Ian MacDonald

Ian MacDonald

Ian MacCormick (October 3, 1948August 20, 2003), who wrote under the pseudonym Ian MacDonald, was a British music critic and author, best known for his detailed history of The Beatles and "The New Shostakovich", a controversial study of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.


He briefly attended King's College, Cambridge, at first studying English, but soon transferring to Archeology and Anthropology.Williams, Richard. " [http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,3604,1037260,00.html Obituary: Ian MacDonald] ". The Guardian, September 08, 2003. Retrieved on 25 February, 2008.] He dropped out after a year. While at Cambridge he was distantly acquainted with cult singer/songwriter Nick Drake. From 1972 to 1975 he was Assistant Editor of the "NME". He began a songwriting collaboration as a lyricist with his brother's band Quiet Sun including future Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera. This collaboration was resumed in the late 1970s when MacDonald provided lyrics for the album "Listen Now". Later, Brian Eno would help MacDonald produce "Sub Rosa", an album of his own songs, and release it on Manzanera's record label.

In his book "", first published in 1994, MacDonald carefully anatomised every record The Beatles made, drawing attention to broad themes, particular examples of inspiration and moments of human frailty alike. The book also includes his essay "Fabled Foursome, Disappearing Decade", an analysis of the social and cultural changes of the 1960s and their aftereffects. The entries about the Beatles' singles that topped the singles chart were released in a separate book in 2002. The edit featured a new, shorter introduction, and only featured the essays on the songs on The Beatles' chart-topping album, "One".

MacDonald wrote widely on classical music. His "The New Shostakovich" was one of the most talked-about classical books of the 1990s. It was the first western book that attempted to put the works of the great Russian composer in their political and social context. MacDonald's insistence on creating a cinematic scenario for every major piece — a satire on Soviet brutality and Stalinism — polarised opinion sharply. Some rated his interpretations fanciful and musicologically worthless, while others believed they held some subjective truth. MacDonald was a regular reviewer for the UK magazine "Classic CD", and was known for his passionate and opinionated views on twentieth-century music.

The success of "Revolution in the Head" motivated him to resume popular music writing and he began contributing to "Mojo" and "Uncut" music magazines. "The People's Music", an anthology of these writings, was published in July 2003 just weeks before his death. He had been working on a book entitled: "Birds, Beasts & Fishes: A Guide to Animal Lore and Symbolism" and working on a book about David Bowie. Neither of these has been published.

In August 2003, MacDonald committed suicide at his Gloucestershire home following a lengthy period of clinical depression. Before killing himself, he had posted a note on his front door to call the police. MacDonald's body was cremated and his ashes were given to either a family member or a friend.

The track "Wish You Well" on Phil Manzanera's album "6PM" is a tribute to MacDonald.


*"". ISBN 1-84413-828-3
*"The New Shostakovich" (1990). ISBN 0-19-284026-6 (reprinted & updated in 2006)
*"The People's Music" (2003)


External links

* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,3604,1037260,00.html Guardian Obituary]
* [http://www.algonet.se/~iguana/DRAKE/exiled1.html MacDonald's essay on Nick Drake]
* [http://www.phinnweb.org/krautrock/articles/mcconnell/ Comments on MacDonald's 1973 Krautrock articles in NME]
* [http://www.siue.edu/~aho/musov/dmitri.html Music under Soviet Rule : Shostakovichiana] , a website he maintained full of Shostakovich information and trivia

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