Musical Biographies


Some enjoyable books about musicians. (The descriptions are from the publishers.)

Will you miss me when I’m gone: the Carter Family and their legacy in music  by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg

Carter Family The first major biography of the Carter Family, the musical pioneers who almost single-handedly created the sounds and traditions that grew into modern folk, country and bluegrass music. Meticulously researched and lovingly written, it is a look at a world and a culture that, rather than passing, has continued to exist in the music that is the legacy of the Carters — songs that have shaped and influenced generations of artists who have followed them.


Kind of Blue by Ashley Kahn

Jazz musicians call it The Bible. Critics call it the one jazz album every fan must own. Forty-one years since its recording in 1959, it has sold millions worldwide and sits near the top of any list of most important records of the century. How did two impromptu sessions produce such a timeless acknowledged masterpiece? Now, for the first time, Ashley Kahn takes us into the studio to witness the creation of an album that still thrills jazz musicians, enthusiasts, and newcomers alike with its deceptively simple tunes. (Not really a biography but fascinating, nonetheless.) kind of blue


The Producer: John Hammond and the Soul of American Music by Dunstan Prial

producer A “behind the music” story without parallel. A pioneering producer and talent spotter, John Hammond discovered and championed some of the most gifted musicians of early jazz – Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman – and staged the legendary “From Spirituals to Spring” concert at Carnegie Hall in 1939, which established jazz as America’s indigenous music. Then, as jazz gave way to pop and rock, Hammond repeated the trick, discovering Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughan in his life’s extraordinary second act.


I dreamed I was a very clean tramp: an autobiography of Richard Hell by Richard Hell

The progenitor of American and British punk rock shares his journey, from his arrival on the streets of New York in 1967 to his rise to fame, touring with such bands as The Clash and The Sex Pistols, to his full-blown descent into drug addiction. richard hell



Satan is real: the ballad of the Louvin Brothers by Charlie Louvin and Benjamin Whitmer

louvins The story of musical brothers Charlie and Ira Louvin – the first a church-going gospel singer, the second a hard drinking, mandolin-smashing hellraiser who was banned from performing at the Grand Ole Opry after his wife shot him for trying to choke her.


I slept with Joey Ramone: a family memoir by Mickey Leigh and Legs McNeill

A portrait of the lead singer and co-founder of The Ramones, written by his brother, describes his childhood in Queens, his efforts to combat mental illness through music, and the infighting and tragedies that ended his band’s frenetic successes. joey ramone


Life by Keith Richards with James Fox

keith The lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones recounts his life, from a youth obsessed with Chuck Berry to the formation of the Stones and their subsequent stardom, and discusses his problems with drugs, the death of Brian Jones and his relationship with Mick Jagger


Just Kids by Patti Smith

In this memoir, singer-songwriter Patti Smith shares tales of New York City : the denizens of Max’s Kansas City, the Hotel Chelsea, Scribner’s, Bentano’s and Strand bookstores and her new life in Brooklyn with a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe – the man who changed her life with his love, friendship and genius. just kids


Lowside of the Road: a Life of Tom Waits by Barney Hoskyns

waits Hoskyns has written a rock biography – much like the subject himself – unlike any other. It is a unique take on one of rock’s greatest enigmas.


White bicycles: making music in the 1960s by Joe Boyd

When Muddy Waters came to London at the start of the 1960s, a kid from Boston called Joe Boyd was his tour manager; when Dylan went electric at the Newport Festival, Joe Boyd was plugging in his guitar; when the summer of love got going, Joe Boyd was running UFO, the coolest club in London; when a bunch of club regulars called Pink Floyd recorded their first single, Joe Boyd was the producer; when a young songwriter named Nick Drake wanted to give his demo tape to someone, he chose Joe Boyd. More than any previous sixties music autobiography, Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles offers the real story of what it was like to be there at the time. joe boyd




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