Keith Richards did what? Some of my favorite musician biographies.

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.

If you want to purchase any of these books, I highly recommend AbeBooks and Powells. Both are large independents who treat their employees well.

Dream a Little Dream of Methe life of Cass Elliot by Eddi Fiegel

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.

I, Tina by Tina Turner

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 VoiceThe 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?

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About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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19 Responses to Keith Richards did what? Some of my favorite musician biographies.

  1. Chris says:

    Jamie-I’d put forth “take it like a man” by boy george and also “lips unsealed” by belinda carlisle-great glimpses into what we knew (or thought we knew) about these performers from their public personas and the various headlines they made. both are pretty inspiring stories of overcoming drugs, addiction and various other pitfalls of fame in the early MTV era.

  2. Jamie, Eric Clapton and George Harrison’s auto-biographies are great as well. Thanks for the list….I also love reading musicians stories!

  3. Jamie – I also enjoyed Eric Clapton and George Harrison’s books….can’t remember the exact names, but another peek into fascinating lives.

  4. I’ll chime in with
    Piaf- a biography by Simone Berteaut …there have been other more recent biographies of Edith Piaf, but I haven’t read them, (yet)- This one was written not by a historian, but by her lifelong friend (or hanger-on depending on perspective). I highly recommend!
    Also, Diary of a Rock and Roll Star: Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople by Ian Hunter

  5. Jean mann says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I’m reading “life” right now. What’s truly amazing, besides KR surviving himself, is that he remembers sooo much detail. And it reads like you’re sitting in the room listening to him talk. Another good read is “Positively 4th street: the lives and times of Joan Baez, Mimi Baez Farina, Bob Dylan and Richard Farina” .

  6. Linq says:

    OK, full disclosure… I own one of those cool, independent bookstores, so I love this topic. I really enjoyed “Girls Like Us” by Sheila Weller. Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon – and the Journey of a Generation. I came of age in the sixties, so I connected generationally with the people and places, and recognized many of them. They wove in and out of the stories of the three women in fascinating detail.

    And, for Carole King fans, she just released her own memoir in April called “A Natural Woman.” I haven’t had an opportunity to read it yet.

    • jamiebobamie says:

      I tried to read the Sheila Weller book but just couldn’t get into it. I’d rather read something more personal – either from the artists themselves or from a biographer who really got into their heads.

      Can’t wait to read the Carole King book. I’m a big fan.

  7. Chris Wilson says:

    I’m looking at “Buried Alive” here on my bookshelf and have to agree. Also, loved “Clapton” which is the title of that wonderful autobiography.

    I also highly recommend my personal favorite “Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood” by Michael Walker which tells the stories of The Mamas and the Papas, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, The Turtles and so many others who lived in or hung out in that famous canyon. Living in LA, I drive through it frequently and always think about that book. What is nice is that it doesn’t focus on just one artist, it recounts the interaction between all of them and the stories behind the music such as “Our House” (. . .”with two cats in the yard”), a song Graham Nash wrote about his home there with Joni Mitchell.

    Great topic, Jamie!

  8. Gwen Frederick says:

    Roseanne Cash’s “Composed” and Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”

  9. Pingback: Great gifts for music fans | Jamiebobamie

  10. Judy Collins’ “Singing Lessons” will tear your heart out of your chest–it’s an excellent memoir that take you beyond her honey voice through her dark places. Love your blog, BTW. Consider yourself blogrolled!

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