17 May 2014

Review: Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed - Michael Sweet


Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed
Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed by Michael Sweet

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Wow, what a page turner - for me at least. I have been a Stryper fan since finding their first album in the record bin about 3 months after it hit the shelves. I have seen them multiple times in their heyday of the 80's, evening meeting them before and after shows a few times (the photos are on Facebook to prove it), as well as the very first reunion show in 2003 (meeting them before the show again). I have been a fan all through the years of everything the band and individual band members have released. So obviously when vocalist Michael Sweet released this bio, I pre-ordered it immediately. Upon receiving it in the mail, I began devouring it, and finished it quite quickly for my normal schedule.

I have had the pleasure of doing a couple interviews with Michael over the years while writing for Heaven's Metal magazine, one phone interview being about a year after his wife passed. I was able to share my experience of losing a loved one - my oldest son - just two months after his wife passed, and we had some discussion of grief. He was a pleasant man and I gained even more respect for him.

The book revealed so many of the stories behind what I thought was smooth sailing for the band - but now understand what was actually happening. I found the book near impossible to put down - I just craved to learn more. All the while I was reading, I was pulling up Stryper and solo project albums on my playlist and living through the music time period a little. Oftentimes I found myself going through Michael's emotions with him. I found myself feeling depressed, then mad, and even tearful as I was reading. In the past few years, I have read quite a few biographies from some of my favorite bands, and love learning the background stories to songs, albums, and life experiences, and this one ranks up high with them.

The early stories of the band's beginnings and finally hearing an official story of how C.C. DeVille fit into the Roxx Regime days was cool. To hear the stories behind the scenes as we follow the band through the early glory days as they continued to grow in popularity was great, but hearing the truth behind the eventual decline that led to the "Against the Law" era (still one of my favorite albums) was truly to see how the stress and craziness of rock and roll life can begin to chip away and drag things down. I had only heard rumors of life at this time (hey, the internet wasn't around then), so on one hand it was interesting to hear the truth of how bad things really got, and on the other hand it was good to hear it had not gotten as bad as some have said over the years. As Michael mentions in the book, he was surprised too that it did not blow up to be a bigger media scandal for them. 

While this book has plenty of Stryper stories, the bulk of it of course is a focus on the struggles, trials and blessing that Michael dealt with through it all. The rags to riches to rags to stability story of a young boy becoming a rock star and losing it all and life afterward. Michael holds little back and discussing the inner turmoil within the band - the personal issues between band members that linger some even to this day. For those of us on the outside, all seemed fine and sunny, but the truth is, they are people too and there are issues as would be expected within any group of people that work together closely like this. Glory to God for the fact that they are still together and doing an amazing job bringing us amazing music still.

Stryper was the first Christian rock band I ever bought - during a time in life (1984) when I listened solely to heavy metal. In 1985 when I made the decision to rededicate my life to a closer walk with God, I literally trashed hundreds of albums, and all that I kept was the first two Stryper albums that I owned at the time (and quickly went out to the record store and snatched up the very few available other related releases at the time - Messiah Prophet, Leviticus, Saint, and Barnabas).

Stryper has always been a love of mine - and I have a band room plastered with their posters to show others that love too. I have their "Loud and Clear" biographical material from years back, which was a look into the world of Stryper, but this book was a much more personal journey and makes me feel like I know Michael much more personally now. I find much in him I can relate to, and would have loved to have been a friend to him for comfort during some of the many trials he faced. Thanks for writing this book Mr. Sweet, it was a real pleasure to read.

One thing he failed to cover that leaves me wondering is how Tim came back into the band. He discusses his departure and the bringing in of Tracy Ferrie but totally skips how he then departed and Tim came back. Also missing was why he only toured with Boston for that one year - why did he not continue working with them after the death of his wife. Oh well, maybe I can dig those answers up elsewhere (we have the internet now after all).



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