book cover Weighed DownEducation professor Cam Cobb has written the first biography of rock legend Skip Spence.

Biography follows rollercoaster ride of Windsor-born rock star

Skip Spence’s life started in Windsor in the spring of 1946 and ended in 1999, two days before what would've been his 53rd birthday. In between was a rollercoaster ride with tremendous highs and devastating lows, says education professor Cam Cobb.

Cobb tells the story of the cult musician in a biography published this week by Omnibus Press. Weighted Down: The Complicated Life of Skip Spence features family photos, a foreword by daughter-in-law Robin Spence, and accounts from his friends, bandmates, and family.

While Spence spent much of his life battling addiction and mental illness, during his lucid moments he performed in several bands and is best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane and as the co-founder of Moby Grape. The cast of characters in his story include some of the biggest stars in music: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, David Crosby, and many more.

Cobb wrote a book on Moby Grape, What’s Big and Purple and Lives in the Ocean? six years ago and planned this biography as a follow-up, but found it difficult to write during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When I struggled with the project no one pressured me,” he says. “I appreciate the patience of everyone involved, from the Spence family to the folks at Omnibus Press.”

He conducted research by interviewing people who came into Spence’s life in chronological order.

I started with his sister; we first talked in the summer of 2019,” Cobb says. “And ended with people who entered his life in the 1990s. The last initial interviews were carried out in late 2022 and early 2023.”

While he is excited to share the story of a legendary musician born in Windsor, he says the most rewarding thing is that Spence’s family loves the book: “That’s more important than anything else.”

The book has been well-received in the rock press, with Classic Rock magazine praising Cobb for separating the facts from the myths, and the monthly Mojo calling it “vast and compassionate, offering a nuanced look at Spence’s life against a panoramic backdrop of Americana.”

An upcoming issue of Shindig! Magazine will feature as its cover story a profile of Spence by Cobb, which includes some exclusive material not included in the book.

Read more about the book on the Omnibus Press website.

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