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9 New Music Memoirs and Biographies for Rock and Blues Fans

Get the inside stories on b.b. king, led zeppelin, stevie van zandt and other legends.

from left to right books about eddie van halen and john mellencamp and b b king and dave grohl and led zeppelin and stevie van zandt

Some of the most exciting releases for music lovers this fall aren’t new albums but in-depth biographies and revealing memoirs from their favorite artists and bands. Whether you worship at the altar of the blues, know every guitar riff in the Led Zeppelin catalogue, or have seen The Boss countless times, these books have you covered. 

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The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl

“Though I have never been one to collect ‘stuff,’ I do collect moments,” writes the Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman, 52, in the introduction to his entertaining new memoir that’s a must for rock fans. Here Grohl details the many moments that led a punk-loving kid in the Virginia suburbs (with a “Wonder Bread existence”) to his current status as a rock elder statesman with 16 Grammys under his belt — with all the ups and downs in between, including heading out on tour for the first time at 18 and his heartbreak over Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide. Grohl’s now on his way to a second Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, this time for his work with Foo Fighters (the first was for his role in Nirvana) later this month.




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King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King by Daniel de Visé

As Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Daniel de Visé tells it, the biography of B.B. King isn’t just the story of a genre-defining musician, it’s a full-blown hero’s journey — the tale of one man’s triumphs over every obstacle (economic, racial, societal) the world threw in his way. “In those forty-five years, Riley B. King had risen from penniless sharecropper to sidewalk busker to Memphis deejay to chart-topping singer to King of the Blues,” de Visé writes, describing the music legend as “the first guitar hero.” Filled with interviews with King’s relatives, band members and managers, the resulting biography feels at once intimate and encyclopedic, offering a full picture of the man behind the myth.​

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Led Zeppelin: The Biography by Bob Spitz

How do you encapsulate the musical legacy of one of the greatest bands in rock history? If you’re Bob Spitz, the best-selling author of books on the Beatles and Julia Child, you start talking — to everyone. For this definitive biography, Spitz conducted more than 150 interviews with friends, record executives and even groupies, and he offers insight into not only their artistic genius but also the controversies brought about by what he calls their “heedless hedonism.” At nearly 700 pages, the exhaustively researched tome is clearly pitched toward superfans, but Spitz fills the book with enough debauchery and trashed hotel rooms and bad decision-making that even a casual Led Zeppelin listener won't be able to look away. Spitz, it turns out, knows a thing or two about the music business: Before turning to book writing, he managed Bruce Springsteen and Elton John. (Nov. 9)

Eruption: Conversations With Eddie Van Halen by Brad Tolinski and Chris Gill

Guitar god Eddie Van Halen died of cancer last October, but he left behind more than 50 hours of unreleased interviews with rock journalists Brad Tolinski and Chris Gill. Need proof that you’re in good hands? Tolinski and Gill are the former editors of Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado , respectively. While the book of course covers Van Halen’s rise to fame and his nearly unparalleled skill as a technical musician, the authors also dive deep into his complicated backstory. The musician has shared, for instance, that his childhood as a Dutch immigrant who couldn’t speak English led to decades of social anxiety and substance abuse. As you might expect from these writers, the book is also filled with obsessive details about Eddie’s guitars, his custom modifications, and the unusual and rare instruments he played throughout his career.

Unrequited Infatuations: A Memoir by Stevie Van Zandt

You probably know the bandana-wearing Little Steven , 70, from his decades as a charismatic member of the E Street Band or his role as Silvio Dante in The Sopranos . But his new memoir illustrates just how seminal he’s been in the past five decades of American popular music. An anti-apartheid activist who wrote the protest song “Sun City,” he’s spent years celebrating and advocating for rock ’n’ roll as an art form: He hosts a weekly syndicated radio show focused on garage rock, created two music channels on SiriusXM, founded an indie record label, and even helped develop an arts education initiative that incorporates music history — from classical to reggae — into K-12 curricula. While some rock stars hide behind a veil of detached coolness, Van Zandt is a man marked by genuine enthusiasm, and his memoir reads like a love letter to the people and places and music that made him, with a healthy dose of nostalgia and good-natured humor.

Mellencamp by Paul Rees

Veteran journalist Paul Rees covers all the greatest hits of the Indiana rocker’s life, including his youth in the heartland with a father who was “a tyrant,” in Mellencamp’s words; his rise to fame in the 1980s; his cofounding of Farm Aid; and his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But what really makes this biography sing is how far it takes us inside John Mellencamp (he dropped the Cougar long ago), 69: his inspirations, motivations, struggles, obsessions and fears. He comes across as a complicated artist, who says in the book — which was written with the musician’s cooperation — “I like being the underdog. I’m like Sisyphus. I like rolling the rock up the hill.”  

Also of Note

Set the Night on Fire: Living, Dying, and Playing Guitar With the Doors  by Robby Krieger.  The Doors guitarist describes the band’s wild existence with Jim Morrison at the helm. (Oct. 12) 

My Life in Dire Straits: The Inside Story of One of the Biggest Bands in Rock History  by John Illsley.  The bassist and founding member of Dire Straits tells all about the the band behind “Sultans of Swing.” (Nov. 9)

Rock Concert: An Oral History as Told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders, and Fans Who Were There  by Marc Myers.  Myers takes readers back to the heyday of live rock with stories from Alice Cooper, Joan Baez and many more. (Nov. 9)​

Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines Hemispheres magazine , and his work has appeared in The New York Times , Condé Nast Traveler , Travel & Leisure , Sunset and New York magazin e .


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From Madonna to Barbra Streisand, it was the year music took over books

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Maybe it was the continued rude health of indie bookstores in 2023, or perhaps a millennial fascination with the pop antiquities of the pre-smartphone era. Or maybe it’s just Mom and Dad Rockers desperate to reel in the years with the gods of their youth . For whatever reason, this year has turned out to be a banner publishing moment for musical giants who until now have not been graced with the full-dress books they deserve — some rigorously researched deep dives, other chatty memoirs or anthologies, many of them illuminations of life and art in urban milieus with all their messy interactions.

Best of 2023

Our critics and reporters select their favorite TV shows, movies, albums, songs, books, theater, art shows and video games of the year.

Among the ill-served icons getting their propers in print this year is Lou Reed : New York’s leather prince, the street poet who launched at least three musical genres with his band the Velvet Underground , a lodestar for gender fluidity long before anyone else bothered to write songs about LBGTQ+ and the subculture that nurtured it. Before Will Hermes’ riveting biography “ Lou Reed: The King of New York ,” the artist’s biographers have tended to be either mean-spirited or bone-dry, glossing over the rough magic of Reed’s inner life.

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Dec. 5, 2023

Hermes, a veteran music critic, has written what will surely be the definitive Reed biography for years to come, a complete portrait of this inconstant, erratic genius, the most eloquent voice of the marginalized during the Nixon era. An elegant prose stylist with a sharp critical eye, Hermes appears to have scared up everyone alive whose life intersected with his subject. And he embraces the contradictions of a musical empath who could be heartless and malicious, tender and vulnerable to friends and lovers — a great bully poet much like Reed’s literary hero and mentor, Delmore Schwartz .

Lou Reed in concert at the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, 1974.

Hermes skillfully twines together the many strands of Reed’s singular life — a benumbing suburban childhood, electroshock therapy, heroin addiction and artistic flowering at the feet of Schwartz and the Beats. Providing fresh stories at every turn, he is particularly adept at conjuring the meth-enabled swirl of Andy Warhol’s Factory universe and Reed’s attachment to the Pop artist, his beloved mentor and bête noir. This is the best biography of a composer since Alex Ross’ 2020 book “ Wagnerism .”

One of Reed’s most talented acolytes graced us with a memoir this year. Thurston Moore hit New York as a 14-year-old Reed fanatic in the late ‘70s, right before his idol’s old, weird downtown was forever lost and Wall Street money moved in. Into this liminal space emerged the squalling, post-punk deconstructions of the No Wave movement : saxophonist James Chance and his Contortions, singer-poet Lydia Lunch and, most crucially for Moore, composer Glenn Branca , whose ear-bleed guitar symphonies alerted the Connecticut native to the beauty of Loud. He would harness that volume with his avant-rock band Sonic Youth for 30 years. Moore has a lot of great stories to tell, and he does so engagingly in “ Sonic Life ,” the tale of a record collector geek made good, a seeker after new sounds who in turn became a key architect of experimental rock in the two decades that followed.

In “Sonic Life” Moore, a suburban outcast like Reed, becomes a pilgrim in search of transcendence through noise and muscles his way into an East Village tempest of brash risk-taking. He meets future bandmates Kim Gordon and Lee Ranaldo . Sonic Youth pulls the throttle all the way out: Moore threads drumsticks into his guitar strings, Ranaldo utilizes an electric drill onstage, Gordon barks out her bold feminist anthems on the seductions of consumer-driven desire. Moore has set it all down, and his book is an engaging memory piece through a golden era of busted toilets and secondhand smoke that now seems as distant as Montparnasse in the 1920s. If you’re looking for juicy bits about Moore and his ex-wife Gordon , you mercifully won’t find it here. He keeps that part of his private life to himself.

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The year women saved Hollywood

Winning the box office, playing record-setting concert tours, rallying striking unions, shaking up TV: Women ruled pop culture in 2023.

Dec. 4, 2023

While Sonic Youth was cultivating a following on the margins, another downtown scenester was hitting dance clubs like Paradise Garage and Danceteria with designs on something bigger. As a young Michigan exile, Madonna Ciccone found her people in these spaces, and when she insisted DJs spin her record “Everybody,” the fuse was lit. Mary Gabriel’s comprehensive biography “ Madonna: A Rebel Life ” can be read as the uptown analogue to “Sonic Life,” as this force of nature quickly outgrows New York clubland and in a few short years enters the pop icon pantheon.

Gabriel has done her homework, giving equal weight to Madonna’s private and public selves in a sprawling survey that offers a strong argument for Madonna as a sound-and-vision innovator every bit as crucial as David Bowie . But you have to really care about her relationships with Sean Penn and Warren Beatty to get there.

Madonna in New York, 1984.

Decades before Madonna lit up the New York night, Ella Fitzgerald had audiences standing on their seats at the Savoy Ballroom as the singer for Chick Webb’s swing band, a powerhouse vocalist who had to overcome her “pretty plain looks” before she became the 20th century’s tower of song. In her excellent biography “ Becoming Ella Fitzgerald ,” Judith Tick makes a compelling case for Fitzgerald as a modernist innovator. Promoters and managers told her to stick to one marketable sound, but that wasn’t an option, as Fitzgerald contained multitudes: novelty songs (her self-penned 1938 hit “A Tisket-a-tasket” put her on the map); classic recordings of the Great American Songbook; and the expertly knotty ululations of her scat singing in the bebop era — a genre in which Fitzgerald became the acknowledged master.

Twenty-eight years after Fitzgerald recorded her 1945 hit “ Flying Home ,” a record that placed scat singing front and center in popular music, Sly Stone was recording his own half-whispered version of scat live in a Sausalito studio. It would become the vamp-out to 1973’s “If You Want Me to Stay,” the last big hit for Sly and his band, the Family Stone.

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The year in theater: A time of struggle but with enough brilliance to sustain us

Alex Edelman’s ‘Just for Us,’ the genius of Stephen Sondheim and a Tony Award for the Pasadena Playhouse were among the highlights of Los Angeles theater in 2023.

Stone fans have been waiting a long time for the reclusive singer to finally break his silence about his life and career. While his memoir “ Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) ” offers up its share of gonzo tales involving drugs, guns and pet baboons, the erstwhile superstar, 80, provides only tantalizing crumbs of real insight into his messy life. Still, there are some ripping anecdotes (baboons!), and origin stories behind “Stand!,” “Everyday People” and Stone’s other funky one-world anthems.

"Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)," by Sly Stone

Perhaps Stone surmised that it’s best to keep his mystique alive, as opposed to expounding on his life at great length in the fashion of Barbra Streisand ’s “ My Name is Barbra .” Alas, no one has ever told this to the countless fanboys (yes, they are almost always boys) and academics who continue to write books about Bob Dylan , coming at the Nobel laureate from every conceivable angle. And yet, somehow, this year has brought something entirely new: A lavish, glossy scrapbook with material provided by Dylan himself.

“ Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine ” is a stunning visual trip through the artist’s life and art as revealed via Dylan’s own ephemera and Zimmerman-adjacent mementos from friends and musicians. Published in conjunction with the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Okla., this immaculately designed coffee-table confection also features a collection of informative essays from Lucy Sante , Greil Marcus , Ed Ruscha and others. They provide context for what we’re seeing, which is quite a bit — grade school class photos, Dylan’s notebooks, manuscripts and legal pads and, yes, even photos that this Dylan freak has never seen before.

Gift Guide 2023: Nonfiction Books

18 best nonfiction books for fans of Madonna, memoirs or cultural histories

2023 is the year of the star-studded gift book, with memoirs and biographies covering rockers, auteurs, poets, controversial executives and, yes, Julia Fox.

Nov. 1, 2023

Which reinforces a couple of valuable lessons from this year’s joyful glut of music tell-alls. First: While they’re no substitute for the brilliantly written, category-killing, milieu-rich biography, no format is inherently better or worse at delivering the goods. And second: There’s always something new under the sun.

Weingarten is the author of “Thirsty: William Mulholland, California Water, and The Real Chinatown.”

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About Great Books

30 Great Rock Memoirs

Many legendary musicians have taken literary guitar solos off-stage by penning great rock memoirs. Music fans adore delving into their favorite artists’ juicy, tell-all autobiographies. Rock memoirs allow average Joes to experience the scandalous debauchery of the rock and roll lifestyle. From hit records and red carpets to drug addiction and sleazy groupies, these memoirs take readers on the rollercoaster ride of stardom. Whether written in 1960 or today, rock memoirs capture the drama of music heroes journeying towards their big dreams.

However, rock memoirs aren’t always the fascinating, soul-baring reads you’d expect. The genre has plenty of autobiographies filled with fluff already well-known on the Internet. Rock memoirs can also become garbled, indecipherable accounts by musicians who are more accustomed to writing notes than paragraphs. The best memoirs avoid the usual road-worn clichés and plots to eloquently share unhindered truths about rock stars.

Below we’ll recognize 30 great rock memoirs that deserve a sacred space on your bookshelf or Kindle library.

#1 – I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir

Brian wilson.


Releasing in October 2016, this much-anticipated memoir tells the story of Brian Wilson, the co-founder of the Beach Boys. Starting with his turbulent childhood with an abusive father, Wilson relays the mental illness, drugs, and sorrow that plagued his early life. He also offers glimpses into the songwriting process for hits like “Good Vibrations.” Readers witness his never-ending climb to survive the industry and remain one of music’s most revered figures.

#2 – Walk This Way


Divided in two,  Walk This Way  chronicles the history of the legendary hard rock band Aerosmith. Members Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer, and Brad Whitford take turns sharing recollections never publicly released. Book One focuses on the early years after their album  Toys in the Attic  debuted. Book Two takes place after their 1980s downfall and resurgence. Candid stories of concerts, drugs, partying, and women abound.

#3 – The Dirt

Motley crue.


Perhaps the world’s most notorious rock band, Motley Crue collaborated to publish  The Dirt  in 2001. Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, and Nikki Sixx detail their 30-year career without holding back. Fans journey beyond their immortal music to learn about backstage scandals, love affairs, and addictions after their rise to fame. Over 100 photographs are included to depict the pleasures and perils of decadent rock star lifestyles.

#4 – Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir

Carrie brownstein.


Named a  New York Times  Notable Book of 2015, Carrie Brownstein’s novel allows a deeply personal look into how she redefined gender limitations in rock. From her childhood in the Pacific Northwest, Brownstein depicts the search for her true calling. The exuberant guitarist details her rise to prominence with Sleater-Kinney in the growing feminist punk rock movement. She also shares the experiences that spawned the TV hit  Portlandia.

#5 – Born to Run

Bruce springsteen.


After his Super Bowl halftime show, “The Boss” himself began writing an extraordinary autobiography detailing his life from a childhood in Freehold, New Jersey. Set for release in September 2016,  Born to Run  vividly recounts Springsteen’s relentless drive for music. Readers watch as his career progresses from playing bar bands to headlining the E Street Band. Bruce Springsteen details the light and darkness of his experiences with raw honesty.

#6 – Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness

Ronnie spector.


Ronnie Spector published this 384-page tell-all novel about her time as lead singer for the Ronettes, the hit 1960s “girl band.” Although there are glimpses into the glamour of rock stardom, much of the memoir centers on her rocky relationship with Phil Spector. She details how her powerful producer husband turned cruel and reclusive. Follow her inspiring battle to break free, overcome alcoholism, and recreate a life worth living.

#7 – Crazy From The Heat

David lee roth.


Van Halen lead vocalist David Lee Roth produced the ultimate rock memoir with  Crazy From The Heat  in 1998. The archetypal rock star shares his life’s narrative in guerrilla style with plenty of expletives. With candor, Roth depicts the backstage life for the Guinness Book’s highest paid American rock group of the ’80s. David Lee Roth also shares his recording experiences as a solo artist and several unpublished poems.

#8 – Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs


Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, wrote this unique rock memoir about his time with the ’70s punk band. The “God Save the Queen” singer depicts how the Pistols were working-class rockers with families, friends, and financial woes. Lydon is unabashedly spiteful in shedding light on the British class system and the music industry. John Lydon also adds perspectives on his band mates, including the notorious Sid Vicious.

#9 – Long Hard Road Out of Hell

Marilyn manson.


America’s most controversial rock idol Marilyn Manson published a shocking memoir titled  Long Hard Road Out of Hell.  Born as Brian Hugh Warner, Manson discusses his unstable childhood, including his grandfather’s sexual fetishes. Its pages go in-depth on how the Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids formed and recorded the infamous “Antichrist Superstar.” Like other rock memoirs, the book references bitter breakups and dysfunctional relationships.

#10 – Many Years From Now

Paul mccartney.


With author Barry Miles, Paul McCartney wrote  Many Years From Now  to disprove that the late John Lennon was the Beatles’ only creative leader. The 650-plus memoir centers on the duo’s 50-50 songwriting partnership through hits like “I Feel Fine” and “A Hard Day’s Night.” From Beatlemania on, McCartney reminiscences on the genesis for every song penned with Lennon while taking credit for the band’s immersion into the avant-garde.

#11 – Moonage Daydream: The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust

David bowie.


David Bowie’s debut novel gives unprecedented insight into his intriguing, sexually ambivalent stage persona Ziggy Stardust. Photographer Mick Rock assists in chronicling imagery from Ziggy’s stratospheric two-year stardom. Vast albums of images compile to detail the onstage performances and backstage scandals through his blockbuster retirement. It’s among the finest rock memoirs that beautifully immortalizes the late icon in high-definition.

#12 – Chronicles: Volume One


Through his own eyes,  Chronicles: Volume One  details the critical crossroads in Bob Dylan’s early life to begin the planned three-volume memoir. The National Book Critics Circle Award finalist shows Dylan’s first arrival in magical Manhattan. The story poignantly shares details about his 1960s breakthrough album. From nightlong parties to fleeting loves, readers witness Bob Dylan’s rise into fame as the “spokesman of a generation.”

Johnny Cash


Having sold over 90 million records globally, Johnny Cash is deemed one of the most influential musicians for songs like “Ring of Fire” and “Man in Black.” Cash’s deep baritone voice crossed lines from country and blues to rock and roll. From his boyhood in Arkansas to super-stardom in Nashville,  Cash  reminiscences on the legend’s lifetime. The autobiography highlights his 40-year career, including his marriage to June Carter, with wry humor.

#14 – Scar Tissue

Anthony kiedis.


Released five years after  Californication,  this rock memoir follows the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ lead vocalist through his drug addiction battle. Son of Blackie Dammett, Anthony Kiedis first experienced drugs with his father at 11. When the band formed in the ’80s, Kiedis had a hardcore addiction. He details the effect of Slovak’s overdose death on his downward spiral. Audiences witness his fight against relapses to restart a productive, happy life.

#15 – Just Kids

Patti smith.


Chosen for  Publishers Weekly’s  top 10 best books, Patti Smith’s memoir provides the same lyrical quality as her influential album  Horses.  Beginning in 1967, the book portrays Smith’s early career homeless and hungry in Brooklyn. That’s when she encounters Robert Mapplethorpe, a young photographer, and her life forever changes. Patti Smith tells their inseparable friendship’s moving story during the halcyon days of the Hotel Chelsea.

#16 – My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor

Keith morris.


Hardcore punk icon Keith Morris chronicles his revolutionary 40-year career as one of music’s hardest working men. Beginning with his childhood in Los Angeles’ South Bay, the book provides a lens into Morris’ development to legend status. From leading the Circle Jerks to appearing in cult films like  Repo Man,  Keith Morris shares interesting perspectives on the entertainment industry and his battle with diabetes.

#17 – The Beatles Anthology

The beatles.


Released with the documentary series in 2000,  The Beatles Anthology  is a large-format hardcover book infused with photographic artwork. Archived interviews with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr as well as producer George Martin are combined into one epic rock memoir. Every page is brimming with recollections from their early days in Liverpool to their ultimate breakup, including Lennon’s marriage to Yoko Ono.

#18 – I, Tina

Tina turner.


Adapted to the film  What’s Love Got to Do with It  with Angela Bassett in 1993, Tina Turner’s rock memoir retells her life from growing up as Anna Mae Bullock. The best-seller transports readers from her meager beginnings in Tennessee to her volatile relationship with blues musician Ike Turner. Her superstar account shares the pain and abuse that sparked one of rock music’s greatest comebacks.

#19 – Slash


Legendary Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash opens up to share his own experiences with the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle. The notoriously private musician pens a jaw-dropping memoir detailing the factors leading to the band’s demise. Beyond wild parties, groupies, drugs, and never-ending tours, Slash depicts the dictatorship rule of Axl Rose. He explains how Axl’s determination to change the band’s sound with synthesizers ripped them apart.

#20 – I Am Ozzy

Ozzy osbourne.


Prized for its laugh-out-loud humor,  I Am Ozzy  provides a rambling memoir of the Black Sabbath frontman’s life. Born John Osbourne, he grew up within an impoverished British family in Aston and seemed destined for manual labor. On a trip to prison, Ozzy became enamored with the darker side of rock and roll. Life spirals out of control with recording, drinking, drugs, and women. But the unpolished autobiography then shares the satanic rocker’s rebirth.

#21 – Clapton

Eric clapton.


Clapton  portrays the rock star’s life in an unseen light starting with his debut in Cream and their untimely breakup two years later. Eric Clapton shares his experiences working with Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, and long-time friend George Harrison. Here readers discover his love for George’s wife, Pattie Boyd. His heartbreak leads to heroin, despair, and hit songs like “Wonderful Tonight.” Life seemingly improves as he wins Pattie’s affection, until the devastating death of their four-year-old son.

#22 – Amy, My Daughter

Mitch winehouse.

Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse’s memoir was written in 2013 by her closest advisor and friend, her father Mitch. The intimate account separates fact from fiction by detailing the true events that shaped her music career. Mitch doesn’t shy away from discussing her drug addiction that inspired the hit song “Rehab.” Audiences witness what happened behind-the-scenes in the months leading to the talented musician’s tragic death.

#23 – I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp

Richard hell.

 I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp

Since retiring from the music industry in 1984, Richard Hell has published countless books, including his own rock memoirs. This novel renders his shift from a bucolic childhood in Kentucky to New York City’s punk rock movement. Known for co-founding bands like The Heartbreakers and working with artists like Patti Smith, Hell forever cemented CBGB as the epicenter for punk. The memoir celebrates his passion while warning of its implicit risks.

#24 – Journals

Kurt cobain.


Originally contained in over 20 notebooks,  Journals  presents a collection of Kurt Cobain’s handwritten notes and drawings. From a kid in Aberdeen, Washington, to a morbid punk rocker, the entries depict Corbain’s unlikely rise to fame. Readers glimpse his innermost thoughts as Cobain signs with Sub Pop, forms Nirvana, and writes “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” But entries turn darker as coping with the fame ultimately leads to heroin addiction and suicide.

#25 – Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout

Laura jane grace.


Laura Jane Grace, the lead singer for Against Me!, will offer this vivid memoir of her tumultuous search for self-identity in November 2016. Born Thomas James Gabel, Laura shares how she grappled with feeling detached from her body.  Tranny  shares her struggles with gender transition, sex, failed relationships, and drug addiction while becoming a punk rock icon.

Keith Richards


As winner of the 2011 Norman Mailer Prize, Keith Richards’ memoir  Life  was written with journalist James Fox to chronicle the Rolling Stones guitarist’s rousing stardom. Richards delivers an unfettered story of his career from small gigs to sold-out stadiums. Rock fans are entranced with firsthand accounts on his love for Patti Hansen, rocky relationship with Mick Jagger, tax exile in France, and more. His journey becomes immortalized like the riffs of “Satisfaction.”

#27 – The Autobiography

Chuck berry.


Pioneering rock and roll guitarist Chuck Berry’s memoir not only shares his own past, but also uncovers dark truths about race in America. Growing up in a poor, segregated St. Louis neighborhood, Berry discusses his family roots and his feeling “black.” From performing with Johnnie Johnson’s trio to signing with Chess Records, he recounts his galloping success redefining rhythm and blues to the distinctive rock sound.  The Autobiography  also includes a discography of his musical masterpieces.

#28 – Don’t Try This at Home: A Year in the Life of Dave Navarro

Dave navarro.


After messy breakups with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction, guitarist Dave Navarro partnered with writer Neil Strauss to chronicle 12 months of his life. He purchased a photo booth to record every celebrity, dealer, and hooker who stopped by his house. The resulting 57 chapters speak to the quasi-glamorous rock and roll lifestyle. However, readers eventually witness Navarro’s sobriety as his career and marriage restarts.

#29 – Girl in a Band


Published in 2015,  Girl in a Band  shares the autobiographical story of Sonic Youth’s bass guitarist and fashion icon Kim Gordon. The memoir’s vivid pages open several chapters of her life for inspection from California to New York City. She visually details her music and passion for taking women into the unchartered territory in the Alternative revolution. Gordon also describes her personal life, marriage, and relationship with her daughter, Coco.

#30 – Take It Like a Man


Boy George strutted into rock stardom in the early ’80s with “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” His platinum Culture Club hits, avant-garde style, and captivating melodies fueled media’s obsession with the English singer. That’s until his life took a downward spiral. Boy George’s relationship with Jon Moss disintegrated, Culture Club collapsed, and drug addiction wreaked havoc.  Take It Like a Man  retells his highest highs and most desperate lows in mesmerizing detail.

Search for these 30 great rock memoirs to read profound, inspiring recollections from one-of-a-kind music icons who’ve experienced successes and downturns in the public eye.

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The 10 Best Music Books of 2023

By Pitchfork

Every year there are countless books released about music—2023 alone included dishy memoirs from Britney Spears, Barbra Streisand, and Sly Stone, plus a big-deal, authorized bio on Tupac. In our estimation, the best works tend to give the reader new ears with which to listen. What follows is a list of personal favorites from this year, as picked by Pitchfork staffers and contributors. Happy reading!

Check out all of Pitchfork’s 2023 wrap-up coverage here .

60 Songs That Explain the ’90s

In 2020, as the pandemic forced everyone who didn’t live on a megayacht to upend their entire lives, retreating into the nostalgia of one’s youth became an all-but-necessary coping mechanism. Veteran music writer Rob Harvilla felt that same urge. But instead of merely staring into the middle distance while washing dishes to Gin Blossoms’ “Hey Jealousy,” he put his musical memories to work and made an essayistic podcast called 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s . And now that very funny and startlingly insightful show—which has grown to cover more than 100 songs—has its own very funny and startlingly insightful book. (Full disclosure: I once lost money to Harvilla in a basement poker game in 2010, and recently guested on the 60 Songs podcast.)

The entire endeavor succeeds because Harvilla is so good at conveying his teenage excitement (he’s unafraid to use the descriptor “rad,” repeatedly) while also offering the wisdom of a fortysomething dad who’s been writing about music for much of his adult life. For every loving one-liner (listening to Celine Dion sing is “like drinking rosé from a fire hose”) or list of the 20 Worst Red Hot Chili Peppers Song Titles (don’t worry, “Party on Your Pussy” makes the Top 10), there are sober reflections on Courtney Love reading Kurt Cobain’s suicide note, or how white rap fans (like him, like me) would be smart to understand that they’re eavesdropping when they listen to a song like Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day.” Earnest, empathetic, and admirably goofy, Harvilla is an ideal guide to the most random decade in pop history. –Ryan Dombal

All products featured on Pitchfork are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

new rock music biographies

Black Punk Now

When James Spooner first logged on in 2001, he immediately Googled “Black punk.” A blank screen stared back at him: There were zero links. Spooner knew this was inaccurate—he had countless Black punk friends and collaborators—but the experience underscored that if no one else was going to document his culture, then it was up to him. This is what motivated Spooner to create the Afropunk documentary and festival, as well as compile this new anthology of writing alongside Black Card author Chris L. Terry.

Black Punk Now uses a multi-genre approach, from fiction to graphics to screenplays, to showcase the ways Black punks move through the world. In “The Princess and the Pit,” Mariah Stovall explores the racialized beauty standards of punk shows via a feminist fairytale. The script for comedian Kash Abdulmalik’s short film, Let Me Be Understood , meditates on one musician’s desire to have an honest relationship with his father.

The collection’s greatest strength is how it captures the pure joy felt by its contributors while living on the fringes, the integrity they’ve gained from being misunderstood by the white establishment. (As contributor Bobby Hackney Jr. puts it, what is more punk than challenging what people think “Black” is supposed to be?) Taken together, these works show readers that “punk” is a commitment to liberation from the tedium of mainstream culture, and a way to demand much more. –Mary Retta

new rock music biographies

The Golden Voice: The Ballad of Cambodian Rock’s Lost Queen

One of the best graphic novels of the year is a riveting portrait of an undersung musical hero and an intense document of wartime Cambodia. Gregory Cahill tells the story of Ros Serey Sothea, the prolific ’60s and ’70s Cambodian rock singer who seemed to rocket from rice farmer to national treasure overnight. It’s an underdog story told through the lens of the Cambodian Civil War’s propaganda machine.

Scenes of Cambodian rock’n’roll club nights and studio recording sessions are depicted in a blissful sunrise palette of deep reds and oranges, with sheet music floating translucently into the ether. Music is central to the experience of enjoying the book; there’s an accompanying playlist, and each page has track cues, so the sound of Sothea’s music is never abstract. But the book is also full of darkness: A constant military presence hangs over Golden Voice , and it closes with the Khmer Rouge seizing power and burning Sothea’s records. It’s a tragedy with heart-wrenching illustrations and a solid history lesson, soundtracked by incredible vintage Cambodian records. –Evan Minsker

new rock music biographies

Goth: A History

Despite its totemic title, Goth: A History is neither a sociology textbook nor a definitive document of the subculture. Instead, Lol Tolhurst—a core member of the Cure across its gothiest period—has written a memoir and social history of his years in the scene’s cobwebbed trenches. Structured more like the florid chaos of the Cure’s Pornography than the linear minimalism of their Seventeen Seconds , the book wends its way from capsule meditations on the genre’s influences (Nico, Bowie, Camus, Sartre) into diaristic recollections from the Cure’s gloomy golden era; he wraps up with mini-profiles on fellow travelers like Cocteau Twins and Nine Inch Nails. But many of the book’s most revealing passages are its most personal, like running into Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher while in rehab, or discovering that his buttoned-up IRS agent was also a secret member of the sect.

Situating goth at the intersection of punk and Sylvia Plath, Tolhurst describes the movement as a necessary reaction to the bleakness of post-WWII England. Yet, as he considers its decades-long endurance and 21st-century mainstreaming, he also notes the universality of its message: “It can get lonely being the only weirdo in town. We all want a tribe to belong to.” At Portland’s Powell’s Books, I bought my own copy of Goth along with an armload of children’s books. “It looks like I’m trying to turn my daughter into a goth,” I said to the woman behind the register. Without so much as a smile, she replied, “We all get there eventually.” –Philip Sherburne

new rock music biographies

Hachette Books


In the raw rapture of their shredded shrieks and destabilized noise, O.G. punks Kleenex made the Sex Pistols sound like the Rolling Stones. Though the Swiss group broke up in 1983—changing their name to LiLiPUT in 1979 after a threat from the tissue company—it’s taken 40 years for English-language fans to fully access the primary document of this crucial all-woman band: the diaries of guitarist Marlene Marder, who died in 2016.

Originally published in German in 1986, the diary was also a scrapbook capturing “the detritus that comes with playing in a band,” as described by editor Grace Ambrose, who instigated this English translation for the inaugural book on her Kansas City, Missouri-based punk label, Thrilling Living, which has released music by the likes of Special Interest and Girlsperm.

Supplemented by zine clippings, photos, and visual ephemera—including relics of Kleenex’s 1979 UK tour with the Raincoats—the collage-like Kleenex/LiLiPUT book creates its own paradigm for punk storytelling by imposing no definitive Kleenex narrative, instead replicating the ever-in-process nature of the unruly music. Legendary rock critic Greil Marcus’ original introduction to Marder’s diary is included along with another of his enlightening columns on the band, in which he writes, “Punk had good taste in ancestors.” He was talking about the Kleenex-Dada connection, but the same rings true of punks today, who see themselves in this history still. –Jenn Pelly

new rock music biographies

Thrilling Living

Lou Reed: The King of New York

Several strong Lou Reed bios were already out there by the time Will Hermes published The King of New York this fall. Victor Bockris’ Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story is a compelling document of the New York underground of the ’60s and early ’70s, while Anthony DeCurtis’ Lou Reed: A Life has first-person intimacy while situating the singer’s work among his rock contemporaries. But Hermes tells the best story, finding the ideal mix of big-picture narrative sweep and intriguing details.

The book frames Reed’s life in a way that speaks to our current cultural moment, revealing how the fluidness of sexuality and gender in Reed’s milieu hinted at the world to come, and it deepens your appreciation of his hugely varied recorded output. Hermes’ previous book, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire , was a personal examination of New York’s influential downtown music scene in the ’70s, and the city is just as influential here, growing and changing alongside Reed while forever informing his art. This shifting contextual backdrop makes Hermes especially fun to read on the Velvet Underground frontman’s notoriously spotty solo albums. Few artists risked failure like Reed did, and this book will have you digging for records you once ignored, from his wispy debut to the shocking power of Lulu ’s “ Junior Dad .” –Mark Richardson

new rock music biographies

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

To Anyone Who Ever Asks: The Life, Music, and Mystery of Connie Converse

When writer Howard Fishman first heard Connie Converse’s beautifully melancholic folk music at a party in 2010, he became consumed by a quest to find out what became of the obscure mid-century singer. Thirteen years and 550 pages later, the New Yorker contributor has turned in the definitive history of Converse’s life. With To Anyone Who Ever Asks , he traces her story, from her tragedy-marred early years in small-town New England, to an escape to New York in the 1940s and ’50s and eventual retreat to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Converse eventually disappeared in 1974, speeding off in her Volkswagen and writing to loved ones asking them not to look for her.

Fishman uncovers not the shy wallflower that her songs suggest, but a binge-drinking, heavy-smoking bohemian widely ahead of her time, who performed for Walter Cronkite, composed operas, and championed civil rights. He occasionally falls into fanboy tendencies, glorifying every artistic move by Converse with uncritical praise. But for anyone who has ever wondered about the person behind these lost songs, or just what it means to make art that no one will fully appreciate until decades later, To Anyone Who Ever Asks provides as much of a proper answer as we’ll ever get. –David Glickman

new rock music biographies

Testigos del fin del mundo

In his debut book, Bolivian music critic and professor Javier A. Rodríguez-Camacho chronicles the untold history of 2010s Ibero-American indie music. The book includes artists from Latin America, the United States, and Spain—an editorial choice that illustrates how multiple genres and geographical locations of the Spanish-speaking world have always been in conversation with each other. Instead of presenting a definitive canon, Rodríguez-Camacho traces an incomplete but dynamic map of the era’s scenes and sounds through 120 albums, spanning everything from the Chilean indie pop explosion to the Mexican ruidosón movement.

It’s an archival endeavor structured through individual album reviews, each of which transcends mere formal description. The chapters are meticulously contextualized, immersing readers into the musical and sociopolitical milieu from which these albums sprouted. But they also explore how these artists speak to shared experiences across the Spanish-speaking diaspora—regardless of the “zip code of their residence, their accents, or their stylistic influences.” The book is packed with delightful easter eggs, too, like playlist recommendations from guest contributors. Its creative direction is vividly inspired by the blogs and streaming platforms that revolutionized the decade, with tracklists, sidebars, and credits surrounding each review as though you can click on them. Whether you’re reading up on culture-shifting artists like Arca, or discovering Puerto Rican trap pioneers like Füete Billëte, Testigos del fin del mundo is an illuminating compendium that documents scenes and sounds that have lived in the shadows for too long. —Isabelia Herrera

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Rey Naranjo Editores

Wayward: Just Another Life to Live

Those drawn to Vashti Bunyan ’s memoir likely know her story already: a ’70s British singer-songwriter whose freak-folk debut Just Another Diamond Day developed a cult following—thanks in part to fans like Animal Collective and Devendra Banhart—that inspired her to return in the 2000s with a long-awaited follow-up. Originally released in the UK last year, Wayward delivers far more than that familiar redemption arc.

Bunyan’s life story is one of striking defiance and quiet beauty, the combination of which moves the heart in unexpected ways. She recounts wearing the fragile shellac of her father’s 78s so thin that her parents removed the needle as punishment; skipping class to play guitar and fraternize with soon-to-be Monty Python co-founders Michael Palin and Terry Jones; and recording her debut single with Jimmy Page while Mick Jagger facetiously imitated her voice. “I was quietly delighting in being a small part of the big fuck-you,” she writes.

Perpetually drawn to the outdoors, from searching for bones amid post-WW2 rubble as a kid, to voyaging to Donovan ’s Scottish commune by horse and carriage in her 20s, Bunyan long rooted her music’s roving spirit in a desire for physicality that’s muddy and crestfallen. For a figure that’s been upheld as fragile and innocent, the true story of Bunyan the musician is that of a woman-turned-nomad fueled by an awareness that the more people and places you meet, the more your perception of the world grows. –Nina Corcoran

new rock music biographies

White Rabbit

World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music

Jeff Tweedy admits in the introduction to his third book, World Within a Song , that he would have started here, with brief love letters to important songs throughout his life, had he been more confident as a writer. Instead, the Wilco frontman felt the pressure to pen a more conventional memoir in 2018’s Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) , then followed that up with How to Write One Song , his down-to-earth approach to the guru-littered gutters of the “creativity guide” genre. Both books are excellent—warm, funny, unflinchingly honest, and clearly the work of a true music fan. But World Within a Song allows Tweedy to go full nerd, not as a tangent to a story but as the story itself. The effect is something like a book-length version of Pitchfork’s own 5-10-15-20 interview series , where stray memories become reflexively intertwined with certain lyrics or melodies.

Tweedy writes like he talks—direct, enthusiastic, relatable, self-aware when he’s corny—and it’s a quick and enjoyable read even when he opines on well-worn hits like “Smoke on the Water.” The best parts are when he focuses on specific moments with family members that shifted his view of things: his mom connecting to Lene Lovich’s “Lucky Number” while watching the “New Wave” episode of The Midnight Special with him, her own “you live alone, you die alone” worldview reflected back; discovering, after many years of assuming otherwise, that his cousin did not write Bachman–Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business.” It’s not all classic rock and vintage alternative, though—I gotta hand it to Tweedy, I didn’t expect to be so moved by his take on Rosalía’s “Bizcochito.” He writes, upon Googling lyric translations and realizing he’d understood the emotion even though he doesn’t speak Spanish, “I could actually hear the look on her face. I could see the man she was singing to—pinpoint the heartache to a specific moment in her life.” –Jill Mapes

new rock music biographies

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Best rock star biographies and memoirs: it's pure debauchery

We're talking sex, drugs and bloody good stories

Best rock star biographies and memoirs: it's pure debauchery

Rock stars of yesteryear had all the fun. The best rock star biographies shed light on those glory days, answering questions you didn’t know you wanted answering.

From tales of debauchery to gritty insights into life on the road, the best biographies share the low points as well as the highs. Teasing details about their lives, many of these access-all-areas biographies allow you to be a fly on the wall for some of the most dramatic moments in musical history.

UPDATE: We've added a couple more key picks from the world of rock autobiographies. Elton John's Me makes the cut for the sheer style of its retelling of one of the iconic careers in rock music. And for those after a less classic biopic-style approach should check out Viv Albertine's 2014 memoir Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. It's a top read.

  • Need something for your music collection? These are the best bluetooth speakers and the best record players around.

Here we’ve picked out a selection of the very best rockstar memoirs. They feature some of rock’s most prominent figures… as well as some who we’re glad we’ve been able to find out even more about.

Upvote your favourite read, and suggest any we've missed at the bottom.

Best rock star biographies

Best rock star biographies

1 . Keith Richards – Life

No list of rockstar memoirs would be complete without a mention of the Rolling Stones guitarist and rock stalwart Keith Richards. Life spans several decades of music, drugs and life on the road – from the more glamorous elements to the hard reality of some of what he went through. As with all the best memoirs, Life shows a new side of its subject while retaining the kind of honesty and vulnerability which was often hidden from those who only saw his public persona.

Best rock star biographies

2 . Mötley Crüe - The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band

Known for their extreme antics and tales of debauchery, Mötley Crüe has become synonymous with a life of excess that accompanies rock music. A culmination of 30 years worth of jaw-dropping material involving Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars , the book features scandalous celebrity love affairs and dark stories involving extreme drug addiction. The book has also since been made into a Netflix Original Movie starring Machine Gun Kelly and Douglas Booth.

Best rock star biographies

3 . Anthony Kiedis – Scar Tissue

The Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman is a 21st-century rocker you’d expect to have plenty of revealing stories, and Scar Tissue is certainly a revealing read.

Kiedis’s drug use has hardly been a secret throughout his career, but this is an at-times-sensitive look at his early exposure to substances and how it shaped his life and experiences as his band enjoyed a rapid rise and ultimately grew into one of the world’s biggest.

Best rock star biographies

4 . Slash — Slash: The Autobiography

Few rock stars of the 80s and 90s are as instantly identifiable as Slash, and the Guns N’ Roses guitarist lived a proper rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle during his time with the band. This is documented in detail in his 2007 autobiography, with covers ups, downs, excess and near-death in the kind of detail you can only get from someone who lived through it all… and almost died in the process.

Best rock star biographies

5 . Lemmy – White Line Fever

The title of Lemmy’s autobiography gives a bit of a clue to what to expect, but there’s more to it than just drugs and excess. It’s not just about Motörhead, either, although the band does have a big role to play. White Line Fever is often conversational in tone, and that gives you an idea of Lemmy’s real, authentic voice – it’s the sort of thing which not every memoir needs, but the feeling of him being right there with you certainly helps in this case.

Best rock star biographies

6 . Patti Smith – Just Kids

Smith’s memoir isn’t just about music or even just about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, but rather a poignant look back at a very specific version of New York which we will surely never see again. Published in 2010, Just Kids captures a time, a place and the people united by both to make for a fascinating memoir, and we’re grateful to Smith for bringing it all back to life with such honesty.

Best rock star biographies

7 . Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run

'Writing about yourself is a funny business…But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind. In these pages, I’ve tried to do this.' — notes Bruce Springsteen, from the pages of his autobiography, Born to Run . The concept for the book spawned from his 2009 Superbowl half time show, which Springsteen noted as being so exhilarating, the experience simply had to be documented. From his Catholic upbringing in Freehold, New Jersey , to the traumatizing events which shaped some of his greatest lyrical work, this is a delightfully gritty tale depicting a rock 'n' roll great

Best rock star biographies

8 . Nikki Sixx – The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star

Some of the most eye-catching rock memoirs aren’t even really about the music, and this work from the Mötley Crüe man is a case in point. The bassist presents a no holds barred depiction of life on tour, in the studio and on heroin, all presented in diary form, during a period where addiction to the drug almost killed him. Throw in retrospectives from Sixx and his bandmates and it makes for compelling reading.

Best rock star biographies

9 . Kim Gordon – Girl in a Band: A Memoir

Girl in a Band takes us back to the 1980s heyday of Sonic Youth through the words of founding member Kim Gordon. The memoir looks back at Gordon’s childhood before exploring her career in music, her marriage to bandmate Thurston Moore, and the eventual unravelling of that relationship. The portrait of Gordon’s life in Rochester and LA is honest and exploratory without ever being performative, while painting a picture of plenty of her contemporaries from Sonic Youth’s rise to prominence.

Best rock star biographies

10 . Mark Lanegan - Sing Backwards and Weep

Coming from Seattle in the 80s, Mark Lanegan saw everything grunge had to offer and managed to get out the other side. This frank autobiography does not paint an idolised life of a rockstar, but one that has knocks, scrapes and near misses. It's packed with the lowest of lows and the highs are all, well, something else. You need to read this and it's even more poignant after his passing.

Best rock star biographies

11 . Elton John - Me

This autobiography covers Elton John's pre-fame years, his early career and most riotously depraved years. It's hilarious, touching and, as far as we can tell, pretty honest given how often John is not depicted as a flawless hero character. This biography was written in collaboration with music critic Alexis Petridis, who captures John's voice perfectly while delivering thoroughly well-written prose.

Best rock star biographies

12 . Viv Albertine - Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

Slits guitarist Viv Albertine's 2014 autobiography made an impact that went far beyond punk fans interested in her band. It's a feminist work that looks at the realities of being a woman in the 70s and 80s, amped up by being a pivotal part of the punk scene. The book also covers her work after the Slits, who disbanded in 1982.

Best rock star biographies

13 . Laura Jane Grace - Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout

Grace, the vocalist for punk band Against Me!, has a unique story to tell. And she tells it brilliantly in Tranny. The singer and guitarist came out as transgender in 2012, and her memoir – written with journalist Dan Ozzi and published four years later – is a brutally honest look at her experiences with gender dysphoria alongside her breakthrough into the punk scene. As well as shedding light on Grace’s past, it allows us a look at Butch Vig and Bruce Springsteen through fresh eyes.

Best rock star biographies

14 . Mark Oliver Everett – Things the Grandchildren Should Know

Everett, better known as E, has enjoyed a strong following with his band Eels without ever attaining worldwide superstar status. Everett’s emotional depth has always come through in his songwriting, so it’s no surprise to see him eloquently and sensitively detail the role of others’ deaths in his own life after losing both parents and his sister before turning 35. There isn’t the excess of other memories, but it’s just as emotionally affecting, if not more so.

Best rock star biographies

15 . John Lydon – Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs

Lydon, known as Johnny Rotten during his time with the Sex Pistols, had front-row seats to the birth of punk in the UK. As you can guess, this makes for great memoir fodder. The Londoner tears in to anyone and everyone you can imagine from the “boring” society infiltrated by his band. As the man himself says: “A lot of people feel the Sex Pistols were just negative. I agree, and what the fuck is wrong with that?”


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5 Must-Read Music Memoirs and Biographies Arriving In November 2023

by Lorie Liebig October 30, 2023, 9:22 pm

The year is quickly coming to a close, but bookworms have plenty of new releases to enjoy before 2024 arrives. We’ve curated a list of highly anticipated music memoirs and biographies that will hit bookshelves and digital stores this November.

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1. my name is barbra.

new rock music biographies

Multi-talented artist and performer Barbra Streisand delivers her first memoir this month. Set for release on November 7, My Name Is Barbra transports readers through the decades. Fans will get firsthand accounts of Streisand’s experiences as she proved her talents in film, theater, and music.

2. The Upcycled Self: The Story of Tariq Trotter, Who Would Become Black Thought, Co-founder of the Roots  

new rock music biographies

Tariq Trotter, co-founding member of The Roots and celebrated creative, takes a deep dive into what shapes us in his upcoming book. Arriving on November 14, The Upcycled Self finds the award-winning rapper examining the people and experiences who led him to take his own path to success.

3. My Effin’ Life  

new rock music biographies

Rush bassist Geddy Lee looks back on his evolution from a music-loving teen to a rock and roll star in his revealing memoir, due out on November 14. My Effin’ Life is a must-read for any longtime fan of the famed prog-rock group, offering a personal and powerful retrospective on their decades-long career.

4. World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music

new rock music biographies

Wilco ‘s Jeff Tweedy returns to the role of author for a third time with his latest work, set for release on November 7. World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music finds the acclaimed singer/songwriter examining the tracks that left a lasting impact on his life.

5. Living   the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans

new rock music biographies

On November 14, author Kenneth Womack delivers an in-depth look at the man who helped steer The Beatles to superstardom. Living   the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans lifts the veil on the often overlooked figure who saw the band’s potential from the very beginning.

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‘promenade with duke’: michel petrucciani’s tribute to duke ellington, ‘fever to tell’: yeah yeah yeahs’ genre-defying debut album, the duke of ellington: the renaissance man of jazz, how robyn’s self-titled album revealed a spectacular reinvention, ‘electric warlock’: how rob zombie once again wove his dark magic, ‘high priestess of soul’: the spiritual r&b of nina simone, karol g and feid win big at latin american music awards, ringo starr offers up ‘gonna need someone’ music video, florence + the machine announce ‘symphony of lungs’ bbc proms performance, def leppard share 40th anniversary edition of ‘pyromania’, billy idol releases 40th anniversary edition of ‘rebel yell’, the warning share music video for ‘qué más quieres’, liana flores signs with verve records, unveils ‘i wish for the rain’, best music memoirs: 30 essential reads for music lovers.

Passionate and highly personal accounts of extraordinary lives, the best music memoirs offer everything from creative insights to rock’n’roll excess.

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Many musicians have a great story to tell about their action-packed lives – and the best music memoirs are always passionate and highly personal. Some focus on creative journeys and a search for artistic fulfillment; some offer accounts of wild parties and other rock’n’roll excesses. Some classics, such as Woody Guthrie’s Bound For Glory and Miles Davis ’ Miles: The Autobiography , were written decades ago, but there have been some great modern additions to the canon, by greats such as Elton John , Patti Smith, Keith Richards , and Debbie Harry.

Here are our 30 best music memoirs of all time. Think we’ve missed one of yours? Let us know in the comments section, below.

30: Woody Guthrie: Bound For Glory (EP Dutton, 1943)

The autobiography of Woody Guthrie, written with the help of his first wife, Marjorie, detailed the folk singer’s travels across America and his experiences as a fruit-picker living in a hobo camp. Bound For Glory has its own charm as it explains the background behind one of the 20th-century’s most important musicians. Guthrie’s boyhood gang, who features in the memoir, provided the inspiration for the name of Bob Geldof’s band The Boomtown Rats.

‘Mardi Gras’: Over And Out From Creedence Clearwater Revival

‘mr. bad guy’: why freddie mercury’s solo album was ‘a shot in the arm’, 29: george melly: owning up (penguin, 1965).

Owning Up was singer George Melly’s first-hand account of the professional jazz world of the 50s. After giving up work in an art gallery, Melly was drawn into the jazz revival. In Owning Up , the first of a series of memoirs by the Liverpudlian, Melly humorously describes an endless round of pubs, clubs, seedy guest-houses and transport cafés, and the weird array of musicians, drunks, and eccentrics that were part of that vanished music scene.

28: Booker T Jones: Time Is Right: My Life Note By Note (Omnibus, 2019)

Booker T Jones , the leader of the acclaimed Stax Records house band Booker T And The MGs, is integral to the history of 60s soul music. His self-penned memoir is full of great stories about musicians such as Otis Redding and Dr John – and offers an interesting account of his own musical education, including his love of Blue Note pianist Horace Silver . He is also modest about his own talent, writing in praise of Ray Charles , for example, that he could not match his way of playing ‘I Got A Woman’. “Ray played with such precision and did not miss a note or beat, every note exactly in place, singing at the same time! I couldn’t even play it in time.” This, by the way, comes from the man who helped create the instrumental masterpiece ‘Green Onions’ , a song Barack Obama invited him to perform at The White House.

27: Chuck Berry: The Autobiography (Harmony Books, 1987)

Chuck Berry was keen to let everyone know that he had not paid for a ghostwriter. “The book is entirely written, phrase by phrase, by yours truly, Chuck Berry,” he wrote in the introduction to his 1987 autobiography. It’s no surprise that the man who wrote classics such as ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ and ‘Johnny B Goode’ has a clever way with words as he offers a compelling view of being subject to the injustices of racism while also charting his place in the founding of rock’n’roll.

26: Nile Rodgers: Le Freak (Little, Brown, 2011)

Nile Rodgers, the child of jazz-obsessed junkies, had an action-packed life. He jammed with Jimi Hendrix , toured with Big Bird on Sesame Street ’s roadshow, and played in the legendary Apollo Theatre house band. He was also a key part of the “sex, drugs and disco ” revolution of the 70s as the co-founder and guitarist for Chic. His memoir is an exhilarating, blunt tale of an amazing musical journey.

25: Iggy Pop: I Need More (Karz-Cohl Publishing, 1997)

Iggy Pop , who was born James Osterberg, was considered one of the grand old men of punk rock when he wrote what he described as “a kind of autobiography in fragments” in the late 90s. The book ranges from his childhood in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to the evolution of his seminal rock band, The Stooges. Pop details his reckless adventures and troubles in his own frank and indomitable manner.

24: Boy George: Take It Like A Man (HarperCollins, 1995)

Boy George, the star of Culture Club , was characteristically provocative in an autobiography that showed off his droll wit. He deals with his childhood as the self-dubbed “pink sheep” of a large working-class family, and talks about coming out and his teenage fascination with David Bowie and Marc Bolan . His is funny about his jet-setting life as a pop celebrity and open about his heroin addiction. He also deals with his bizarre spat with author Anthony Burgess, who had criticized his abilities as a musician.

23: James Brown: The Godfather Of Soul (Da Capo Press, 1986)

James Brown opens up about his dirt-poor childhood in an Augusta brothel and how he went on to overcome huge obstacles to find wealth and fame. There are good anecdotes about Little Richard , Elvis Presley , Tina Turner, and Otis Redding , but the most vivid parts of the book are about Brown’s time in a juvenile center. He also discusses the brave stand he took following the assassination of his friend Martin Luther King .

22: Quincy Jones: Q: The Autobiography Of Quincy Jones (Hodder & Stoughton, 2001)

Quincy Jones is one of the most significant producer/arranger/composers of the modern era and Q is an acutely personal book. Jones gives a no-holds-barred account of his life, from his mother’s mental illness to working with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson . He also discusses his own nervous breakdown after the triumph of Thriller , and his failed marriages.

21: Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter (Knopf Doubleday, 2010)

Loretta Lynn has lived a remarkable life and her memoir tells the story of her impoverished childhood in Kentucky, her marriage at 13, her six children, and how she battled to become one of the most influential songwriters and singers in country music. Her powerful story is told in a feisty, open style, detailing how she bucked against a life where “there was always a man telling me what to do”. The audio version was brilliantly narrated by actress Sissy Spacek.

20: Gil Scott-Heron: The Last Holiday (Grove Press, 2012)

Songwriter, poet, and activist Gil Scott-Heron died at 62 in May 2011. His posthumously published memoir, The Last Holiday , is an elegiac finale to his musical and literary career. He offers a perceptive, funny, and compassionate account of his life, its tribulations, and the inspirations for his brilliant, socially-conscious music.

19: James Fearnley: Here Comes Everybody: The Story Of The Pogues (Faber, 2012)

The Pogues first formed in 1982 as Pogue Mahone (Gaelic for “kiss my arse”) and were one of the groundbreaking bands of the era. James Fearnley, The Pogues’ accordion player, brings to life the youthful friendships, the bust-ups, the grim gigs and the drunkenness of his times with a band fronted by the alcoholic Shane McGowan.

18: Willie Nelson: It’s A Long Story: My Life (Little, Brown, 2015)

There have been numerous books about Willie Nelson – including his own 1988 publication, Willie: An Autobiography – but the most unvarnished is 2015’s It’s A Long Story: My Life . This book captures Nelson’s humor and spirit and goes off at interesting tangents. The country music singer, an avid reader, talks about the influence of the TS Eliot poem ‘East Coker’ on his own song ‘Still Is Still Moving To Me’. Nelson is a true one-off and that shines through in this tale.

17 Jay-Z: Decoded (Random House, 2010)

From drug dealer to multimillionaire rapper, Jay-Z ’s story, as told in Decoded , is gripping. Part art book, part lyrical compilation, and part personal narrative, Decoded is also a defense of rap music. “Rap took the remnants of a dying society and created something new,” says the man born Shawn Carter in New York in 1969.

16: Johnny Marr: Set The Boy Free (Penguin, 2017)

Johnny Marr’s autobiography, Set The Boy Free , was, unsurprisingly, less grandiose than Morrissey ’s memoir. The Smiths had a huge influence on music in the 80s and Marr was one of the most influential guitarists of his generation. His memoir, which deals with the break-up of the band and his subsequent career, is witty and moving. Some of the most affecting parts are his memories of growing up in Ardwick Green, Manchester.

15: Roger Daltrey: Roger Daltrey, My Story: Thanks A Lot Mr. Kibblewhite (Blink Publishing, 2018)

The Who members have a rich story to tell. After Pete Townshend ’s Who Am I , published in 2013, there came Roger Daltrey’s punchy memoir, which told the story of his journey to rock stardom. It’s a funny and open account. (The title, incidentally, refers to the headmaster who expelled Daltrey from Acton County Grammar School when he was 15. Daltrey’s generation could certainly hold a grudge.)

14: Mötley Crüe: The Dirt: Confessions Of The World’s Most Notorious Rock Band (HarperCollins, 2001)

Mötley Crüe ’s off-stage antics were as wild as their music, and the 2001 memoir The Dirt was a collective autobiography written by Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, and Nikki Sixx. A genuinely entertaining, shocking book, it became a bestseller in 2001. In March 2019 a film adaptation was given its Netflix debut.

13: Johnny Cash: Cash (HarperCollins, 2000)

There have been several biographies about country music legend Johnny Cash , but in 2000 he gave his own revealing account of his life. He covered the early days at Sun Records – with Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis – to his rise as a country superstar. Cash offers interesting details about his own complex character and opens up about his recurring addiction to amphetamines and his shortcomings as a father. This follow-up to 1986’s The Man In Black memoir is also full of wonderful oddities, such as the time he was nearly disemboweled by an ostrich.

12: Marianne Faithfull: Memories, Dreams And Reflections (HarperCollins, 2007)

Many of the stories about Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger almost belong to folklore, but she proves herself to be a witty, eccentric storyteller in Memories, Dreams And Reflections . Her background is fascinating, too. Her father was an ex-MI6 spy who had interrogated Himmler. As well as stories about fellow musicians, the singer, who had a hit with ‘As Tears Go By’, reflects on poet Allen Ginsberg. She also recalls how, high on smack, she walked away from the part of Lady Macbeth given to her by Roman Polanski. The book is a quirky treat.

11: Debbie Harry: Face It (HarperCollins, 2019)

As part of Blondie , singer and actress Debbie Harry was one of the most original and successful female singers of the 70s. Her tales of stardom are vivid, and her account of growing up is self-deprecating and amusing; there are stories galore of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll in this entertaining memoir. She also offers surprises, as with her recollections about her passion for jazz musicians such as Billie Holiday , Dizzy Gillespie, and Ornette Coleman.

10: Elvis Costello: Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (Penguin, 2016)

For Elvis Costello fans, the 2016 memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink was rich in details about his own writing process and the experiences and emotions that inspired classic songs such as ‘Alison’ and ‘Oliver’s Army’. Costello offers wry details about his background – his father, Ross MacManus, was a dance-hall performer – and the stories about his collaborations with giants such as Paul McCartney , Burt Bacharach , and Allen Toussaint are riveting.

9: Bruce Springsteen: Born To Run (Simon & Schuster, 2016)

The man known as “The Boss” has been one of the most dominant figures in rock music for more than 40 years. His forthright memoir sheds light on his long-standing battle with depression, his troubled relationship with his father, and his own searing ambitions. This is an enjoyable, candid self-portrait by a fine songwriter and complicated man.

8: Chrissie Hynde: Reckless: My Life As A Pretender (Ebury, 2015)

Singer-songwriter Chrissie Hynde admits in the prologue to her memoir that she waited to publish her autobiography until her straitlaced parents had died: “I would have had to leave out the bad language and tell a lot of lies about what I’d been doing all that time I was gone.” The result is a compelling, candid account of the music business, one filled with memorable anecdotes and harrowing revelations.

7: Eric Clapton: The Autobiography (Cornerstone, 2007)

Eric Clapton’s account of his life is stark and painfully honest. He deals with his strange background, his addiction problems, and his “ruthless” pursuit of musical excellence. The guitarist, who gained fame with The Yardbirds and Cream , also covers the love triangle that involved Clapton, Pattie Boyd, and George Harrison . Clapton’s autobiography is notably devoid of the defensiveness and evasions normally found in celebrity memoirs.

6: Kim Gordan: Girl In A Band (Faber, 2015)

Kim Gordon was the charismatic frontwoman in Sonic Youth – alongside husband Thurston Moore. In this fascinating memoir, she recalls their shambolic early days, her feud with Courtney Love, and the cut-throat music business of the early 80s. “Women aren’t allowed to be kick-ass. I refused to play the game,” says Gordon. Her descriptions of New York in the 80s, when Sonic Youth formed, are especially fine sections.

5: Elton John: Me (Pan Macmillan, 2019)

Elton John says he has lived “an extraordinary life” and his autobiography, Me , is a hilarious, candid window into that life. John recalls the life-changing lucky stroke of teaming up with songwriter Bernie Taupin and offers an honest appraisal of how his life fell apart as a superstar, when he became hooked on drugs. There are also lots of funny stories about fellow musicians such as Freddie Mercury and Rod Stewart .

4: Miles Davis: Miles: The Autobiography (Simon & Schuster, 1989)

The memoir from one of the greatest jazz men of all time is rich in stories, self-analysis, and reflections on music. There are some lovely passages in which he recalls his excitement at hearing Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in a St Louis nightclub in 1944. It was his first live exposure to bebop . The constant use of profanity in the book caused controversy, as did his candid reflections on his own failings, including his problems with drug addiction. His behavior is sometimes repulsive – he admits to pimping to support his habit – but Miles remains an eminently readable autobiography.

3: Bob Dylan: Chronicles: Volume One (Simon & Schuster, 2004)

This modest, plain-spoken, and thoughtful opening installment of Bob Dylan’s memoirs deals with his life as folk troubadour in Greenwich Village in the early 60s. The way he talks about musical mentors such as Hank Williams , Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash is touching. As you would expect from someone who has won The Nobel Prize In Literature, he is also well-read, and expresses his admiration for Balzac and Chekhov, among others. The tone of the book becomes more cutting when he is dealing with his own growing fame. This offbeat, ruminative book is a must-read for Dylan fans.

2: Patti Smith: Just Kids (Ecco, 2010)

Patti Smith gives a heartfelt account of her artistic education and love affair with her friend Robert Mapplethorpe in the evocative memoir Just Kids . Her account of working in a factory and living in a succession of squalid New York apartments is intense and edgy, as she worked her way towards becoming an influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album, Horses . Just Kids won the prestigious 2010 National Book Award For Nonfiction.

1: Keith Richards: Life (Orion, 2011)

Keith Richards ’ life story pulsates with outlandish tales. His accounts of growing up in wartime Dartford are fascinating and, from the moment he signs to Decca Records with The Rolling Stones , he is at the center of the British music scene. Richards holds little back about his wild, drug-filled days in music, but he also conveys his rapturous delight at the music he loved, especially from blues stars such as Howlin’ Wolf , Little Walter , and Muddy Waters .

Looking for more? Discover the best illustrated music books of all time .

January 29, 2020 at 10:41 pm

Another excellent read is ‘Is That It?’ by Bob Geldof, a straightforward, tell it like it is autobiography.

Malcolm McLean

May 11, 2020 at 2:32 pm

A great list there! I also loved Jake Shears’s memoir ‘Boys Keep Swinging’, Tracey Thorn’s ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’ and Viv Albertine’s ‘Clothes, Music. Boys.’ Anyone interested in music fan memoirs could check out the one I recently wrote and released, from a pop superfan’s perspective – ‘Freak Like Me: Confessions of a 90s pop groupie’. It’s a pretty lighthearted book, full of 90s and early 2000s pop nostalgia, a collection of my memories as a teenage pop hanger-on, attending Top of the Pops week in, week out, and watching the changing chart music landscape, all whilst finding my place in the world. Check it out if it sounds up anyone’s street!

Nicholas Curcio

June 5, 2021 at 2:38 pm

Raise Up Off Me: A Portrait of Hampton Hawes

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Read Ahead: A Release Calendar of Music Books & Biographies Being Published in 2023

Highly anticipated books by Britney Spears, Barbra Streisand and more are hitting shelves this year.

By Hannah Dailey

Hannah Dailey

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Britney Spears

In the upcoming chapters of 2023, quite a few promising page-turners are expected to hit the “Music” shelf in a bookstore near you.

Spanning all genres and time periods, the second half of this year holds dozens of commentaries, historical deep dives, juicy biographies and more music-related volumes in store. So whether you’re in need of a rainy day read, beach suntanning entertainment or a before-bed future bestseller, Billboard has rounded up a list of upcoming books fit for even the most casual of music fans to pour over in the coming months – and it’s bound to have something you’ll love.

Take Britney Spears ‘ memoir The Woman In Me , for example. One of the most anticipated memoirs of all time (with a price tag of $15 million ), Spears announced that the autobiographical project would finally arrive in October just three months ahead of time. And speaking of highly anticipated memoirs, Barbra Streisand ‘s My Name Is Barbra finally has a November release date, after years of delay. The book, which will detail the Broadway icon’s astronomical career, has been in the making since 2015.

Plus, look out for books by or featuring words from such other legends as Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Jeff Tweedy on the list below. Make sure to bookmark this page so you can keep checking back for updates as more titles are announced in the future.

See Billboard ‘s list of music books to watch out for this year, including release dates, below:

  • Alan Paul, Brothers and Sisters: The Allman Brothers Band and the Inside Story of the Album That Defined the ’70s
  • Kiana Fitzgerald, Ode to Hip-Hop: 50 Albums That Define 50 Years of Trailblazing Music
  • Amy Winehouse, Amy Winehouse: In Her Words
  • Jeremy Eichler, Time’s Echo: The Second World War, the Holocaust, and the Music of Remembrance
  • Melissa Etheridge, Talking to My Angels
  • Juicy J & Soren Baker, Chronicles of the Juice Man: A Memoir
  • Laura Flam, Emily Sieu Liebowitz, But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: An Oral History of the ’60s Girl Groups
  • Holly Gleason, Prine on Prine: Interviews and Encounters with John Prine
  • Paula Blackman, Night Train to Nashville: The Greatest Untold Story of Music City
  • Stephen M. Silverman, Sondheim: His Life, His Shows, His Legacy
  • Jann S. Wenner, The Masters: Conversations with Dylan, Lennon, Jagger, Townshend, Garcia, Bono, and Springsteen
  • Jeff Apter, Keith Urban
  • Reba McEntire, Not That Fancy: Simple Lessons on Living, Loving, Eating, and Dusting Off Your Boots
  • Sowmya Krishnamurthy, Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion
  • Joe Coscarelli,  Rap Capital: An Atlanta Story
  • Dolly Parton, Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones
  • Brian Southall, Bee Gees – The Illustrated Story
  • Britney Spears, The Woman in Me
  • Thurston Moore, Sonic Life: A Memoir
  • Philip Norman, George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle
  • Mary Gabriel, Madonna: A Rebel Life
  • Michael Azerrad, The Amplified Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana
  • Willie Nelson, Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs
  • Barbra Streisand, My Name Is Barbra
  • Jeff Tweedy, World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music
  • Ralph H. Craig III, Dancing in My Dreams: A Spiritual Biography of Tina Turner
  • Benoit Clerc, Metallica All the Songs: The story behind every track
  • Kenneth Womack, Living the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans
  • Johnny Cash & John Carter Cash with Mark Stielper, Johnny Cash: The Life in Lyrics
  • Snoop Dogg & E-40: Goon With the Spoon
  • Greg McDonald & Marshall Terrill, Elvis and the Colonel: An Insider’s Look at the Most Legendary Partnership in Show Business

(Releases TBD)

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The 50 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time

By Rob Sheffield

Rob Sheffield

Funny thing about rock & roll memoirs: They tend to have the same plot. Our heroes begin with big dreams about making it as rock stars. There’s the sleazy bars, the cheap motels, the shady managers. Then they get a taste of the big time: hit records, limos, drug orgies, groupies, diseases, the works. What could go wrong? Craaaash! But, hey, Elizabethan revenge tragedies all have the same plot too, and nobody complains when the royal family gets butchered in the final scene. Great rock memoirs don’t always come from great artists: Sometimes it takes one-hit wonders, losers, hacks, junkies, crooks. Every rock & roll character has a story to tell. Here are 50 of our favorites.

Steven Tyler: ‘Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?’ (2011)

Steven Tyler: 'Does The Noise in My Head Bother You?' (2011)

If you can find a single coherent sentence in this book, write and tell the publisher, so they can correct this error in future editions. But happy hunting, because Steven Tyler’s brain is located, as he puts it, “in the way-out-a-sphere.” From Aerosmith to American Idol , Tyler has been “61 Highwayed and I did it my wayed; Little-Willie-Johned and been-here-and-goned; million-dollar riffed and Jimmy Cliffed; cotton-picked and Stevie Nick’d.”

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Nikki Sixx: ‘The Heroin Diaries’ (2007)

Nikki Sixx: 'The Heroin Diaries' (2007)

This one gets the “truth in packaging” award — Nikki Sixx does so many drugs in this book it should come in an aluminum-foil dust jacket. It’s more personal than The Dirt , but just as juicy. It might be cheating to mention  The Heroin Diaries on a list like this, since there’s barely any mention of his music, but anyone even vaguely interested in Mötley Crüe is going to be fine with that.

Alice Bag: ‘Violence Girl’ (2011)

Alice Bag, ‘Violence Girl’ (2011)

A Chicana punk coming-of-age story from East L.A., where a barrio kid named Alicia Armendariz starts a hardcore band called the Bags, battles her way to the stage, then finds she has to keep on battling. Raised on the Mexican ranchera records of her immigrant parents, baptized in 1970s glam rock, Alice Bag thrives on her confrontational dust-ups with the slam-dancing mosh pit crew, in her pink dress and high heels. For her, it’s all about “the giddy adrenaline rush of the fight.”

Billy Idol: ‘Dancing With Myself’ (2017)

Billy Idol: 'Dancing With Myself' (2017)

Billy Idol seems to show up at least once in every Eighties-Nineties memoir, usually when some sort of pharmaceutical dessert is consumed. So it’s only fitting he wrote his own. Hell, Billy’s index has more drama than most books: “Idol, Billy, cocaine use of,” “GHB overdose of,” “hair of,” “police anti-crack sting,” “violin lessons of.” From “White Wedding” to “Cradle of Love,” his purple prose is a thing of beauty, as when an early punk romance breaks up because the drugs “dashed my hopes on the rocks of desire as the sea poured into our kingdom.” No matter where he is, Billy never idles.

Debbie Harry: ‘Face It’ (2019)

Debbie Harry: Face It (2019)

The Blondie grande dame has told her story before — most notably in Making Tracks , her great 1982 photo-history with Chris Stein and Victor Bockris. But Face It has the complete saga: how Debbie Harry came out of nowhere to seduce the world, from CBGB to The Muppet Show , then lost it all, yet refused to give up and quit. Her whole book has the glorious sneer of a tough old punk queen who knows how cool she is and does not care if you agree. “My Blondie character was an inflatable doll, but with a dark, provocative, aggressive side. I was playing it up, yet I was very serious.”

Rick James: ‘Glow’ (2014)

Rick James: 'Glow' (2014)

Fame — it’s a hell of a drug. Rick James begins his chronicle in Folsom Prison after flaming out on crack, in the hard times between his “Super Freak” peak and his Chappelle’s Show comeback, which explains why it’s not titled I’m Rick James, Bitch . In the Sixties, he plays in a hippie band with a not-yet-famous Neil Young, stays up all night with Joni Mitchell grooving to Sketches of Spain , cruises the Whiskey a Go Go with David Crosby, gets turned on to acid by Jim Morrison. Then he sees KISS and gets a lesson in showmanship. Rick becomes the King of Punk Funk, hitting Studio 54 (“Tanya Tucker was my best friend”?) and beefing with Prince. And along the way, he meets some very, very kinky girls.

Elton John: ‘Me’ (2019)

Elton John: ‘Me’ (2019)

When Elton published his long-threatened memoir in late 2019, the world learned why the biopic Rocketman was such a humorless drag — it turned out Captain Fantastic was saving all the juiciest dish for his own superb book. Me has the right mix of salty gossip and even saltier self-mockery. A shy English schoolboy named Reginald Dwight decides to become a glitter-rock starlet, dubs himself Elton, peacocks through the Seventies, only to end up a respectable elder statesman. Hello, yellow brick road.

Gucci Mane: ‘The Autobiography of Gucci Mane’ (2017)

Gucci Mane, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane (2017)

Dean Wareham: ‘Black Postcards’ (2008)

Dean Wareham: 'Black Postcards' (2008)

Dean Wareham led the great New York guitar band Luna through the 1990s, after the breakup of the Boston indie pioneers Galaxie 500. He shares the dirty details of how tedious it can be to plug away in a semi-famous, halfway-to-the-big-time rock band: the airports, the motels, the bickering band politics, the broken relationships, the constant asking around to see who’s got the drugs. Nobody in this story gets rich, or even seems to break even — all anyone gets out of the experience is a few dozen excellent songs. And that ends up being enough.

Bobbie Brown: ‘Dirty Rocker Boys’ (2013)

dirty rocker boys

Peter Hook: ‘Substance: Inside New Order’ (2016)

Peter Hook: Substance: Inside New Order (2016)

Neil Peart: ‘Ghost Rider’ (2002)

Neil Peart: Ghost Rider (2002)

In the summer of 1997, Neil Peart’s teenage daughter Selena dies in a car crash. Less than a year later, his wife Jackie dies of cancer. So he gets on his motorcycle and hits the road, from Quebec to the Yukon, then down south to Mexico and Belize. He rides thousands of solitary miles, brooding over his grief, with no home to go back to, while his brothers in Rush give him the time he needs to fire up the willing engine. Ghost Rider is different from anything Peart wrote for Rush — an unusually personal statement from such a shy and private writer. But the Professor brings all his analytical rigor to these road journals — and leans on the healing power of mechanical music.

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Tegan and Sara: ‘High School’ (2019)

Tegan and Sara: High School (2019)

Donald Fagen: ‘Eminent Hipsters’ (2013)

Donald Fagen: Eminent Hipsters (2013)

Joe Boyd: ‘White Bicycles’ (2006)

Joe Boyd: White Bicycles (2006)

John Lydon: ‘Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’ (1993)

John Lydon: 'Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs' (1993)

The former Johnny Rotten has all the dirt about how the Sex Pistols pissed off the world. But he’s also got poignant details about his hardscrabble youth in London’s Irish-immigrant squalor, raised by a mother even more badass than he was. He also shares his deep hatred for religion, the Queen, the other Sex Pistols, hippies, rich people, racists, sexists, the English political system, Malcolm McLaren, and, of course, Pink Floyd . “A lot of people feel the Sex Pistols were just negative,” he says. “I agree, and what the fuck is wrong with that? Sometimes the absolute most positive thing you can be in a boring society is completely negative.”

Gregg Allman: ‘My Cross to Bear’ (2012)

Gregg Allman: 'My Cross To Bear' (2012)

A Southern Gothic rock epic. The Allman Brother sings “Whipping Post,” he snorts himself senseless, he rats on his drug roadie. And, of course, he marries Cher . On their first date, he even manages to stay off heroin until right after dinner. “I went to her house in a limousine, and when she came out, she said, ‘Fuck that funeral car,’ and handed me the keys to her blue Ferrari.… She didn’t have shit to say to me, and I didn’t have shit to say to her. What’s the topic of conversation? It certainly ain’t singing.” The second date goes a little better: “We made some serious love.”

Boy George: ‘Take It Like a Man’ (1995)

Boy George: 'Take It Like A Man' (1995)

The confessions of a natural-born poseur. Boy George grows up as the “pink sheep” of his working-class Irish Catholic family, getting his start on the London club scene as a coat-check boy with a face full of cosmetics and a reputation for picking the customers’ pockets. He becomes an international pop sensation with Culture Club, while having a torrid affair with the drummer. The Boy doesn’t worry about making himself seem likable — quite the opposite. He bitches himself out along with everybody else, which is why his catty recollections make this book addictive.

Marilyn Manson: ‘The Long Hard Road Out of Hell’ (1998)

Marilyn Manson: The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell (1998)

Luke Haines: ‘Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Role in Its Downfall’ (2009)

Luke Haines: Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Role in Its Downfall (2009)

Brian Wilson: ‘I Am Brian Wilson’ (2016)

Brian Wilson: I Am Brian Wilson (2016)

Robbie Robertson: ‘Testimony’ (2016)

Robbie Robertson: Testimony (2016)

Lemmy: ‘White Line Fever’ (2002)

Lemmy: White Line Fever (2002)

Neil Young: ‘Special Deluxe’ (2014)

Neil Young: Special Deluxe (2014)

Henry Rollins: ‘Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag’ (1994)

Henry Rollins: 'Get In The Van: On The Road With Black Flag' (1994)HenryRoll

Did Jack Kerouac ever write a book this great? In a word, no. This is the real on-the-road American adventure: a band of antisocial maniacs who hate each other crammed in a van, bumming from town to town, sleeping on floors when they’re lucky, getting clubbed by the cops when they’re not, doing it all for those few minutes of glorious noise. Black Flag were hardcore pioneers who paved the road other bands have traveled ever since, and Rollins’ tour diaries are the essence of that pain-is-my-girlfriend punk spirit.

Kim Gordon: ‘Girl in a Band’ (2015)

Kim Gordon: Girl in a Band

Jay-Z: ‘Decoded’ (2010)

Jay-Z: 'Decoded' (2010)

If you’re curious about what it’s really like to be Shawn Carter , you’ll learn more about his hard-knock life from his albums, which have always gone heavy on the In My Lifetime narrative. But what he’s really trying to do here in Decoded is write the whole story of hip-hop, merely using himself as a prime example, as he rises from criminal-minded fan to industry kingpin. Like he says, “Rap is built to handle contradictions.” Most surprising moment: Hov defends the Coldplay duet “Beach Chair” as “one of the hidden jewels of my catalog.”

Tommy James: ‘Me, the Mob and the Music’ (2010)

Tommy James: 'Me, The Mob and the Music' (2010)

The Goodfellas of rock & roll literature. Everybody knows the Tommy James oldies — “Mony Mony,” “Hanky Panky,” “Crimson and Clover,” etc. But according to Tommy, these songs got on the radio because he had some influential mobbed-up friends pulling the strings. (And, of course, pocketing the loot.) The whole topic of criminal connections in the music business is still taboo — see Fredric Dannen’s 1990 classic Hit Men for the full picture. But Tommy James is the first star to tell the story from the inside: How the Mafia gave the world “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

David Lee Roth: ‘Crazy From the Heat’ (1998)

David Lee Roth: 'Crazy From The Heat' (1998)

You know what’s crazy? How underrated this book is. Diamond Dave’s book of pensees really deserves to be read wherever generally insane ramblings by generally insane dudes are read. Crazy From the Heat barely got noticed because it came out in the late Nineties, when public interest in Van Halen was at an all-time low. But every page abounds with his stark-raving lunatic eat-‘em-and-smile rock & roll Zen wisdom. Preach, Dave: “I’m not real good with baby steps. My specialty is ass-kicking. Does that sound unreasonable? It may well be, but I guarantee you, you will find no reasonable man on top of big mountains.”

Kristin Hersh: ‘Rat Girl’ (2010)

Kristin Hersh: 'Rat Girl' (2010)

Even if you don’t know Kristin Hersh’s band Throwing Muses, Rat Girl is a crucial first-hand account of the Eighties indie-rock uprising. Her narrative voice is warm, friendly, and surprisingly funny. When Hersh gets pregnant and decides to have the kid, without giving up her band, she shrugs, “I’ll cross the living-in-a-van-is-probably-child-abuse bridge when I come to it.” Deep down it’s a story about messed-up kids finding one other, starting a band, and accidentally scrounging up an audience of similarly messed-up kids. It belongs on the shelf next to Michael Azerrad’s classic Our Band Could Be Your Life .

Morrissey: ‘Autobiography’ (2013)

Morrissey: Autobiography (2013)

Richard Hell: ‘I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp’ (2013)

Richard Hell: I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp (2013)

Chuck Berry: ‘The Autobiography’ (1987)

Chuck Berry: 'The Autobiography' (1987)

The “Johnny B. Goode” man who invented rock & roll tells a few stories about what he saw along the way. As a Fifties black pop star, scoring hit records in a land full of violent racism, his story seems to touch on all the contradictions and injustices of American culture. In the early Sixties, while bands like the Beatles , the Stones , and the Beach Boys were hero-worshipping him, Berry himself was rotting in jail, railroaded in a blatantly racist trial. That’s where he wrote the deeply ironic “Promised Land” — a classic celebration of American dreams, written in a prison cell.

David Bowie: ‘Moonage Daydream: The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust’ (2002)

David Bowie: 'Moonage Daydream: The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust' (2002)

It’s a massive coffee-table art book, with lavish images of Bowie in the Seventies from photographer Mick Rock . But the main attraction of Moonage Daydream is the text by the man himself. He’s in top form, whether he’s shopping for shoes with Cyrinda Foxe (who teaches him to wear “palm-tree’d fuck-me pumps”) or sipping tea with Elton John (“We didn’t exactly become pals, not really having that much in common, especially musically”), or partying it up with Mick Jagger (“I have absolutely no recollections of this party at all”). The closest this world will ever get to a straight-up Bowie autobiography — but who’d ever want anything straight-up from Bowie?

Rod Stewart: ‘Rod’ (2012)

Rod Stewart: Rod (2012)

Anthony Kiedis: ‘Scar Tissue’ (2004)

Anthony Kiedis: 'Scar Tissue' (2004)

The Red Hot Chili Pepper tells a quintessential made-in-L.A., rise-and-fall-and-rise story, complete with all the californicatory details. Kiedis muses about his childhood, his band, his face time with the Dalai Lama, and his many, many, many ex-girlfriends, most of whom inspire him to share a kind word, a nude photo, or both. (Ione Skye was “an au naturel, soft, soulful forest nymph.”) Scar Tissue has the best final sentence of any book on this list, starring Keidis’ lovable pooch Buster: “And when I do think, ‘Man, a fucking motel room with a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of narcotics would do me right,’ I just look over at my dog and remember that Buster’s never seen me high.” Let’s hope Kiedis writes a whole book about Buster some day.

Ronnie Spector: ‘Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness’ (1989)

Ronnie Spector: 'Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness' (1989)

The New York doll of the Ronettes had one of rock & roll’s biggest voices. She also had one of rock & roll’s most famously nightmarish marriages, as she was practically kept captive by Phil Spector for years. But if you’re looking for self-pity, you’ll be disappointed, because her book, like her voice, is full of cocky, smart, self-aware humor. And, yes, in case you were wondering, it totally sucked to be married to Phil Spector.

John Taylor: ‘In the Pleasure Groove’ (2012)

John Taylor: In The Pleasure Groove (2012)

Paul McCartney: ‘Many Years From Now’ (1997)

Paul McCartney: 'Many Years From Now' (1997)

Officially this is an “authorized biography,” by longtime Macca friend Barry Miles. But that’s just a front, because the book really exists as a vehicle for Paul to tell his story in his own words. Every page has killer lines, like when he reveals “Can’t Buy Me Love” was recorded after a nine-day orgy with Miami Beach’s finest hookers: “It should been ‘Can Buy Me Love,’ actually.” Some fans were put off by the way he squabbles over credits, even breaking down songwriting by percentages. (To pick one controversial example, he calculates that “Norwegian Wood” as 40 percent his and 60 percent John’s.) But on the page, as well as in song, his voice overflows with wit and affection. And he did less to fuck up his good luck than any rock star who has ever existed, which might be why his memories make such marvelous company.

Nile Rodgers: ‘Le Freak’ (2011)

Nile Rodgers: 'Le Freak' (2011)

The “sex, drugs, and disco” revolution of the Seventies, as seen by the Chic guitarist who permanently changed the way music sounds and feels and moves. This is a cerebral and unabashed celebration of disco; as Nile Rodgers puts it, “We shared Afrobromantic dreams of what it would be like to have real artistic freedom.” He also reveals that when he and Bernard Edwards wrote the classic “Upside Down” for Diana Ross , everybody at Motown hated it. The song would have been axed forever, if not for the one listener who recognized its brilliance. “We played it for Gene Simmons of KISS , who was recording next door, and he told us it was great. We respected Gene, but he was dating Diana Ross at the time, so what else would he say?”

Carrie Brownstein: ‘Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl’ (2015)

Carrie Brownstein: Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl (2015)

The RZA: ‘The Tao of Wu’ (2009)

The RZA: 'The Tao of Wu' (2009)

How do you choose between the RZA’s two excellent memoirs? ( Choose the sword and you join me. Choose the ball and you join your mother. You don’t understand my words, but you must choose! ) The first installment, The Wu-Tang Manual , is more of a beginners-guide handbook to the Shaolin mythology. But The Tao of Wu digs deeper, as the RZA broods on hip-hop and spirituality. He combines esoteric Buddhism, true mathematics, kung-fu flicks, chess tactics, and comic books into his own unique theosophical ruckus.

Slash: ‘Slash’ (2007)

Slash: ‘Slash’ (2007)

There’s no shortage of Sunset Strip metal-sleaze gossip books out there, including other excellent GN’R memoirs — see Steven Adler’s My Appetite for Destruction or Duff McKagan’s It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) . But Slash’s book is surprisingly reflective, yet hilariously blasé about all his decadence. Low point: Slash collapses during a hotel drug binge and gets rushed to the hospital, where the doctors restart his heart. He complains, “I had no remorse whatsoever about my overdose — but I was pissed off at myself for having died. The whole hospital excursion really ate into my day off.”

Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz: ‘Beastie Boys Book’ (2018)

Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz: Beastie Boys Book (2018)

Viv Albertine: ‘Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys’ (2014)

Viv Albertine: Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys (2014)

Keith Richards: ‘Life’ (2010)

Keith Richards: 'Life' (2010)

Like a lot of books on this list — only more so — Life makes you marvel that the guy who lived through all this chaos could end up remembering any of it. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how a guy who lived the rock & roll myth as hard as Keith Richards could still talk his way through a transaction at the drive-through window, let alone a book this great. Despite all the cranky bitching about Mick , this book exceeded any reasonable expectation for literary Keefness.

Questlove: ‘Mo Meta Blues’ (2013)

Questlove: Mo Meta Blues (2013)

Bruce Springsteen: ‘Born to Run’ (2016)

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (2016)

Patti Smith: ‘Just Kids’ (2010)

Patti Smith: 'Just Kids' (2010)

An incredibly romantic portrait of two young hustlers in the big city: Patti Smith and her best friend, artist Robert Mapplethorpe, have to keep telling each other how great they are, because nobody else will believe it. The most amazing thing about this book is the warmth, the lack of bitterness — what Smith seems to remember most about New York bohemia in the 1960s is all the moments of awkward kindness. Best scene: Allen Ginsberg buys Patti a cheese-and-lettuce sandwich at the Automat, because he thinks she’s a pretty boy. When she breaks the news that she’s a girl, she asks, “Well, does this mean I return the sandwich?” Ginsberg just keeps talking to her about Jack Kerouac while she eats — a gentleman as well as a poet.

Bob Dylan: ‘Chronicles, Volume One’ (2004)

Bob DylaBob Dylan: ‘Chronicles, Volume One’ (2004)n

Everybody knew this guy had a way with words. But it’s safe to say that nobody expected his autobiography to be this intense. He rambles from one fragment of his life to another, with crazed characters and weird scenes in every chapter. It all hangs together, from his Minnesota boyhood (who knew Dylan started out as such a big wrestling fan?) to the “deserted orchards and dead grass” of his Eighties bottoming-out phase. He evokes his early folk-rogue days in New York, even though he hated being perceived as the voice of a generation: “I was more a cowpuncher than a Pied Piper.” So where’s that Nobel Prize already?

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100 Must-Read Musician Memoirs and Biographies

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Ashley Holstrom

Ashley Holstrom helps make books at Sourcebooks. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color. Newsletter: Crooked Reads . Twitter: @alholstrom .

View All posts by Ashley Holstrom

At least, that’s how I ended up obsessed with Guns N’ Roses. And The Doors. And Motley Crue. And Aerosmith. And, in the future, many more that I’m holding on to for just the right moment.

Here are 100 musician memoirs and biographies, sorted by the music’s genre (loosely defined), to get you rockin’ and rollin’ and movin’ and groovin’.


My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman

Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie

Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh

Love, Janis by Laura Joplin

Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn, George Vecsey

Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography by Jimmy McDonough

Reba: My Story by Reba McEntire, Tom Carter

It’s a Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock by Gene Odom, Frank Dorman

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt

The 50th Law by 50 Cent, Robert Greene

Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm by Percy Carey, Ronald Wimberly

Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality by Chuck D, Yusuf Jah

The Way I Am by Eminem

Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood by Ice-T, Douglas Century

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore

The Tao of Wu by The RZA

The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur

How to Ruin Everything: Essays by George Watsky

Gone ‘Til November by Lil Wayne

The Good Life by Tony Bennett

The Godfather of Soul: An Autobiography by James Brown

Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch

Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis

Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters by Robert Gordon

Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B.B. King by B.B. King, David Ritz

John Coltrane: His Life and Music by Lewis Porter

Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in Her Time by Phyllis Rose

Now and Then… by Gil Scott-Heron

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout


Catch a Fire: The Autobiography by Melanie B.

Black By Design: A 2-Tone Memoir by Pauline Black

Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash by Pat Gilbert

Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace

If Only by Geri Halliwell

Herbie Hancock: Possibilities by Herbie Hancock, Lisa Dickey

Reckless: My Life as a Pretender by Chrissie Hynde

Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs by John Lydon

I’ll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones, Paul Morley

A Natural Woman: A Memoir by Carole King

Army of She: Icelandic, Iconoclastic, Irrepressible Björk by Evelyn McDonnell


Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones by Dee Dee Ramone

Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag by Henry Rollins

Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, or My Life As a Fabulous Ronette by Ronnie Spector, Vince Waldron

Rod: The Autobiography by Rod Stewart

Diana Ross: A Biography by J. Randy Taraborrelli

In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran by Nigel John Taylor

I, Tina by Tina Turner, Kurt Loder

Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White

Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been by Pharrell Williams

Rock ‘n’ Roll

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

Between a Heart and a Rock Place: A Memoir by Pat Benatar

Chuck Berry: The Autobiography by Chuck Berry

Moonage Daydream: The Life & Times of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Lips Unsealed: A Memoir by Belinda Carlisle

Cash by Johnny Cash

Clapton: The Autobiography by Eric Clapton

Journals by Kurt Cobain

Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello


  Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix by Charles R. Cross

Neon Angel by Cherie Currie

Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division by Deborah Curtis

Hammer of the Gods by Stephen Davis

Things The Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett

Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac by Mick Fleetwood, Stephen Davis

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick

Diary of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star by Ian Hunter

Dancing with Myself by Billy Idol

Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones

Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis

White Line Fever by Lemmy Kilmister


The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee

Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead by Phil Lesh

Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love by Courtney Love

The Long Hard Road Out of Hell by Marilyn Manson

Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd by Nick Mason, Philip Dodd

It’s So Easy: And Other Lies by Duff McKagan

Autobiography by Morrissey

Joan Jett by Todd Oldham, Joan Jett

I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne

Rocks: My Life in and out of Aerosmith by Joe Perry

Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley


Life by Keith Richards

Crazy from the Heat by David Lee Roth

Bird Lives!: The High Life & Hard Times of Charlie (Yardbird) Parker by Ross Russell

Slash by Slash, Anthony Bozza

Somebody to Love?: A Rock-and-Roll Memoir by Grace Slick, Andrea Cagan

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Face the Music: A Life Exposed by Paul Stanley

Seven Deadly Sins: Settling the Argument Between Born Bad and Damaged Good by Corey Taylor

Who I Am by Pete Townshend

The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa, Peter Occhiogrosso

Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke by Peter Guralnick

Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday, William Dufty

Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz

Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues by Elijah Wald

Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman by Fred Wesley

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Viv Albertine of the Slits.

From Bob Dylan to Viv Albertine: 10 of the best music biographies

Addiction, poetry, flirting with Scientology: these candid memoirs and biographies reveal the inner lives of musicians

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

(Faber & Faber, 2014) A no-nonsense sojourn through Albertine’s life as guitarist in the Slits and, later, as a film-maker, mother and divorcee, and during which she blithely chats about masturbation, catching crabs and giving Johnny Rotten a blowjob. It’s a terrific read and provides a corrective to the reigning punk narrative where men are the creative geniuses and women the bit-part players.

Le Freak by Nile Rodgers

(Sphere, 2011) Teenage homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction, oral pleasure in the toilets at Studio 54, cancer, plus a fistful of hits with Madonna, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and his own band, Chic. The legendary hitmaker’s life is more eventful than most and the details are shared with wit and wisdom.

Bob Dylan.

Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan

(Simon and Schuster, 2004) Thousands of books have been written about Dylan so, to understand who he is, perhaps it is best to get it from the horse’s mouth . Impressionistic, intense and with deliberate omissions, Chronicles covers his first year in New York in 1961, flashing back to his childhood in Minnesota and forward to the creative doldrums of the late 80s.

The Life & Times of Malcolm McLaren by Paul Gorman

(Constable, 2020) An 800-page doorstop devoted to the Sex Pistols manager , variously dubbed here a “genius” and “conman”. Gorman’s biography bulges with outrageous tales of brilliance and folly, from early adventures in fashion and music to forays into hip-hop, reality TV and politics.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

(Bloomsbury, 2010) A tender, evocative chronicle of the poet and singer Patti Smith ’s relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, as the pair roamed 70s New York and dedicated themselves to their art. Celebrity wasn’t the goal, but when they pass a shop playing Smith’s hit, Because the Night, Mapplethorpe exclaims: “Patti, you got famous before me!”

Keith Richards.

Life by Keith Richards

(W&N, 2010) Given the legendarily debauched life of the Rolling Stones guitarist, it’s a wonder that he can remember enough of it to fill a book. Eye-watering in its candour, Life gleefully takes us through music, money, arrests, fallouts, makeups, drugs and “chicks”. It’s gossipy, spry and an absolute hoot from beginning to end.

Sing Backwards and Weep by Mark Lanegan

(White Rabbit, 2020) Many rock memoirs come with a third act in which the artist achieves sobriety and disavows their former life. Not so Lanegan, who delivers grand guignol scenes of heroin-fuelled violence, degradation and self-abuse while recalling his Screaming Trees days, with little in the way of regrets. Rare in its rawness and bracing honesty .

Black By Design: A 2-Tone Memoir by Pauline Black

(Serpent’s Tail, 2011) The Selecter singer’s autobiography offers a vivid account of the 70s ska scene, during which National Front supporters would barge into the band’s gigs and sieg heil at the stage. It’s also a sensitive portrait of postwar racial tension and life as a black child adopted by white parents, during which Black felt “like a cuckoo in someone else’s nest”.

I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons

(Vintage, 2012) Simmons’s weighty treatise on Laughing Len traces the poet, novelist and singer from his early life in Montreal to his periods in New York, Hydra and California. There are surprising morsels here, among them Cohen’s flirtation with Scientology and his habit of stuffing tissues in his shoes to make himself taller.

Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis

(Simon & Schuster, 1990) By turns joyful, raw and plain disturbing, the jazz trumpeter’s autobiography is a warts-and-all account of a life in which music is celebrated, fellow musicians often slated and women denigrated and abused. It makes for grim reading in places but Davis is acute on art, race and his battles with drugs.

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Best Music Autobiographies: 20 Memoirs From Legendary Rockers

Best Music Autobiographies: 20 Memoirs From Legendary Rockers

Exploring the life and times of rock’n’roll’s most iconic stars, the best music autobiographies give us an insider’s look at stardom.

Providing a unique opportunity to glimpse into the minds of rock’n’roll’s most legendary figures, the best music autobiographies serve as a reminder of just how much these icons have shaped popular culture. From blues-rock journeyman Eric Clapton to genre-shaping visionary David Bowie , these memoirs delve deep into their authors’ psyches, going beyond their stage-based antics to explore their upbringing and give us a behind-the-scenes insight into their experiences of fame and stardom. Here, then, are the best music autobiographies – books that provide an intimate look at the lives and careers of some of the industry’s most legendary figures.

Listen to our Rock Classics playlist here , and check out the best music autobiographies, below.

20: chrissie hynde: ‘reckless: my life as a pretender’ (2015).

Reckless: My Life As A Pretender , by Chrissie Hynde, is a humorous and frank account of the new wave era songwriter’s life story. Known for her incomparable voice, style and attitude, Hynde weaves a witty and colourful narrative that follows her career journey from Akron, Ohio, to London in the 70s, where she formed Pretenders . Hynde candidly describes her harrowing experiences with grief following the deaths of bandmates James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, and reveals intimate details about her exploration of music, love and identity. Full of vivid storytelling, Reckless is a sharp-witted and eye-opening read among the best music autobiographies.

19: John Densmore: ‘Riders On The Storm: My Life With Jim Morrison And The Doors’ (1990)

Taking readers on a journey through his experiences as a founding member of The Doors , drummer John Densmore’s memoir, Riders On The Storm: My Life With Jim Morrison And The Doors , preceded the release of Oliver Stone’s 1991 Doors biopic, starring Val Kilmer. Given that Densmore acted as a consultant for that film, it’s hardly a surprise to discover that his memoir is just as compelling, recalling the time he spent making music with one of the best rock frontmen of all time , Jim Morrison , along with bandmates Ray Manzarek (keyboards) and Robby Krieger (guitar). The drummer guides readers through the wild ride of The Doors’ Los Angeles origins and on to their ascent as classic rock’s warrior kings. Readers will be fascinated by Densmore’s candid revelations about living in the eye of the storm that was the 60s counterculture, replete with details about all aspects of his life during that era, as well as reflecting upon how it shaped who he is today.

18: Debbie Harry: ‘Face It: A Memoir’ (2019)

Covering everything from her CBGB-era punk beginnings in the 70s, as the frontwoman for Blondie, to her various side projects as an actress and solo artist, Debbie Harry’s memoir, Face It , is a typically provocative account of her rise to frame. Unafraid to share secrets and embarrassing moments from her life – from details about her wild romantic relationships to discussing her struggles with heroin addiction, Harry’s frankness makes Face It a truly eye-opening read. Offering a window into her deep insights into how she fought bouts of depression, the book is a truly self-reflective primer on how to maintain a sense of confidence while navigating the darker aspects of fame.

17: Neil Young: ‘Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream’ (2012)

A gold rush of memories, Neil Young ’s memoir Waging Heavy Peace is an idiosyncratic and non-linear retelling of the singer-songwriter’s life. One of the best music autobiographies of recent years, it details the ups and downs of Young’s career, from his days as a folk-rock pioneer to becoming one of the best songwriters of all time . Through this book, readers get to see how the Canadian rocker has infused his music with personal stories and emotions that transcend generations. Speaking candidly about his passion for recording music and writing songs that have become evergreen classics, Young reflects on both his successes and failures, offering valuable lessons on how to be creative without compromising your values or goals. His words will inspire any budding creative.

16: Rod Stewart: ‘Rod: The Autobiography’ (2012)

Rod Stewart’s memoir, Rod: The Autobiography , is an entertaining and amusing story that goes beyond handbags and gladrags to follow Stewart’s career path from London mod to world-renowned rock star. The former Faces frontman and Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? hitmaker recounts his rollicking journey with impish humour, his natural charisma shining through every page as he reflects on the struggles and successes he has experienced during his long career. Throughout it all, while recounting stories about early influences such as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, Stewart remains self-deprecating and witty while never forgetting to mention those who have helped him along the way.

15: Eric Clapton: ‘Clapton: The Autobiography’ (2007)

The music industry is filled with legends, but few have had as big an impact as Eric Clapton. With a career spanning almost six decades, Clapton’s influence on popular music has been profound and enduring, so it’s hardly a surprise that his autobiography is also remarkable. Already known for his virtuoso guitar talents, Clapton’s writing style is accessible and heart-rending, containing stories such as the tragic death of his four-year-old son and his personal triumph of overcoming alcoholism. By candidly detailing his difficult upbringing, his childhood struggles with abandonment and identity, and the romantic relationships that defined different stages of his life, this is a must-read among the best music autobiographies.

14: Bob Dylan: ‘Chronicles: Volume One’ (2004)

Bob Dylan, the era-defining songwriter, caused a cultural earthquake when he released Chronicles: Volume One . Often cryptic and mysterious in his lyrics, nobody expected Dylan to reflect upon his life and career as eruditely as he does here, running as he does through a series of honest and introspective stories and recollections. From his early days as an up-and-coming folk musician in New York City’s Greenwich Village to his rise to global stardom and the subsequent demands of living with the baggage of the “voice of his generation” tag, Dylan offers an intimate look at how his journey has shaped him both as an artist and a human being. An enlightening entry among the best music autobiographies, Chronicles: Volume One has a raw honesty that captures the essence of Dylan’s unique voice, providing readers with an insight into the mind of one of a truly world-changing artist.

13: Keith Richards: ‘Life’ (2010)

It goes without saying that Keith Richards is the ultimate rock’n’roll survivor. Giving us a first-hand look at the wild world of The Rolling Stones, the legendary guitarist’s biography, Life , chronicles his life from childhood to adulthood and everything in between, including his humble beginnings growing up in Dartford, England, and international fame as the spiritual figurehead of one of the British Invasion’s most notorious rock bands. An intimate portrait of Richards’ personal journey through celebrity, Life features stories about Richards’ escapades with Mick Jagger, as well as his headline-grabbing experiences with drugs. In addition to humorous anecdotes about life on the road, the guitarist talks candidly about how he was able to emerge from addiction intact and how music has been a source of solace throughout his life.

12: Phil Collins: ‘Not Dead Yet: The Autobiography’ (2016)

Phil Collins ’ autobiography, Not Dead Yet , is an honest recount of his life and career. From the start, Collins speaks openly about his upbringing – he was drawn to music from an early age, taking up the drums at five years old and eventually becoming the drummer for prog-rock band Genesis. Written with great humility, the book moves between periods in Collins’ life, discussing his experiences with divorce as well as his professional successes, such as recording with Genesis and launching a successful solo career. Whether speaking about recording sessions or touring experiences, it becomes clear that Collins has lived an extraordinary life full of unique moments that have helped shape him into the star we know today.

11: Peter Hook: ‘Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division’ (2012)

As the bassist for Joy Division – one of the most influential post-punk bands of the late 70s – Peter Hook provides an intimate look at the band’s rise to prominence in Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division . Through a series of personal reflections, he takes readers behind the scenes to explore how Joy Division created its foreboding sound. Revealing unknown details about life on tour and what it was like working alongside frontman Ian Curtis , who committed suicide at age 23, the book offers captivating accounts of the band’s turbulent history. Through Hook’s words, we come to understand why Joy Division was so special – they were able to take dark themes such as death and despair and turn them into something beautiful through their music. Having penned one of the best music biographies of all time, Hook then went and did it all over again with a follow-up. Substance: Inside New Order , which continues the story of his game-changing career.

10: David Bowie with Mick Rock: ‘Moonage Daydream: The Life And Times Of Ziggy Stardust’ (2002)

Moonage Daydream: The Life And Times Of Ziggy Stardust is a captivating visual biography documenting the incredible rise to fame of one of music’s most influential figures. Alongside extraordinary photographs by Mick Rock, the ever mysterious David Bowie himself recounts his creative journey from glam-rock provocateur to art-rock Renaissance man, providing an insightful look into his genius and offering a rare glimpse into the work he created in the 70s. Capturing the energy and spirit of Ziggy Stardust’s artistic inception, Moonage Daydream truly highlights how Bowie’s contributions to popular culture profoundly affected music for generations to come.

9: Johnny Marr: ‘Set The Boy Free: The Autobiography’ (2016)

Set The Boy Free , the autobiography of The Smiths ’ guitarist Johnny Marr , serves as an incredible and honest look at the indie sensation’s life. Following Marr from his childhood in Manchester, England, to becoming one of the best guitarists of all time , the book vividly recounts his experience teaming up with Morrissey to form The Smiths, and how the pair revolutionised the 80s indie-rock scene. Weaving together tales from throughout his life – growing up as a working-class kid on a council estate; falling in love with the guitar – Marr’s autobiography offers a definitive take on how he did the unthinkable and made guitar music cool again.

8: Nile Rodgers: ‘Le Freak: An Upside Down Story Of Family, Disco And Destiny’ (2011)

Le Freak: An Upside Down Story Of Family, Disco And Destiny invites readers to learn more about the life of one of the world’s most influential musicians – the guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers . From his early days as a session musician to becoming a gatekeeper of funk and disco as the guitarist for Chic , Rodgers tells a rich and captivating story, drawing from his unconventional upbringing as well as his personal accounts of mental-health issues, and substance abuse. An intimate look at how the genre-defying artist found success despite life’s many roadblocks (he would go on to produce records for David Bowie, Duran Duran and Madonna , and collaborate with Daft Punk on the globe-straddling hit Get Lucky), Rodgers strings together anecdotes that are both funny and heartbreaking, and his free-spirited energy sees him faithfully recapture moments of joy and sorrow through vivid accounts of his career highs and lows.

7: Stephen Morris: ‘Record Play Pause: Confessions Of A Post-Punk Percussionist’ (2019)

Much like his bandmate Peter Hook, drummer Stephen Morris’ memoir Record Play Pause is an account of Joy Division’s early punk and post-punk days in 70s Britain. Through his personal recollections, readers gain an inside view into what it was like for Morris to be part of the musical revolution Joy Division engendered, as the drummer offers a glimpse into his childhood in Macclesfield, as well as his teenage years spent largely discovering music and exploring the sounds that would define him for years to come. From getting his first drum set at 14, through to recording with Joy Division, this memoir provides a candid look at how post-punk began. Record Play Pause also has a sequel, Fast Forward , which takes the story into the New Order era and also deserves a mention among the best music autobiographies.

6: Rob Halford: ‘Confess: The Autobiography’ (2020)

Rob Halford, the lead singer of the heavy metal band Judas Priest, gave fans a raw and honest look at his life in his autobiography, Confess . As he reflects on his career, personal struggles and relationships, it’s easy to see why Halford has become an icon for heavy metal music over the years, so diehard fans of Judas Priest will definitely want to pick up this book and read more about the man behind some of their favourite songs. Confess offers an in-depth look into Halford’s surprisingly multi-faceted life, with plenty of stories about his time in Judas Priest, touring the world, coming out as a pioneering LGBTQ+ icon and dealing with addiction issues. Halford also talks candidly about how it felt to be a rock star in a genre that wasn’t always accepted by mainstream society. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of heavy metal, this book is an insightful entry among the best music biographies.

5: Ozzy Osbourne: ‘I Am Ozzy’ (2009)

As the “Godfather Of Heavy Metal”, Ozzy Osbourne uses I Am Ozzy as a chance to run through his thrilling and tumultuous career, allowing fans to get a deeper look at his life as he recounts all his ups and downs in an honest and often humorous way. Written in a conversational style that feels as though you’re sitting with a long-lost friend, I Am Ozzy gives readers insight into what it was like growing up in post-war England, becoming the frontman for hard-rock giants Black Sabbath, dealing with drug addiction and depression, and finding success again with solo hits such as Crazy Train. Osbourne also dives into his latter years, discussing his family and how his wife, Sharon, is responsible for putting him on the path to sobriety.

4: Nick Mason: ‘Inside Out: A Personal History Of Pink Floyd’ (2004)

Inside Out: A Personal History Of Pink Floyd , by drummer Nick Mason, is a must-read for any fan of the iconic band. In this first-hand account of the group’s history, Mason recounts Pink Floyd’s incredible journey, from their early psychedelic-rock days to their massive prog-rock successes in the 70s and 80s. With vivid detail, Mason takes readers through every major moment in the group’s history, including the stories behind their first hit single, Arnold Layne, and their ambitious concept album The Wall. Throughout, Mason paints an evocative picture of life inside one of Britain’s most renowned bands, not only addressing the creative process but also shedding light on moments of joy and camaraderie, when his bandmates supported each other during some of the toughest times. It’s an engaging and fascinating read.

3: Bruce Springsteen: ‘Born To Run’ (2016)

Born To Run is a testament to Bruce Springsteen’s personal resilience and his unwavering commitment to the spirit of rock’n’roll. Chronicling The Boss’ early days growing up in New Jersey, as well as his rise to fame as the lead songwriter in The E Street Band, it’s an emotional journey from the man’s own viewpoint, filled with both joy and sorrow. As well as Springsteen’s recollections of life on tour, we also get honest accounts of his long-standing relationships with family members. From tales of personal struggles and career triumphs to reflections on the power of music in our lives, Born To Run is one of the best music autobiographies out there, regardless of whether you’re a Springsteen fan or not.

2: Elton John: ‘Me’ (2019)

Elton John’s Me is a witty and self-effacing autobiography that traces the life of one of Britain’s greatest songwriters. Covering decades of John’s emotional ups and downs, the book offers revealing accounts of his drug addiction, his troubled love life and his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality, as well as his career as a celebrated singer-songwriter. With behind-the-scenes stories about how some of his best-loved songs were written, John speaks most profoundly about the impact fame has had on him, and Me explores themes such as loneliness and depression to great effect. A companion piece to the 2019 biopic Rocketman , starring Taron Egerton, Me does wonders in capturing the essence of Elton John.

1: Anthony Kiedis: ‘Scar Tissue’ (2004)

Anthony Kiedis’ memoir, Scar Tissue , is a revealing and no-holds-barred account of the Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman’s life. Following Kiedis through both tremendous career success and deep personal pain, readers will discover the highs and lows of a life lived on the edge – expect rampant substance abuse, wild sexual escapades, broken relationships and many other extreme experiences. Kiedis writes candidly about his struggles with addiction as well as his spiritual journey to sobriety while balancing his personal life with the demands of being in one of the best 90s bands . Kiedis also shares stories from his unconventional childhood growing up in Los Angeles, where fame was always nearby – he even recounts once being babysat by Sonny And Cher. In the end, Scar Tissue is a heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting read, as Kiedis eventually finds peace through self-acceptance and redemption. And that’s why it tops our list of the best rock autobiographies.

Now check out the best music biographies .

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10 Great Musical Biographies That Tell the Stories Behind Your Favorite Artists

September 29, 2023

You might know all the songs and albums of your favorite musicians, but do you know the experiences and inspirations behind their work? Luckily, you can find out by listening to some great musical biographies on Spotify. 

With picks that include memoirs from legendary stars including Dave Grohl , Billie Eilish , Gucci Mane , and Dolly Parton , you can discover all the wisdom these greats have to share. 

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music

Written and narrated by dave grohl.

Dave Grohl’s autobiography, The Storyteller , sheds light on what it’s like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, who goes on to live out his craziest dreams as a musician. The rock icon reflects on everything from hitting the road with Scream at 18, to his time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters . He remembers jamming with Iggy Pop and dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band . He tells stories about drumming for Tom Petty and meeting Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall. Grohl even recounts unexpected moments like bedtime stories with Joan Jett to a chance meeting with Little Richard . 

The Sporty One: My Life as a Spice Girl

Written and narrated by melanie chisholm.

After five women answered a newspaper ad, the Spice Girls were born. They recorded their first single, “ Wannabe ,” and nearly overnight, Melanie “Melanie C” Chisholm went from small-town girl to Sporty Spice.

The Sporty One follows the meteoric rise of Melanie C and The Spice Girls, from the incredible highs of playing at Wembley, conquering the BRITs, and closing the 2012 Olympics, to the difficult lows. For the first time ever, Melanie C talks about the pressures of fame, the shaming and bullying she experienced, the struggles she has had with her body image and mental health, and the difficulty of finding herself when the whole world knew her name.

Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics

Written by dolly parton, robert k. oermann.

Narrated by Dolly Parton 

Dolly Parton, Songteller goes beyond the glitz, glamor, and rhinestones to the warmth, heart, and soul of a treasured pop culture icon. In this autobiography, 10-time Grammy Award–winning artist Dolly Parton weaves her words with music and memories to give listeners the stories behind her most cherished songs.

How close did Parton come to singing “ I Will Always Love You ” as a duet with Elvis Presley ? How did she become an actress? And exactly who was “ Jolene ”? This one-of-a-kind audio experience answers the most burning questions that Parton’s fans have.

The Autobiography of Gucci Mane

Written by gucci mane and neil martinez-belkin.

Narrated by Guy Lockard

For the first time, hip-hop legend Gucci Mane tells the story of his rise, fall, and redemption in The Autobiography of Gucci Mane . With a string of influential mixtapes and street anthems that pioneered the sound of trap music in the 2000s, the rap icon inspired and mentored a new generation of artists and producers including Migos , Young Thug , Nicki Minaj , Zaytoven , Mike WiLL Made-It , and Metro Boomin .

Taking listeners back to his roots in Alabama, the streets of East Atlanta, and the studio where he found his voice, Gucci Mane reflects on his successes while also confronting his dark past, which included drug addiction, murder charges, and a prison sentence. 

But Gucci Mane has changed, and in this music bio, he provides an intimate glimpse into his radical transformation following his 2016 prison release—one that saw the rapper emerge sober, smiling, focused, and positive. This is one of music’s great comeback stories.

Born to Run

Written and narrated by bruce springsteen.

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen performed at the Super Bowl halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that he decided to write about it, which then inspired him to tell the story of his entire life.

Vividly recounting his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in New Jersey, and the rise of The E Street Band , Springsteen fills the pages of Born to Run with humor, originality, and disarming candor. For the first time, the superstar rocker shares the personal struggles that inspired his best work, and shows us why the song “ Born to Run ” reveals more than we previously realized. This isn’t just a legendary rock star’s memoir. This is a book for anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll. 

Billie Eilish: In Her Own Words

Written by billie eilish.

Narrated By Billie Eilish, Maggie Baird, Patrick O’Connell

In this special audiobook companion piece, global pop phenomenon Billie Eilish walks fans through the personal highlights and special moments of her life and career, both on and off the stage. 

Billie Eilish: In Her Own Words is full of exclusive and unique content, including memories shared by her parents. Capturing the essence of Billie inside and out, listeners get personal glimpses into her childhood, her life on tour, and more, making this audio edition essential for any fan.

It’s a Long Story: My Life

Written by willie nelson and david ritz.

Narrated by Christopher Ryan Grant

It’s a Long Story is the complete, unvarnished story of Willie Nelson ‘s life. Told in his distinct voice and leaving no moment or experience unturned, the country legend takes listeners on a ride from Texas and Nashville to Hawaii and his legendary tour bus.

Nelson shines a light on all aspects of his life, including his drive to write music, the women in his life, his biggest collaborations, his lowest lows, and his highest highs—from his bankruptcy to the founding of Farm Aid.

Talking to My Angels

Written and narrated by melissa etheridge.

Following the success of her first memoir, award-winning rocker and trailblazing LGBTQIA+ icon Melissa Etheridge returns to take stock of her life in the years that have followed. 

Talking to My Angels is a profoundly honest look into Etheridge’s inner life as a woman, an artist, a mother, and a survivor. With characteristic wit and courage, Melissa delves into how numerous tragedies served as a catalyst for growth, and what the past two decades have taught her about the value of music, love, family, and life in the face of death. This audiobook also features live, stripped-down performances of many of Melissa’s songs, including “ Talking to My Angel ” and “ Here Comes the Pain .”

Chronicles of the Juice Man: A Memoir

Written by juicy j and soren baker.

Narrated by Adam Lazarre-White

The hustle still continues for hip-hop OG Juicy J in Chronicles of the Juice Man , where he shares his invaluable story as an unwavering force in the music industry. Jordan Houston’s rise to stardom was never easy. Beginning with his journey on the streets of Memphis in the ’80s, Juicy J was always inspired by music and had big dreams of becoming a superstar rapper. The Three 6 Mafia member stuck to his plan with determination, rising from a young, poor, ambitious kid to an Academy Award–winning and Grammy-nominated recording artist and entrepreneur. A never-before-seen look into one of the most influential tastemakers in the game, Chronicles of the Juice Man offers Juicy J’s wisdom as a respected industry veteran.

Tell It Like It Is: My Story

Written and narrated by aaron neville.

Tell It Like It Is shares the trials and tribulations of legendary singer and songwriter Aaron Neville through the lens of his faith, family, and music.

Scoring his first number-one hit in 1966 with “ Tell It Like It Is ,” the artist went on to form the Neville Brothers with his siblings Art , Charles , and Cyril . Aaron was the breakout star, and over the next six decades, he’s enjoyed four platinum albums, three number-one songs, and entry into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

But few people know the challenging and circuitous road Aaron took to fame. Born in a housing project in New Orleans, he struggled as a teenage father working to raise a family while building his career as a musician, surviving a stint in jail for car theft and battling heroin addiction for many years. Now for the first time, fans can discover the inside story. 

Eligible Spotify Premium users in the U.K. and Australia can now look forward to 15 hours of audiobook listening per month on any audiobook marked “Included in Premium.”  Learn all about it.  

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Brian Quincy Newcomb, Music Journalist and Key Tastemaker in Christian Alt-Rock Scene of ’80s and ’90s, Dies at 67

By Chris Willman

Chris Willman

Senior Music Writer and Chief Music Critic

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Brian Quincy Newcomb

Brian Quincy Newcomb, a music journalist and pastor who was well-known in the Christian rock community for decades as a key tastemaker in the alternative scene, died in Centreville, Ohio on April 15 at age 67. He had been receiving hospice care at home after a recurrence of the cancer he had battled for nearly a decade.

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Outside of his specialty in writing about Christian music, Newcomb also had as avid an interest in mainstream and alternative rock as any music journalist, and his work appeared in Billboard and Paste. He also wrote reviews for his hometown daily, the St. Louis Dispatch, and had a weekly column in the Riverfront Times in Missouri before he decamped 15 years ago for a new pastorate in Ohio.

“Decamping for a pastorate” is not a phrase that usually occurs in obituaries for music journalists, but Newcomb had been an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ for over 40 years. In that progressive denomination, he committed to preaching a message of love and inclusion, with theologically liberal views that sometimes led to lively debates on social media with readers who had grown up reading his reviews in CCM but adhered to more conservative viewpoints.

One of Newcomb’s favorite bands was the Choir, a group that has been releasing records revered in that community for close to 40 years now. Steve HIndalong, the drummer, co-producer and principal lyricist for the Choir, tells Variety how perceptive he found Newcomb.

“I remember a time when I postponed any press interviews for a new album released by the Choir until I was able to read Quincy’s review,” Hindalong says. “Because then I would realize what the lyrics meant and what our album was about!”

Harvest Rock Syndicate, which only existed from 1987-91 but had an outsized influence on the CCM genre, has some illustrious alumni besides Newcomb, who founded it with, among others, Paul Emery. One of the the publication’s writers was Brian Mansfield, who went on to become USA Today’s Nashville music writer for many years and is now the managing editor of Country Insider.

Says Mansfield, “Good editors and pastors have a lot in common. Quincy served in both roles for many of us who wanted to sharpen our perspectives on the places music and faith intersect. Long after he stopped being our editor, we still looked to him as a pastor figure.”

John Styll, the founder and former editor-publisher of CCM, says, “A distinctive of CCM Magazine was that we tried to apply real journalism in a field that seemed to crave simple advocacy. Quincy was the epitome of that distinctive.”

Chris Hauser is a 45-year-plus industry veteran whose run as one of the top promo executives in Christian music began at about the same time Harvest Rock Syndicate did. He recalls Newcomb’s impact during a pivotal era that some still remember as a high-water mark for rock being released on Christian labels, and an irascibility that made him stand out.

Says Hauser, “Brian perfectly represented a time in our industry (the ’80s and ’90s) when the pen was definitely mightier than the sword. I’ve been in radio promotion since 1987, and grew up on his writing. A positive review or favorable article about one of our artists was way more important than a No. 1 song then. Brian was prickly (at times), not suffering fools (of whom I was chief) and one of the most opinionated people I ever knew. But he always fought for (and raised up) a better way to communicate about faith through music. We’d put away some of our competitive differences in the last 10-15 years and became much closer. He was and always will be a force of nature.”

Recently he had been writing reviews for the web publication the Fire Note, and his last contributions earlier this year were his assessments of a series of Ryan Adams albums and Sarah Jarosz’s latest.

The congregants he pastored in Ohio were sometimes amused to see photos of their minister at rock shows, or occasionally having a picture posted that showed him in a Flaming Lips, Elvis Costello or Steve Earle T-shirt instead of his ministerial robes, although he didn’t go out of his way to flaunt an identity as a rock ‘n’ roll pastor.

His official obituary stated: “Brian’s life work was preaching the ‘one sermon,’ repackaged each week, that is always about Love. He was friend to the stranger, ally to the vulnerable, foe to the abuser, quick with a smile, deep with his laughter, and a huge fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. … Brian was a consumer and admirer of all things beautiful to behold; collector of meaningful experiences and interpreter of cultural conscience.”

Among his survivors are his wife of 37 years, Susan Newcomb; three children, Jacob (Krista Isaacs) Quincy, Carly (Andrew) Hansen and Jon (Brynna) Newlie; and three grandchildren, Clayton, Bennett and Olivia.

A memorial service will be held May 8 at David’s United Church of Christ in Kettering, Ohio, the church he pastored for the last 15 years (more details on his obituary page here ). In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his honor to the United Church of Christ’s Join the Movement campaign to initiate anti-racism work in the UCC.

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