One of the greatest unsung (ha) categories of books is books about musicians, both biographies and memoirs. Think about it, these are the legends who graced our screens and stereos with their music, and now between the pages of books you can learn their intimate life stories and what goes on behind the music. Because musicians both old and new have some of the wildest and most touching stories to tell, which makes for great entertainment. Whether it’s a thoroughly researched biography or a deeply personal memoir, these are the ten most interesting music books to read this year.
by Bobby Rush
With Herb Powell
Grammy-winning musician Bobby Rush, one of the last of the genuine old school Blues and R&B legends, tells the story of how he went from being young Emmett Ellis, Jr. born in Homer, Louisiana, to being teenage Bobby Rush playing guitar while wearing a fake mustache in Little Rock, Arkansa, to playing in Chicago with some of his heroes, such as Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, to being the first blues artist to play at the Great Wall of China. And at eighty-six, he's still touring 200 days a year!
This definitive biography of rap supergroup and cultural icons Wu-Tang Clan features decades of unpublished interviews and unparalleled access to members of the group and their associates. The band ushered in a hip-hop renaissance in the 1990s, going on to win seven gold and platinum albums, and launching the careers of such famous rappers as RZA, GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, and more.
Stephen Davis is responsible for some of the best music biographies of the last few decades. Now he tackles one of the biggest bands of the 20th century: Duran Duran. Named for a character in Barbarella, this British pop super group was the darling of MTV in the 1980s. With the help of a string of number one singles, heavy rotation of their videos, and a headlining performance at Live Aid, the band sold 60 million records by the end of the decade. Find out how they got their start and what they're up to now in this stellar biography!
Music icon—and Nobel Prize winner—Bob Dylan has done so much living, it doesn't all fit in just one volume. This is a definitive look at the first 25 years of Dylan's life, with information culled from Dylan's personal archive, which he sold to the George Kaiser Foundation in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2016. Clinton Heylin spent years meticulously researching the archives to create this account of Dylan's early years, including his meteoric rise to fame and his horrible motorcycle crash, is a must-read for die-hard fans and interested readers alike.
One of the most enigmatic figures in music is the singer Nico. A Warhol superstar and Velvet Underground collaborator, she was one of the most influential solo artists of her time. She was a fashion model, an arthouse actress, a muse, and the girlfriend to some of the most famous men of the day, including Brian Jones, Bob Dylan, and Jim Morrison. Jennifer Otter Bickerdike explains why Nico is such an important figure in music, and why her legend lives on today.
With Jeanne Fury
The Lunachicks, the critically acclaimed feminist punk-rock group, dove deep into their private archive to put together this no-holds-barred autobiography, featuring never-before-seen photographs. This is a fascinating story of teenagers in NYC who formed a strong bond and went on to form a strong band that changed the face of punk music.
by Lil’ Kim
With Kathy Iandoli
And this is a refreshingly honest and wildly fascinating memoir from Kimberly Denise Jones—better known as Lil’ Kim. From her start as a teenage rap star in the mid-1990s, to her position as the sole female member of the Notorious B.I.G.’s rap collective, to her double-platinum solo album, to her life as one of the most legendary performers in music history, Lil' Kim has a story for it all.
Growing up in New Jersey, Stevie Van Zandt always had a passion for music. When he met fellow music lover Bruce Springsteen, it changed their lives. Van Zandt became an integral part of the E Street Band, a role he would step away from and return to repeatedly. He refashioned himself as Little Steven in the 1980s, masterminded the recording of “Sun City,” an anti-apartheid anthem, and became a starring cast member of The Sopranos, and the star of Netflix's first original series, Lilyhammer. Unrequited Infatuations is a must-read for any musician or actor or memoir lover!
by Chris Gill
The world was stunned when rock legend Eddie Van Halen died of cancer in October of 2020. Van Halen was considered one of the greatest and most influential guitarists of all time, leading not only his own legendary band, Van Halen, but also working with musicians across many genres. Music journalists Brad Tolinski and Chris Gill have put together an oral history of Van Halen, composed of more than 50 hours of interviews with Edward and his family, friends, and colleagues.
by C.M. Kushins
Foreword by Dave Grohl
This is the first full-length biography of John Bonham, drummer for Led Zeppelin, arguably the greatest rock band of all time. Bonham was larger than life—his drumming was louder, faster and more inventive than anything being done in his day, and it was ultimately his playing that led Jimmy Page to bring him into the group that eventually became Led Zeppelin. Though Bonham died in 1980 at the age of 32, his status as the greatest drummer of all time lives on. This comprehensive look at Bonham includes an introduction by Dave Grohl.