Arrow Through the Heart

Black and White photo shows Andy Gibb performing in a white suit.

By Angie E.

“What really surprised me was how well people who knew him still talk about him,” Matthew Hild tells Closer magazine about his experience with writing his new book Arrow Through The Heart: The Biography of Andy Gibb. “People remember him as the kindest and sweetest person. They all said he had a vulnerability about him that didn’t prepare him for being a star.”

Born in Manchester, England, Andy was the youngest brother of the Bee Gees. He began his solo career in 1977 with the single “Words and Music,” which reached the top of the charts in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. In 1979, he was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

Despite Andy’s own achievements as a musician and singer, with hits like “I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” “Shadow Dancing” and “Thicker Than Water,” he spent much of his life struggling to be his own person, separate from the gigantic success of The Bee Gees. This constant insecurity and his heartbreak over the end of his relationship with Dallas star Victoria Principal are thought to have led to Andy’s battle with substance abuse and depression which, over time, destroyed his health and damaged his reputation.

By early February of 1988, it seemed as if he had made inroads in beating his addiction; he started working on a new album. Less than a month later, though, things took a turn when he complained of chest pains and was admitted to the hospital. On March 10 Andy died from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.

Hild shares that Andy Gibb and Karen Carpenter once shyly held hands during a Broadway production of The Pirates of Penzance in New York City. They had been introduced through a mutual friend of theirs, Olivia Newton John, and though Andy and Karen never dated, they stayed in touch. Reading about the fragile nature they had in common and that touching moment in the theater just hit me so hard as I read Hild’s words.

Cover of "The Very Best of Andy Gibb" album, complete with feathered hair and undone shirt and vest.

Their music had been a huge part of my childhood and early teen years, as had the Bee Gees, and their music still means so much to me today. Both singers were known for their gentle and caring sides and for having lovely voices. Both lost their lives way too soon.

Andy’s voice, even more gentle and sweet than his older brother Barry’s, had always spoken to my heart. Even now I remember how I felt the first time I heard the sincerely passionate “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” in Harmony Hut at Security Square Mall and can still smell the print from the many issues of Teen Beat Andy adorned.

It was this part of me that resurfaced last week as I browsed the new non-fiction section at Central and spotted the cover of Arrow Through The Heart. I gasped and immediately pulled the book off the shelf, startled to see it and its serious treatment of a singer often relegated to “teen idol” status in pop culture history. As tragic of Andy’s story is, I am so glad Matthew Hild decided to put this book out into the world. It’s not sensational or salacious in nature at all and gives a voice to an underrated singer and lost soul.

You can listen to Andy Gibb, free, on Hoopla, where you’ll findThe Very Best of Andy Gibb as well of other albums, including: Shadow Dancing, After Dark and Flowing Rivers.

As music critic Amy Hanson writes about The Very Best of Andy Gibb on “Laugh if you must, dismiss if you’re so inclined, but no matter what anyone may argue, it cannot be disputed that Andy Gibb realized many of his aspirations across this LP and, in so doing, became a vital part of the late ’70s music scene.”

Angie is an Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch and is a co-facilitator for Reads of Acceptance, HCLS’ first LGBTQ-focused book club. Her ideal day is reading in her cozy armchair, with her cat Henry next to her.

Grant by Ron Chernow

The photograph in black and white, by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, shows Grant standing, wearing the frock coat of his Union uniform.
Ulysses S. Grant, circa 1864, photographed by Matthew Brady

Review by Jean B.

Biographies, especially those by Ron Chernow, can be a heavy lift – literally. At more than 900 pages, Chernow’s acclaimed 2017 book examining the life of Ulysses S. Grant can be exhausting to hold for more than 30 minutes of reading. So now is a perfect time to tackle this large but highly satisfying tome, when you can read or listen to it electronically on a lightweight device and maybe have extra reading time in your day! Available through OverDrive in both ebook and eaudiobook formats, Grant offers a fascinating, detailed look at both the man and his era.  

I love to read history, biography, and historical fiction, but I’m always discovering how many episodes in history I really know nothing about. The Civil War era has been recorded in myriad ways, and yet, with Grant I gained new perspective on the war — learning details of the Western front that, as a Pennsylvanian whose education focused on Gettysburg, I hadn’t appreciated. More startling, I discovered how little I understood about the Reconstruction Era and the immense challenges that faced President Grant in securing the rights of newly freed slaves to work, vote, and be full citizens in the re-established Union.  

Ron Chernow sets out to correct the one-dimensional and largely negative portraits of Grant by earlier historians which portrayed him as an ineffective political leader tainted by scandals, corruption, and a chronic drinking problem. Though Chernow clearly admires his subject and goes above and beyond to compile contemporary opinions and statements to bolster his case in Grant’s favor, Chernow’s portrait has such depth, complexity, and humanity that I was persuaded, too, by the end, of Grant’s impressive leadership, moral courage, and devoted service to the ideals of a united nation and racial equality.  

And along the way, I enjoyed getting to know so many of the supporting (and often traitorous!) characters in Grant’s life, from his overbearing father, to his society-loving wife, to the infamous General William Tecumseh Sherman, to conniving Gilded Age businessman Jay Gould. It’s all here — family intrigue, dramatic changes of fortune, battles and blood, comradeship and bitter betrayal. Download and dig in!

Jean is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Central Branch who enjoys participating in book clubs with both kids and adults.