Nicholas Schaffner

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Nicholas Schaffner
Born(1953-01-28)January 28, 1953
Manhattan, New York, New York, United States
DiedAugust 28, 1991(1991-08-28) (aged 38)
New York City, New York, United States
NationalityUnited States

Nicholas Schaffner (January 28, 1953 – August 28, 1991) was an American non-fiction author, journalist, and singer-songwriter.


Schaffner was born in Manhattan to John V. Schaffner (1913–1983), a literary agent whose clients included Ray Bradbury,[1] and his wife Perdita Macpherson Schaffner (1919–2001; the former Frances Perdita Aldington). His maternal grandparents were the Imagist poet Hilda Doolittle, better known as "H.D.", and the composer and music critic Cecil Gray.[2] He attended the Choate School and the New College of Florida, graduating from both schools.[3]

Schaffner had been collecting Beatles memorabilia through much of the 1960s, which directly led to his first book, The Beatles Forever, published in 1977. With its critical acceptance, he was established as an authority on the Beatles.[3] Among initial reviews of the book, The New York Post described it as "honest, factual and highly entertaining", while Publishers Weekly said: "May well be the book for Beatlemaniacs … All-inclusive, responsible and informative …"[4] Schaffner subsequently appeared as a commentator in a 1982 documentary about the group, titled The Compleat Beatles.[3]

The Beatles Forever continues to be held in high regard by writers and commentators. In their 2007 overview of Beatles literature, authors Stuart Shea and Robert Rodriguez said that the book succeeds through the narrative's combination of first-hand experience and the writer's ability to relate this to a wider cultural context. Shea and Rodriguez also wrote: "This book, along with Carr and Tyler's Illustrated Record filled a serious void at the time in Beatles history. Schaffner's work is one of the best books about the group ever written, and an entire generation of Beatles fans still swears by it, thanks to Schaffner's excellent prose and organizational skills."[5] While discussing the most recent generation of Beatles biographies in December 2013, Chicago Tribune critic Mark Caro recalled the book's publication and described it as "the superior critical-minded history" on the band.[6] Ian Inglis, author of a 2010 biography on George Harrison, wrote of Schaffner's contribution: "Among the very best of the hundreds of books that examine the history of the Beatles. Intelligently written …"[7]

As an author, his other works include the Pink Floyd biography A Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey as well as the children's book The Boys from Liverpool: John, Paul, George, Ringo. In 1981 he collaborated with his sister, Elizabeth, on 505 Rock-and-Roll Questions Your Friends Can't Answer. This was followed by The British Invasion (1982), a compendium of lengthy historical essays covering the Beatles and many of their contemporary UK groups, as well as shorter essays (mostly written by other writers of Schaffner's acquaintance) on other English music acts through the 1970s. Schaffner also wrote articles for Rolling Stone, Musician, The Village Voice, and Trouser Press.

Schaffner died on August 28, 1991 in New York City of an AIDS-related illness shortly after the release of Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey.[3] He was survived by his mother and his three siblings.[2]

Schaffner's song cycle, Magical Kingdoms, was self-released in 1990.[8] Music from the collection has been performed posthumously at tribute events at venues including New York's Lincoln Center.[9][10]

Published works[edit]

  • The Beatles Forever, Hardcover: Cameron House (1977). ISBN 0-8117-0225-1. Paperback: McGraw-Hill Book Company (1978). ISBN 0-07-055087-5
  • The Boys from Liverpool: John, Paul, George, Ringo, Routledge Kegan & Paul (1980). ISBN 0-416-30661-6
  • 505 Rock-and-Roll Questions Your Friends Can't Answer (with Elizabeth Schaffner), Walker & Co. (1981). ISBN 0-8027-0674-6
  • The British Invasion: From the First Wave to the New Wave, McGraw-Hill (1982). ISBN 0-07-055089-1
  • John Lennon in My Life (with Pete Shotton), Stein & Day (1983). ISBN 0-8128-2916-6
  • Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey, Harmony Books (1991). ISBN 0-517-57608-2


  1. ^ "John V. Schaffner". The New York Times. November 30, 1983. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Schaffner, Val. "Perdita Macpherson Schaffner (1919–2001)". Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Kozinn, Allan (August 29, 1991). "Nicholas Schaffner, 38, Author Of Books About Rock Groups". The New York Times. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  4. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas (1978). The Beatles Forever. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-055087-5. (Critics' plaudits reproduced on back cover.)
  5. ^ Shea, Stuart; Rodriguez, Robert (2007). Fab Four FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Beatles ... and More!. New York, NY: Hal Leonard. pp. 143–44. ISBN 978-1-4234-2138-2.
  6. ^ Caro, Mark (December 17, 2013). "New Beatles books out". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  7. ^ Inglis, Ian (2010). The Words and Music of George Harrison. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-313-37532-3.
  8. ^ "Nicholas Schaffner". The Estate Project. Archived from the original on August 18, 2015. Retrieved September 9, 2005.
  9. ^ "New Yorker magazine June 19, 1995". The New Yorker magazine. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  10. ^ "Sudden Sunsets Recorded Live at Alice Tully Hall". Retrieved May 11, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Schaffner, Val (February 8, 2001). "Periscope". The East Hampton Star. Retrieved February 24, 2019.