Recommended Music Books

By no means a complete list but these are some of my favorites (click the photos to learn more about the authors)

ELVIS PRESLEY

010715-peter-newsPeter Guralnick gave us two great books about the King, one on the early days up to Sun Records, the second focusing on Presley’s RCA career to the sad ending of his life.

Superb reporting, research and writing. Guralick is one of the finest music writers, having penned books about country, blues, rhythm and blues and, of course, rock and roll.

CHUCK BERRY

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He’s often been called a poet and even the rock and roll Shakespeare. No argument here.

This is Berry in his own words, and the prose is as elegant as his lyrics, even in describing his court trials and experiences in jail.

There’s also a great section in which Chuck Berry tells us how many of his classics were created, and what inspired them.

LITTLE RICHARD

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Charles White tells us the story of the self-proclaimed architect of rock and roll, in his own words and with lengthy interviews of Richard and his band members.

It’s not up to the level of Guralnick’s biographies of Elvis Presley or Sam Cooke, but entertaining nonetheless.

I’d love to read a more detailed bio of the man born Richard Penman but this is pretty much the best out there.

JERRY LEE LEWIS

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If you’ve caught my radio show, you know I am huge Nick Tosches fan. He writes like no one else and that makes him the perfect biographer for the Killer.

Touches paints pictures and compliments that with great quotes from Jerry Lee, his family, Sam Phillips and everyone else who’s been a part of this unforgettable career.

Great balls of fire, indeed.

JERRY LEE LEWIS, PART 2

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This one is more recent and, like the one above, features colorful prose.

It’s obvious Bragg spent much more time with the Killer and it truly is “his own story.”

You think you’ve read all about Lewis’s controversial career…marriages, tragedies… but Bragg finds new ways of telling a great story.

THE BEATLES

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Amazingly enough, I found this giant soft cover book at my local grocery store for just $7.99 CDN (it would be at least $35 at Chapters).

This is the Fab Four in their own words, from childhood to the Beatles breakup.

Great detail, complimented by hundreds of photos. It’s a heavy sucker but well worth picking up.

SONGWRITERS: LEIBER AND STOLLER

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Two Jewish kids from New York share a love of African American rhythm and blues, and create countless rock and roll classics.

They wrote Hound Dog for Big Mama Thornton in 1953, and Elvis covered it a few years later.

Leiber and Stoller also wrote all of the hits by the Coasters and many for The Drifters.

A fascinating look at the the songwriting process, and the music business.

SONGWRITERS: DOC POMUS

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The man who wrote Save the Last Dance For Me was unable to dance. Pomus spent most of his life on crutches after being stricken with polio as a child.

Pomus overcame his physical challenges as a teen, belting out the blues at New York clubs and performing with jazz legends.

He discovered his calling in the mid ’50s…songwriting, along with partner Mort Shuman.

Lucky for us.

ROLLING STONES: BRIAN JONES

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As Trynka says in the introduction, many Stones biographies and autobiographies have, over the years, diminished and slowly erased the contributions of the group’s founder, Brian Jones.

The author gives Jones his due.

Jones was the real blues lover in the group and it’s hard to imagine the Rolling Stones existing without his vision and many influences.

Trynka also explores the conspiracy theory behind the drowning of Brian Jones.

ROLLING STONES: BILL WYMAN

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The former Stones bass player gives us a detailed history of the band, from the formation to the wild years of touring.

Wyman has an incredible memory.

It’s fairly long for a rock and roll autobiography but the stories are well worth reading. The early days, Brian Jones (see above), the music, the image making of manager Andrew Loog Oldham.

I have yet to read Keith Richard’s book, but this one has it all.