Autobiography by Billy Connolly. I grew up and was aware of this comedian and over the years I have then watched his travelogue shows.
When I saw this on Audible I knew straight away that this was the book I was going to spend my credit on this month. It was a brilliant choice and exceptional audio and one that will be on my Top Books of the Year list!
In his first full-length autobiography, comedy legend and national treasure Billy Connolly reveals the truth behind his windswept and interesting life.
Born in a tenement flat in Glasgow in 1942, orphaned by the age of 4, and a survivor of appalling abuse at the hands of his own family, Billy’s life is a remarkable story of success against all the odds.
Billy found his escape first as an apprentice welder in the shipyards of the River Clyde. Later he became a folk musician – a ‘rambling man’ – with a genuine talent for playing the banjo. But it was his ability to spin stories, tell jokes and hold an audience in the palm of his hand that truly set him apart.
As a young comedian, Billy broke all the rules. He was fearless and outspoken – willing to call out hypocrisy wherever he saw it. But his stand-up was full of warmth, humility and silliness too. His startling, hairy ‘glam-rock’ stage appearance – wearing leotards, scissor suits and banana boots – only added to his appeal.
It was an appearance on Michael Parkinson’s chat show in 1975 – and one outrageous story in particular – that catapulted Billy from cult hero to national star. TV shows, documentaries, international fame and award-winning Hollywood movies followed. Billy’s pitch-perfect stand-up comedy kept coming too – for over 50 years, in fact – until a double diagnosis of cancer and Parkinson’s Disease brought his remarkable live performances to an end. Since then he has continued making TV shows, creating extraordinary drawings… and writing.
Windswept and Interesting is Billy’s story in his own words. It is joyfully funny – stuffed full of hard-earned wisdom as well as countless digressions on fishing, farting and the joys of dancing naked. It is an unforgettable, life-affirming story of a true comedy legend.
‘I didn’t know I was Windswept and Interesting until somebody told me. It was a friend who was startlingly exotic himself. He’d just come back from Kashmir and was all billowy shirt and Indian beads. I had long hair and a beard and was swishing around in electric blue flairs.
He said: “Look at you – all windswept and interesting!”
I just said: “Exactly!”
After that, I simply had to maintain my reputation…’
Billy Connolly is a voice I have known of since childhood when Mum and Dad listened to his vinyl LPs, a voice I have known but at the time I didn’t really understand, probably just as well really.
Over the years Billy has been on TV chatshows, radio, Top of the Pops, in film and to be fair in most of the entertainment genres. I have read one of his previous books, it was years ago and it was one that I lent to someone who never returned it!
I decided to listen to the audiobook of this autobiography and I have to say, compared to when I heard his voice as a child, I can understand every word. I mentioned listening to this book to my mum, and the first thing she said was “could you understand him”, yes she still remembers trying to decipher the LPs, not easy especially when Billy starts laughing!
This is a man who has had an interesting life, he has travelled the world and met so many people. He is an observer of people and has taken risks and chances. Some worked some didn’t. But he is a unique man.
Listening to this book had me laughing to a point where I had to pause the book so I could compose myself and also hear what Billy was saying! He sees life slightly differently and this is what makes his improvised stand-up routines so unique.
If you want to listen to an autobiography that gets under the skin of what makes a person tick, then this one is fabulous. Billy doesn’t hide his past, he is open about his mistakes and how he has done things as well as what has affected him over the years.
This is entertaining and funny but it is also honest and a bit of an eye-opener at times. It isn’t all humour and anecdotes, as he discusses the abuse he suffered as a child. It is something that had taken many, many years for him to come to terms with and also to understand. I did also get the hardback of this and read some sections as well as listened. And yes, as I read it I could hear Billy’s voice.
Excellent listening, honest and very addictive. I would absolutely recommend it.
Here are a couple of quotes from the book that I found on Goodreads –
“Blessed are those who yodel – for they shall never be troubled by offers of work.”
― Billy Connolly, Windswept & Interesting: My Autobiography
“I hope I’ve shown a few disbelievers that they should never discount those they think are different, disorganised or distractible.”
― Billy Connolly, Windswept & Interesting: My Autobiography
ABOUT BILLY CONNOLLY
William “Billy” Connolly, Jr., CBE is a Scottish comedian, musician, presenter and actor. He is sometimes known, especially in his native Scotland, by the nickname The Big Yin (The Big One). His first trade, in the early 1960s, was as a welder (specifically a boilermaker) in the Glasgow shipyards, but he gave it up towards the end of the decade to pursue a career as a folk singer in the Humblebums and subsequently as a soloist. In the early 1970s he made the transition from folk-singer with a comedic persona to fully-fledged comedian, a role in which he continues. He also became an actor, and has appeared in such films as Mrs. Brown (1997), for which he was nominated for a BAFTA; The Boondock Saints (1999); The Last Samurai (2003); Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004); and The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008).
It is as a stand-up comedian that Connolly is best known. His observational comedy is idiosyncratic and often off-the-cuff. He has outraged certain sectors of audiences, critics and the media with his free use of the word “fuck”. He has made jokes relating to masturbation, blasphemy, defecation, flatulence, haemorrhoids, sex, his father’s illness, his aunts’ cruelty and, in the latter stages of his career, old age (specifically his experiences of growing old). In 2007 and again in 2010, he was voted the greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
Connolly has been married to comedian and psychologist Pamela Stephenson since 1989. In the book Billy, and in a December 2008 online interview, Connolly states he was sexually abused by his father between the ages of 10 and 15. He believes this was a result of the Catholic Church not allowing his father to divorce after his mother left the family. Due to this, Connolly has a “deep distrust and dislike of the Catholic church and any other organization that brainwashes people”. In a 1999 interview with “The Sunday Herald” Connolly condemned the SNP as “racist” and the new Scottish parliament as a “joke”.
In November 1998, Connolly was the subject of a two-hour retrospective entitled Billy Connolly: Erect for 30 Years, which included tributes from Judi Dench, Sean Connery, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Eddie Izzard.
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