Robert Hilburn

Robert Hilburn

I was born in rural Louisiana, where I grew up on the blues and country music styles that eventually gave birth to rock 'n' roll.

As pop music critic at the Los Angeles Times from 1970 through 2005, I was the only music writer to accompany Johnny Cash for his landmark Folsom Prison concert. I also went along with Elton John when he became the first Western rock figure to play in Russia, with Paul Simon on the "Graceland" tour stop in Zimbabwe, with Bob Dylan for his first concerts in Israel and with Michael Jackson for part of the Jacksons' Victory tour.

I spent a week on the road with the Sex Pistols during their first and only U.S. tour. I've also been with U2 in Dublin, N.W.A in Compton, at the Dakota with John Lennon, in the studio with Phil Spector, on the road with Michael Jackson, on the tour bus with Willie and Waylon, backstage with Janis Joplin and in church with Rev. Al Green.

At the Times, my goal was to focus on important artists I felt people would still care about 10 years later. In writing biographies, I want to write about important artists that people will still care about 50 years later.

My first book after leaving the Times was a memoir titled "Corn Flakes With John Lennon" that touches on many of these adventures. In the book, I focus on my relationships with and critical feelings about some of the most important musicians of the rock era, especially those who contributed to rock as both an art form and inspiration.

The next book was a biography of Johnny Cash, "Johnny Cash: The Life," a definitive look at the man who struggled through various addictions in his personal life but devoted his music to trying to lift the spirits and aspirations of his audience. His ultimate message: No matter how much you've sinned, you can be redeemed. In his own life, Cash, too, was redeemed.

The latest book, "Paul Simon: The Life," looks with equal intensity at the life of one of America's greatest songwriters and the development of his artistry. What fascinated me was how Simon's hits didn't just soar up the charts, but eventually entered our cultural consciousness. I, too, wanted to know how he--almost alone among the great songwriters of the 1960s and early 1970s--continues to make music that can stand up favorably against his early work.

My wife, Kathi, and I live in Los Angeles with our two English bulldogs. I have two children, Kathy (married to Ron Morris) and Rob Hilburn (married to Sarah Coley), and four grandchildren, Chris and Lindsey Morris and Genny and Grant Hilburn.

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