Richard David Bach is an American writer. He is widely known as the author of the hugely popular 1970s best-sellers Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, and others. His books espouse his philosophy that our apparent physical limits and mortality are merely appearance. He claims to be a direct descendant of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is noted for his love of flying and for his books related to air flight and flying in a metaphorical context. He has pursued flying as a hobby since the age of 17.
Bach was born in Oak Park, Illinois. He attended Long Beach State College in 1955. He has authored numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull , Illusions , One , and Out of My Mind . Most of his books have been semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalized events from his life to illustrate his philosophy.
He served in the United States Navy Reserve, then later in the New Jersey Air National Guard's 108th Fighter Wing, 141st Fighter Squadron as a F-84F pilot. Afterwards, he worked a variety of jobs, including technical writer for Douglas Aircraft and contributing editor for Flying magazine. He served in the USAF reserve deployed in France in 1960. He later became a barnstormer. Most of his books involve flight in some way, from the early stories which are straightforwardly about flying aircraft, to Stranger to the Ground, his first book, to his later works, in which he used flight as a philosophical metaphor.
In 1970, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about a seagull who flew for the love of flying rather than merely to catch food, was published by Macmillan Publishers after the manuscript was turned down by many other publishers. The book, which included unique photos of seagulls in flight by photographer Russell Munson, became a number-one bestseller. The book contained fewer than 10,000 words, yet it broke all hardcover sales records since Gone with the Wind. It sold more than 1,000,000 copies in 1972 alone. The surprise success of the book was widely reported in the media in the early 1970s.
During the summer of 1970 Bach, and his friend Chris Cagle, travelled to Ireland where they participated in flying sequences supporting Roger Corman's film Von Richthofen and Brown. Here they flew a variety of World War One aircraft of the Blue Max collection owned by ex-RCAF pilot Lynn Garrison. Bach originally met Garrison when he wrote articles for AVIAN, Lynn Garrison's aviation publication.
In 1973, the book was turned into a movie, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, produced by Paramount Pictures Corporation. The movie included a soundtrack by Neil Diamond.
A second book, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, published in 1977, tells the story of the narrator's encounter with a modern-day messiah who has decided to quit.
Bach has retained a dedicated fan base throughout the years. During the 1990s, Bach appeared online at Compuserve, where he answered e-mails personally. Bach was interviewed on April 1, 2005 on Conscious Talk Radio, and this interview was replayed a few times in 2006.
Bach had six children with his first wife, Bette. Bette typed and edited most of Richard's aviation writings. They divorced in 1970, because Richard didn't believe in marriage. Bette Bach Fineman, who remarried, is also a pilot, and the author of Patterns, about her life as a pilot and single mother. Their son, Jonathan, is a software engineer and journalist, who wrote Above the Clouds about growing up without knowing his father, Richard; and then later meeting him as a college student. (Richard gave his approval; although he noted that it included some personal history he'd "rather not see in print"). Other children are Robert, a commercial airline pilot; Kristel; James Bach, a computer expert and writer; and Erika. His youngest daughter, Bethany, was killed in an accident at the age of fifteen in 1985.
In 1977 Bach married actress Leslie Parrish whom he met during the making of the Jonathan Livingston Seagull movie. She was a major element in two of his subsequent books—The Bridge Across Forever and One—which primarily focused on their relationship and Bach's concept of soulmates. They divorced in 1999. Bach married his third wife, Sabryna Nelson-Alexopoulos in April 1999.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull