I am a voracious reader who adores biographies, especially of musicians. It’s nice to slip into someone else’s life plus I find cool things, like Alix Dobkin used to have late night breakfasts with Bob Dylan. Here’s a list of some favorite biographies, in no particular order.
This sometimes sweet and sometimes sad book is a great glimpse into the hippie music scene of 60’s and 70’s California. It’s wonderful to find out more about the person behind that amazing voice. And no, her death was not caused by choking on a ham sandwich.
Life by Keith Richards and James Fox
He tells us in a matter-of-fact way about writing some of his well-known songs (many in an open tuning which was news to me), touring and extensive drug use. Given the latter, it’s amazing this man is still alive. Some of the stories are almost unbelievable, like driving to European gigs with his young son, where he’d ask his kid to let him know when he was close to a border, so he could pull over and inject all the drugs he had with him.
My Red Blood by Alix Dobkin
It’s a fascinating read about growing up the daughter of Communist parents, hanging out in the vibrant Greenwich village folk scene of the 60’s, and eventually becoming an out lesbian performer. And yep, she broke toast with Dylan.
Be My Baby by Ronnie Spector with Vince Waldron
Fascinating read about her life as part of the 60’s girl group the Ronettes, and married to Phil Spector, a controlling man who used to lock her in her bedroom. She’s an inspiring survivor.
While I’m writing about powerful women who were once married to assholes, I can’t leave out the fabulous Tina Turner. From a naïve teen from Nutbush, Tennessee, to the strong woman who traveled the world, her journey is truly inspiring.
Finding Her Voice – The Saga of Women in Country Music by Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann
I had no idea there were so many interesting and powerful women in country music, from Patsy Montana to Dolly Parton, until I read this book. More than a dry recitation of names and facts, you can find out a lot about these wonderful performers.
Dolly – My life and other unfinished business
Speaking of my favorite blonde – I love this woman and I loved this book. She’s one of the best songwriters I know. It’s all there, from her hard scrabble childhood in the mountains to making a movie with Jane Fonda. The book has some great photos, including one of her surrounded by her best girlfriends. In the back are some commonly asked questions and answers like, “Why do you wear five inch heels?” Her answer? “Because I can’t find six inch heels.”
Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie
He traveled all over the US by boxcar and by thumb, meeting up with a whole bevy of interesting characters. Wrote some pretty fine songs too.
Buried Alive – the biography of Janis Joplin by Myrna Friedman
This is an interesting story about the fast living bluesy rock singer who died way too young. Friedman tells the story with realistic dialogue and vivid descriptions of the time. I’ve read other books about her, but this is the best.
Society’s Child by Janis Ian
I couldn’t put this book down. It’s an engaging story about the woman who had her first hit at the age of 15. Her poignant song “At Seventeen” came out when I was seventeen.
Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn and George Vecsey
It’s an unpretentious heartfelt rags-to-riches story. In it, she tells us that a few of her friends are gay and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Still another reason to like this terrific country singer.
What’s your favorite musician’s biography?