In debut memoir, musician Jake Shears depicts life in late 1990s Brooklyn

Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

It is rare for a celebrity who has achieved renown working in one medium to reveal that they are just as adept at working in another. However, Jake Shears has done just that.

Shears is the lead singer of the iconic glam band Scissor Sisters, a trailblazing downtown band embraced by the LGBTQ community, which went on to become an international, platinum-selling sensation. Unbeknownst to many, he also has a penchant for the written word that developed early in his life. He is now set to release a memoir titled “Boys Keep Swinging,” which will be released Feb. 20.

As revealed in his memoir, before Shears found his calling as a singer, he was a misfit growing up gay in America with dreams of becoming a star in the big city. In the tradition of punk rock poet Patti Smith, he moved to New York City to become a writer, where he encountered both horror and delight in his new bohemian settings. Shears began to self actualize as he studied fiction at The New School by day and rode the subway back over into Brooklyn at night.

Writing about his move to Brooklyn in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Shears depicts a Crown Heights and Williamsburg on the cusp of major change. He first moves to a squirrel-infested building in Crown Heights, then to an old factory in Williamsburg that has been questionably converted into lofts. A quote from the memoir during his time in Williamsburg reads, “My window overlooked a decrepit lot. Car frames and machinery, junk. There were men out there tinkering and fixing engines. It wasn’t a very pretty view but I enjoyed watching the chickens pecking around in the dirt. They seemed to have the run of the place. Every morning at sunup, a rooster crowed.” (p. 107)

The memoir goes on to describe the start of the Scissor Sisters; Shears crossing paths with some of the biggest celebrities in the world, from David Bowie to Elton John to Kylie Minogue; and all of the messy, fabulous glory that comes with rock stardom. A rock star is nothing without a home base, though, and Shears says he was able to find his own “little hidey-hole in the hive” in Brooklyn as his career took off.

Jake Shears. Photo by Raphael Chatelain, courtesy of Shears’ website


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