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David Archuleta

David Archuleta may be young, but his memoir still inspires.

By Brandon Burt
Posted // May 31,2010 - There was a time when the writing of memoirs was solely the bailiwick of old people. In those days, the autobiographer had to wait at least until middle age before amassing enough experiences to fill an interesting tome.

Ah, but now we live in an accelerated era, an age when a callow youth can find himself rocketed to national celebrity through the auspices of a popular TV talent show—and then go on to write a pretty damned good book about it.

Obviously, the June 1 release of David Archuleta’s Chords of Strength will elicit howls of amusement from literary naysayers. And, admittedly, the very idea that a young man not yet in his 20s—whose claim to fame is having been a runner-up on Fox’s American Idol two years ago—could dare publish a memoir comes as something as a shock. Even l’enfant terrible Augusten Burroughs, who ushered in the memoir craze of the past decade with his candid memoir of his bizarre childhood, had the courtesy to hold off publication until he was in his 30s. But, I say, screw those literary naysayers. The bigger shock for them will be that, despite his youth, Archuleta (with the help of journalist/ethnomusicologist Monica Haim) managed to come up with a personal account that is engaging, readable and even inspiring.

Archuleta is not the fame-hungry, celebrity-obsessed Hollywood child star one might expect. He comes across as a sensitive, introspective and bright young man. His earliest childhood recollections are richly detailed with images of scurrying lizards, homemade flour tortillas and duck-egg hunts within a warm familial milieu. Indeed, Archuleta has done his genealogical research and offers an account of the musical and spiritual journey that led his family to Utah.

It was in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints converted his grandmother, aunts and mother Lupe to the LDS faith. Lupe was only 14 when the family immigrated to Florida, and Grandma soon put her to work singing and dancing at various Miami venues.

David’s father, Jeff, was also no musical slouch, either, so when Jeff and Lupe married, they formed a very melodious family: Other consanguinities included a great-grandfather who was a big-band jazz pianist, a grandmother who sang in musical theater and a grandfather who was a member of a barbershop quartet. In fact, there must have been quite a panic on the Palm Beach music scene when Jeff accepted a (nonmusic-related) job in Utah.

The family was not wealthy, and had to sell most of its possessions at a garage sale to afford the trek. After arriving in the Beehive State, David’s family moved around a lot, bouncing from Murray to Centerville to Sandy while Jeff was employed in the computer-equipment biz. And, despite a rather rootless existence, this was when David began developing his musical abilities in earnest.

In fact, it seems father Jeff had the most profound influence on David’s career. It was he who introduced his son to a recording of Les Miserables—which inspired David to learn young Cosette’s “Castle on a Cloud”—as well as the wonders of Jennifer Holliday’s Tony Award-winning “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls. There were lots of songs like this, really, and even though the kid could belt out the high notes like anybody’s business, for some reason he never felt quite secure in his role as a young man who was into Broadway musicals.

Pre-performance panic attacks and a bout with vocal paralysis ensued— and it was only through faith, the support of his family and the power of prayer that David managed to go on. It really is an inspiring story.

Of course, Archuleta is no Augusten Burroughs. At 19 years old, the vocalist’s budding emotional sensibilities are still too fragile and his childhood traumas too recent to allow for Burroughs’ brand of brutally genuine, warts-and-all candor. At many points throughout the book, Archie’s tone becomes a bit guarded, as that of a writer who is too aware of his readership and, perhaps, courts too much the approval of fans, parents and religious leaders.

Still, these are youthful indiscretions, and we forgive him. His book is the work of a sweetly insecure, though very talented, young man. And, in the end, it is his fans—not snooty grad students—who will be the ultimate judge.

Count me as one who has become a fan.

256 pages
$22.95 hardcover

Monday, June 7
Deseret Book
45 W. South Temple
Salt Lake City
12-2 p.m.

Tuesday, June 8
Deseret Book
1076 S. 750 East
12-2 p.m.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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Post a comment
Posted // June 9,2010 at 14:54

Black mamba - David never said someone else wrote it. If you are going to make such a claim I think you need to provide a link where he said it. David has said the woman interviewed him a lot to help him remember details and feelings from when he was younger.


Posted // June 6,2010 at 01:08

Even though I'm a huge fan of David, I've been a little leary about reading his book. Thanks Burt for this wonderful review. "He comes across as a sensitive, introspective and bright young man." This line helped describe what I've come to know about David and its nice to know that the book helps reflect that too.


Posted // June 1,2010 at 09:42

But, but, but...oh, nevermind.

I couldn't help but notice that all you fawning fans didn't mention the fact that this was ghost-written. Archie says he "hates writing" and that someone else wrote it. Her credit is hidden inside the front of the book.

But don't let that dry up your cougar hormones. Jesus! Who would have guessed that between Archie and teen-aged, fake vampires so many older women would experience such a renewal of erotic, Oedipal Mommyhood? Er, I mean, appreciation for a great voice and personality!

And face it, his father is a problem, not an asset. This is a good kid and a good talent, in spite of the fringe distractions. Not sure how much career he has in front of him. Typically, AI winners are lost in the haze right after they record that first album. Clay Aitken just squeezed out another loser album.

Good luck, David. Can't wait for another book when you turn 21, then 30, then 40, then your Vegas years, your cruise ship years and finally, Where Are They Now?-episode from the retirement home recreation-room sing-along.


Posted // June 2,2010 at 09:38 - Boy, there's nothing like being lectured about civility and manners by a repressed cougar threatening to "track me down" because I don't have the same reaction to a pint-sized youngster breaking into show biz. There's absolutely nothing wrong with my mind or my soul. You, on the other hand, are taken to making threats online. I might have a strong opinion from time to time, but I don't come online and make silly threats over an artist. You suck, Gracie. And I'll bet you're not even very good at that.


Posted // June 1,2010 at 22:58 - BlackMamba, There is no secret on the cyber world. They can track you down by email or ip-address and find out what kind of human being you are. It's true that David has fans of all ages, and probably he has the most adult fans (male & female) among any teen singers, which can help the longevity of his career. It is a blessing not a curse. But your interpretation of having adult fans tells how distorted your mind is. It shows exactly what kind of soul you have.


Posted // June 1,2010 at 21:21 - Hey, BlackMamba,

I did mention Monica Haim in the review. She's an MFA, I believe, and an ethnomusicologist -- the idea that Utah culture in general, and the Archuletistas in particular, might be the subject of ethnomusicological study charms me in some way.

Anyway, it might be a little unfair to expect all our celebrities to be polymaths. He can hit a note without the constant assistance of AutoTune pitch-correction; must he also have the writing skills of a Roald Dahl or a Gregory Corso?

(BTW, "Oedipal Mommyhood" made me spew PBR through my nose. You owe me a new keyboard, BlackMamba!) Hahahahahahaha


Posted // June 1,2010 at 10:23 - I was cautioned to respond to such dribble...the "erotic" word you used while responding to a David Archuleta review just showed your lack of "cyber class". Would you say such a thing in front of any of us? This is the kind of crap that upsets me about the internet. Would we really say half the things we do in a manner like this? What the heck has happened to respect and class? It's not just you BlackMamba, there are so many that spew hate this way...


Posted // June 1,2010 at 08:54

I became a fan of David Archuleta during his season of American Idol, and the young guy has taught me a few lessons about how to deal with the world. One thing I've decided is to take note of those around me who attempt to understand before judging. Mr. Burt, I've taken notice. Thank you for an insightful article. I still don't have the book in my hands, but I'm enjoying the anticipation. Soon...


Posted // June 1,2010 at 04:45

Thanks so much for your sensible and honest review. So many people cannot put his age aside for even 5 seconds. You address the issue of his age with respect and an open heart and mind. Thank you! :)


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