He grew up as a small black kid in a small white town, but found success in a much bigger (and blacker) city.
As one of the very first people of color to review popular music for a major daily newspaper, Jim McFarlin spent an enormous amount of time with the world’s best-known musicians. However, getting cover stories from Bob Seeger and Ted Nugent and Kid Rock seemed easy compared to fighting for his identity as a small boy…and fighting for his life as an adult.
Jim has not only battled racism over the years but, about a decade ago, he began battling kidney failure. The stories (and lessons) associated with each are incredibly powerful, and the stories in-between—the ones with Nugent and Seeger and Kid Rock and Aretha—are nearly unbelievable.
“We were the only black family in town. So I was the only black kid in my school system from kindergarten through graduation. It was interesting not so much how the kids related to me…color never comes into play until older people influence that. It was more the parents responding to me. In almost every place I’ve been, I’ve been a decided minority.
Going through kidney dialysis is like going through a circle of hell. It’s just not a place you wanna be. You’re flat on your back for three to four hours, three times a week, and when you get off the table you’re exhausted. Basically, they take your blood out, they clean it, and they put it back in. And when I saw that for the first time I said, ‘I’m not doing that. I’d rather die.’”
Jim McFarlin is best known for the 16 years he spent working at the Detroit News as a pop music critic and media columnist, interviewing many of the world’s biggest superstars. Currently, he is a freelance writer for publications including Drive, CS, Hour Detroit, Men’s Book Chicago, and many others. Jim has also written 8 books, and is now working on his 9th—a novel about his experiences growing up as “a small black kid in a small white town.”