Eugene Record - My Father In Lites (Book Review), by Brian Record (2015)

Eugene Record
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The Chi-Lites were among the most critically acclaimed and popular vocal groups of the 70s, and perhaps the key to their success was the songwriting of Eugene Record. The natural heir to the sensitive, passionate 1960s songwriting of Smokey Robinson, Record, with writing partner Barbara Acklin, created musical stories about both love and social ills, all possessing a level of depth that put them a notch above most other work on the radio. Both as a member of the Chi-Lites and as solo singer, songwriter and producer, Eugene Record created a legacy that has remained, and even grown, in the decade since his death.

The Chi-Lites were among the most critically acclaimed and popular vocal groups of the 70s, and perhaps the key to their success was the songwriting of Eugene Record. The natural heir to the sensitive, passionate 1960s songwriting of Smokey Robinson, Record, with writing partner Barbara Acklin, created musical stories about both love and social ills, all possessing a level of depth that put them a notch above most other work on the radio. Both as a member of the Chi-Lites and as solo singer, songwriter and producer, Eugene Record created a legacy that has remained, and even grown, in the decade since his death.

A different look at Eugene Record is the goal of the new book written by his son, Brian A. Record, My Father In LitesIn it, Brian creates a behind-the-scenes view of his father's legendary songs, connecting those thoughful, often emotional works with true life events of love lost and found, of personal triumph and, sadly, of tragedy and death. The story is told through the eyes of the young Record, first with the perspective of a child observing his caring - but often absent - father, and later through the lens of an adult man trying to piece together a clean summary of a naturally complicated life. Most of all, it is the story of a real family, one both flawed and struggling, yet filled with a great deal of love.

My Father In Lites generally takes a chronological look at the life of the elder Record, but the stream of consciousness approach of Brian Record's writing is filled with asynchronous reflections, breaking topic for flashback stories that at times enhance the narrative, even as they occasionally make the book a more difficult read. The writer takes pains to avoid judgment of the characters (especially family members) involved, often mentioning blockbuster events in just a sentence or two, and giving the impression that certain memories are too painful or controversial -- or in any case don't fit the premise of the book, which is a paean to the legacy of his father.

The nontraditional approach to this biography serves the purpose of the younger Record, who appears to be writing this book as much for himself and his family as for the outside world. The story of a life is never without twists and heartache, and My Father In Lites attempts to make order of the natural disorder of the elder Mr. Record's life, to put a lifetime of notable but disparate events in a context that better allows all to say, in the end, that Eugene Record was a good man who created incredible art and left the world on good terms with his Maker. In that it succeeds, showing both the humanity and redemption of the Eugene Record, and providing a deeper look at his beautiful, seminal work.

By Chris Rizik

 

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