Margolis, Jonathan. Lenny Henry - A Biography

Lenny Henry - Front Book Cover

Lenny Henry – A Biography, is a book written by Jonathan Margolis and is about Lenworth George Henry, famously known as "Lenny Henry", who was born on 29 August 1958, in Dudley. This book covers his life up to 1995, and reads very clearly.

He is an actor, writer, television presenter, and a co-founder of the charity Comic Relief. He is one of the most admired and respected amongst the educated in Britain.

His long-term charity work at national and international level earned him a CBE, and he is still very much Britain’s only successful black mainstream comic.

I picked this book to read because I wanted to know more about his background and life story, because I remember he made some wonderful television shows in the early 90s. It was a time when I was studying at King’s College, and remember some new words associated with him such as “crucial”, and “wicked”. Of course, I never knew when or how to use them. :-)

This book charts the life of a very strong and upright Pentecostal Jamaican family who worked hard to make a life in Britain against all odds. It describes in detail what it was like to be a young immigrant family trying to survive, grow, and make a life in Britain. I think almost every immigrant family would be able to relate to it in many ways.

The book covers his early childhood through school, his first big break into television, and his marriage with the wonderful Dawn French. Although the book covers the sunnier side of life, it also covers the difficulties he and his family faced, and in particular, how prejudice and discrimination influenced many facets of his life in modern Britain.

I too am a product of the British education system so I too remember coming across the National Front and the skinhead feral youth at school. I could relate to every event that happened to him and Dawn, and could probably add some more.

One of the reasons why I like Lenny’s work is because he has always been a good role model. He has spoken out on race issues, drug issues, and worked tirelessly for charities at national and international levels. This book gives a good insight into all of these activities, which I wanted to know more about.

In 1984, Lenny did solo charity shows for Multiple Sclerosis and Miner’s Children, and the Ethiopian Famine Appeal, which raised a substantial amount of money at a time of recession. In 1985, he did an anti-drug film for the YMCA, and I thought page 116 gave a good insight into the world of rich celebrities and drugs.

The book also covers a little of the formation of Comic Relief, which came out of Charity Projects, founded by Richard Curtis, and Geldof’s Band Aid. Chapter 13 is devoted to Comic Relief, which on February 5th 1988 was the biggest assembly of British men and women comedians that raised millions for charity.

This charity helped millions of famine victims in Sudan, and Ethiopia. Twenty percent also went to help the homeless, the drug addicts, and alcohol addicts, of Britain. He also dedicated the proceeds of Lenny Henry Live and Unleashed to charity. This was all just the early beginnings of a very successful formula, which he believed in and worked for tirelessly, and today defines him as a humanitarian. At one time, the amount raised by Comic Relief totalled at 92 million pounds. Whilst I was reading this book, it occurred to me that he has certainly done far more to help the people of Britain, than any slimy politician ever has or ever will.

I thought this was a very insightful book worth reading, and after reading it, I gained a new respect and admiration for his work. It is not the end, but a beginning for Mr Henry, because the future always holds more for a person of this level of experience and stature.

For all my whippersnappers out there, once you have built the crystal radios, this is the book to read.


TitleLenny Henry - A Biography
AuthorJonathan Margolis
PublisherOrion Books Ltd
ISBN Number0 75280 087 6
Copyright HolderJonathan Margolis
Last Page Number196
Cover Price£15.99
Printed byButler & Tanner Ltd
AvailabilityAmazon and all good online bookstores