Regarded as one of the greatest writers of his generation, the works of Lester Bangs has primarily consisted of well written and thorough music reviews.
The facts that baffled his companions about his works were reflected in the memoirs of his close friend and fellow music enthusiast Greil Marcus. Many have wondered why a person like Lester has only limited his writing expertise and knowledge to mildly received music reviews. The answer to the question simply boils down to one thing; passion. The same passion has been channeled through a theater production which has garnered great successes at the Public Theater in East Village, Manhattan as part of the Under the Radar festival. Lester Bangs was a product of extremely humble beginnings and hailed from the small town of El Cajon California. His stardom took off when he caught the eye of the Rolling Stones, a magazine where he served as a senior editor. He then shifted to Creem at the invitation of Dave Marsh alongside whom he worked in Detroit. After his tenure with Creem, he headed off to New York to work for Village Voice; a place that he cherished and was close to his heart. He worked for Village Voice until his death in 1982 at the young age of 33. His colleague Robert Christgau who worked with him at Village Voice, described his passion for writing about music as a matter of life and death. Robert even included his comments about the great Lester Bangs in his obituary. While Lester Bangs’ personality is somewhat understated, his writings echoed a dimension of his work that contradicted his public personality. Dressed in a t-shirt that said “Detroit sucks,” a look that almost has its own cult following, he could be seen working and interacting passionately with his peers and fans alike. His friends further describe him as motivated and phenomenally intelligent, but there was also a side to him that went unnoticed for the most part. He was defenseless and often let down by the organizations he worked for, but he carried sheer outspokenness of his work. This bittersweet side of Bangs has been thoroughly captured in the theatre production to show the different stages of his life in the spotlight and how he affected the music fraternity for better and for the worse. Another big screen production based on the experience of Bangs is the 2000 film, Almost Famous starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs. How to Be a Rock Critic, the theatre production of based on Lester’s life, however amplifies his roles and adds multiple dimensions to it.
As the man said it himself, he only has faith in one thing that never lets him down; Rock’n’Roll and his life was nothing other than for that. His whole personality was shaped around the passion of listening to music and writing about it. He added a hint of vibrancy to an overall bland musical landscape and reigned supreme, influencing and inspiring heaps of others to follow in his steps. He proved music does not only have to be listened to, but it can also be read about.