For me, the mark of a great biography is the depth of honesty on show. A tale where the writer is willing to expose not just their success but also their very low points and failures. This book (‘Swimming With The Blowfish – Hootie, Healing, And One Hell Of A Ride – A Story Of Redemption’) by Hootie and the Blowfish drummer Jim Sonefeld has all of that and more. When he recounts the passing of his mother the emotion is almost palpable. Jim, or Soni to his friends and family, was always more keen to develop a career in sports, most likely soccer than he was in music but like the best-laid plans that changed. It is clear that after Jim joined Hootie, he nor none of the band foresaw the incredible success the band would experience. The band formed in 1986 and Jim joined in 1989. It was their first album, the magnificent ‘Cracked Rear View’ that sent them on a meteoric rise into the stratosphere in 1994 and spawned 6 hit singles across 1994 and 1995. In a grunge-driven industry the album overcame many odds and went on to top the US album chart and the first three singles all made the US top ten. This proves that great music will always win out! Sonefeld documents that rise with eloquent prose and the voice of a music fan who at times finds it hard to believe his luck. But it was that huge, and frankly, well-deserved success, that sowed the seeds of his struggles with alcohol and substance abuse. The hard-partying and rock star lifestyle were hard to resist for Jim.
It was his addictions that really shaped the next part of Jim’s life for many years. It strained and broke relationships and friendships and was clearly a factor leading to the end of his first marriage. Jim is brutally honest in describing the kind of person that alcohol and substance abuse had turned him into. I have known some alcoholics during my life and it is an awful disease. Jim Sonefeld eventually fought and won his battle with his demons and turned a completely new leaf following joining a 12-step programme. Surprising even himself along that journey he discovered a faith in God and followed a full Christian path to redemption. He now records as a contemporary Christian artist. So in spite of all the ups and downs, music became, and remains his constant in life. I am an atheist, but I applaud anyone who can overcome addiction whether that involves putting your faith in a God or something else. Sonefeld is a part of Celebrate Recovery which is a faith-based group that continues to help those suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. The book does end on a wonderfully positive note on a few points, Jim remarried and remains very happily married with an extended family of growing kids. But it also highlights the latest, and hopefully not final, chapter for Hootie and the Blowfish; the Group Therapy tour which hit 44 cities from 2018 to 2019. I believe it takes great courage and humility to write a book in which the author completely opens his heart and bares his soul, Jim Sonefeld I take my hat off to you! Anyone who enjoys a great autobiography and any fans of great music should give ‘Swimming With The Blowfish’ a try. It also features a great foreword written by Hootie singer and now a major country star, Darius Rucker. The book is out now, published by Omnibus Press.
Click here to check out Hootie and the Blowfish on Spotify and here to listen to Jim Sonefeld’s music on Spotify. Click here to buy the book on Amazon.co.uk and click here to buy the book on Amazon.com.
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