Son of a Famous Man

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About John Manchester

John Manchester made a living as a composer for 30 years. Now he he writes for a numer of online publications, including His memoir of his father and the 1960s, Escaping the Giant, and his thriller You Can't Write About Me can be previewed at Also visit the Manchester Music Library.


  1. Noah Brand says:

    John, I relate to this problem all too well. My father Stewart was one of the giants of the counterculture you escaped into, and has continued to have a brilliant career. When I was about thirteen, I read a magazine article that called him “the least recognized but most influential thinker in the country.” That left an impression much like your own, that this was an impossible act to follow. Kinda sucks, don’t it?

    • It does. suck. I remember reading that article about your dad, feeling kind of envious, because he was a Merry Prankster! Wishing I’d been on the bus. I never thought he might have kids and how they would feel.
      I’d like to the sons of my heroes were free of this poison, but fame’s an insidious drug. (BTW, I have no idea what kind of dad your father has been.)

  2. Tom Matlack says:

    Thanks for this John. I knew of your father as I attended Wesleyan in the 1980s where he was certainly lionized as a writer in residence and professor. I have had quite a few friends who had very famous dads, specially in business, and have sat with them as they tried to sort it out. I also know well the dynamic with a little bit of a gender reversal as my grandmother was a writer but her sister was Pearl Buck. That’s a shadow that still has teeth even a couple generations later.

    In the end I think we all look to our dad’s as some kind of primary focal point for our definition of success and yet, paradoxically, manhood requires setting that aside to do what is in our soul whether or not it is what dad did or did not do. My dad was a well known peace activists. I became a business man in part, I am sure, in rebellion. And yet as time has gone on I have found my own authentic voice that neither demeans nor competes with my father’s. It is mine alone, warts and all.

    • Tom, very well said.

      I would add something I did have room for in my piece: that I’m not suggesting the sons of unfamous men, let alone sons of complete failures, don’t have their own rough roads to travel. Just different.

  3. John,

    The father-son relationship has so many profund and deeply (as well as mutually) influential currents, not all of which are fully understood until time (and the hidden education that “the years teach but the days don’t know”) reveals her truths. I have always read your father with great respect and now see you are finding your own legs as a writer. I will enjoy your pages/memoir. Apropos memoirs and fathers and sons, I’d highly recommend James Salter’s “Burning the Days”–there is a brief but significant section on his own relationship with a great man/father which I find–like all of Salter’s pages–beautiful.

    As a father myself, I see my son growing into his own with great swagger, passion and confidence–what Nabokov described as the “infinite conceit and total ignorance” of adolescence. But even among all his jock-like bravado, my teenage son has taken my hand (when no one is looking) and become a child again. When I think of dads and sons, I always think how even men need a moment to feel safe enough to be young again, if only for a moment.


  1. [...]   John Manchester and his father, from his story, Son of a Famous Man [...]

  2. [...] spent a long time working on a memoir about my father and me and the 1960s. My deepest motivation was a desire to tell the truth. I’d never had the [...]

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