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Rio Vermelho, Salvador, Bahia, Brasil

“Gavin numbers among the rare breed of biographer capable of tremendous style and substance, meticulous about detail and accuracy yet blessed with exceptional storytelling élan.” (Christopher Loudon, MacLean’s)

Called “a killer biographer” in the
Hollywood Reporter, James Gavin is the author of four acclaimed books and dozens of New York Times features; he is a worldwide public speaker, a Grammy nominee, and a recipient of two ASCAP Deems Taylor-Virgil Thomson Awards for excellence in music journalism. Gavin's long-awaited fifth book, George Michael: A Life (Abrams, June 2022), has been hailed as the definitive telling of the tumultuous life story of the troubled pop superstar. People chose it as one of its top 10 summer reads; the New York Times called it "engrossing … a thorough and well-rounded view of Michael's artistry and personal chaos." According to Jamie Brickhouse in Interview, the book is "scintillating … eloquent and meticulous." USA Today termed it "probing, definitive." Wrote Kirkus Reviews: "[Gavin's] first-rate reporting makes this biography sing."

In her
New York Times review of Gavin's previous book, Is That All There Is?: The Strange Life of Peggy Lee (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, 2014), Anita Gates called the biography “eminently readable ... fascinating, suspenseful, musically detailed and insightful.” Publisher’s Weekly pronounced it “raucously entertaining, full of evocative scenes, wry humor, and exasperated sympathy.” The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Appelo chose it as one of the top ten music books of 2014.

Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne (Atria Books, 2009) was termed “magnificent ... gripping, marvelously written” by Liz Smith, who added: “[It] may just be one of the best biographies about show business, race, love, sex, and music ever written.” Oprah Winfrey chose it as one of her Top 25 Summer Reads. On May 12, 2010, Los Angeles District Councilman Bernard C. Parks honored Gavin with a proclamation from the city that had made Horne famous.

In the New York Times, David Hajdu described Gavin’s Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker (Knopf, 2002; republished by Chicago Review Press in 2011) as “almost unbearably vivid.” The Hollywood Reporter proclaimed it “a landmark in entertainment biography”; while in Salon, Greil Marcus called the book “a singular work of biographical art ... There is not a page that is not engaging, alive, demanding a response from a reader whether that be a matter of horror or awe.” Deep in a Dream has been published in England, Holland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, France, and Brazil as well as in the U.S.

Gavin’s first book,
Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York Cabaret (Grove Weidenfeld, 1991; Back Stage Books, 2006) won Gavin his first ASCAP Deems Taylor-Virgil Thomson Award, along with raves from Liz Smith (“a treasure trove … a real beat of the heart of New York”), John S. Wilson of the New York Times (“vividly reported ... etched in acid”), and Gerald Nachman of the San Francisco Chronicle (“Wild and wistful ... a remarkably informed, insightful, definitive look at Manhattan nightlife”).

Manhattan-born and a graduate of Fordham University, Gavin is a much-published freelance journalist. Aside from the New York Times, he has written for Vanity Fair, Time Out New York, the Daily Beast, and JazzTimes. His subjects have included Annie Lennox, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, John Legend, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Miriam Makeba, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Ned Rorem, Edith Piaf, Karen Carpenter, and Jacques Brel. Gavin's 2015 feature for JazzTimes, “The Gates of the Underworld: Inside Slugs’ Saloon, Jazz’s Most Notorious Nightclub," earned him his second ASCAP Deems Taylor-Virgil Thomson Award. He has contributed liner notes to over 500 CDs; his essay for the GRP box set Ella Fitzgerald – The Legendary Decca Recordings was nominated for a Grammy Award. In 2016, the Metropolitan Room in New York honored Gavin for his contributions to cabaret at an evening programmed by the writer himself. In 2018, the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC) gave him its Board of Directors Award.

Gavin has appeared in several documentaries, including an
E! True Hollywood Story on Doris Day and Anita O’Day: The Life and Times of a Jazz Singer. He wrote and narrated a French TV documentary, Chet by Claxton, on legendary jazz photographer William Claxton and his muse, Chet Baker. Gavin has made hundreds of radio appearances, including multiple interviews on NPR, the BBC, and Australia’s ABC Network; he has been seen on the Today show, Good Morning America, and PBS NewsHour. From 2011 through 2017, Gavin toured as narrator, host, and author of Stormy Weather: The Life and Music of Lena Horne, a show that starred former Supreme Mary Wilson. 

Aside from his
Stormy Weather show, he has created and hosted shows based on all his other books, featuring Blossom Dearie, Nellie McKay, Jane Monheit, Mark Murphy, Andy Bey, Mx. Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman (Kiki & Herb), Spider Saloff, Oscar Brown, Jr., The New Standards, Catherine Russell, Jonatha Brooke, and others. These evenings have been presented at such venues as the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts (West Palm Beach, FL), the Miller Outdoor Theater (Houston, TX), the Castro Theater (San Francisco, CA), the Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis, MN), and Joe’s Pub (NYC).