Lives in Music: New Biographies of Music Legends

Music has been a panacea to many of us in these anxious and uncertain times.

Some of the most exciting releases for music lovers this past year however, weren’t just new albums by their favorite musicians or singers, but in-depth biographies and revealing memoirs from their favorite artists and bands. 

Whether you are a worshipper of the blues, a die-hard fan of Bob Dylan and the Boss, curious about Zeppelin lore, or have a new love for the songs of the 20 year old Billie Eilish, these memoirs and biographies which were released in 2021 will give you the inside stories on your favorite music legends.

Beast : John Bonham And The Rise Of Led Zeppelin by CM. Kushins

An exploration of the short life of Led Zeppelin’s volatile self-taught drummer John Bonham (1948–80).  As Kushins shows, Bonham was also a complex man. He drowned his severe anxiety in booze, and he hated the time spent away from his family and farm while still enjoying his role in a band that gave him license to indulge his animal instincts. The author covers all of the bases in delineating the life of his subject and makes a convincing case for his iconic status.

Beeswing : Losing My Way And Finding My Voice 1967-1975 by Richard Thompson

A revealing look at the early years of Richard Thompson, one of the world’s most influential guitarists and songwriters, following the formation of his band Fairport Convention, his revival of British folk traditions, and his journey through Sufism-all before the age of 26.

Bessie Smith : A Poet’s Biography by Jackie Kay

Known for her prodigious musical talent, her timeless blues narratives about personal and socioeconomic problems, her tough persona, and her innate ability to enrapture audiences with her raw voice, Bessie Smith–the Empress of the Blues–receives a unique biographical treatment in this special life narrative captured by one of Scotland’s finest poets. 

Billie Eilish by Billie Eilish

Legendary singer and songwriter Billie Eilish shares an intimate inside look at her life – both on and off the stage – in this stunning, photo-filled book. 

Changes : An Oral History Of Tupac Shakur by Sheldon Pearce

The brief, remarkable life of Shakur is revisited here, 25 years after his death, in first-person accounts of many who knew him. With a special focus on “rarely heard perspectives,” Pearce’s riveting oral history compiles a chorus of recollections from various eras in Shakur’s life, ranging from his high-school years as a gifted theater student to his budding career as an indie film actor to the chaotic height of his fame as a hip hop artist, and culminates in his still unsolved murder.

The Double Life Of Bob Dylan : A Restless, Hungry Feeling, 1941-1966 by Clinton Heylin

Using material from Dylan’s personal archive, Heylin tells the story of the singer’s meteoric rise to fame. Readers will follow Dylan’s arrival in early 1961 in New York, where he is embraced by the folk scene; his elevation to spokesman of a generation whose protest songs provide the soundtrack for the burgeoning Civil Rights movement; his alleged betrayal when he ‘goes electric’ at Newport in 1965; and much more.

The First 21 : How I Became Nikki Sixx by Frank Feranna & Nikki Sixx

The rock-and-roll icon shares his inspirational journey from irrepressible Idaho farmboy to the man who formed Mötley Crüe., proving that you can overcome anything and achieve all of your goals, if only you put your mind to it.

The History Of Bones : A Memoir by John Lurie

The artist, director, musician, composer, and founder of the Lounge Lizards assesses his life and work.  Drawing on his unruly genius, persistent subversiveness, habitual courting of risk, and mordant humor, he recounts wild tales of his spiritual quests, drug-stoked New York City misadventures, bond with the saxophone, tormented relationships, and nightmarish tours with his band.

King Of The Blues : The Rise And Reign of B B King by Daniel de Visé

This biography presents the vibrant life and times of a trailblazing giant. Witness to dark prejudice and lynching in his youth, B.B. performed incessantly (some 15,000 concerts in ninety countries over nearly sixty years)-in some real way his means of escaping his past. His career roller-coasted between adulation and relegation, but he always rose back up. 

Last Chance Texaco : Chronicles Of an American Troubadour by Rickie Lee Jones

A tender and intimate memoir by one of the most remarkable, trailblazing, and tenacious women in music, the two-time Grammy Award-winning “premiere song-stylist and songwriter of her generation,. With candor and lyricism Rickie Lee Jones takes us on the journey of her exceptional life: from her nomadic childhood as the granddaughter of vaudevillian performers, to her father’s abandonment of the family and her years as a teenage runaway, her beginnings at LA’s Troubadour club, to her tumultuous relationship with Tom Waits, her battle with drugs, and longevity as a woman in rock and roll

The Marathon Don’t Stop : The Life And Times Of Nipsey Hussle by Rob Kenner

The first in-depth biography of Nipsey Hussle, the hip hop mogul, artist, and activist whose transformative legacy inspired a generation with his motivational lyrics and visionary business savvy-before he was tragically shot down in the very neighborhood he was dedicated to building up.

Mellencamp by Paul Rees

The definitive biography of Mellencamp, the iconic American rock and roll original, featuring exclusive in-depth interviews and never-before-told details.

Rememberings by Sinéad O’Connor

From the acclaimed, controversial singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor comes a revelatory memoir of her fraught childhood, musical triumphs, struggles with illness, and of the enduring power of song.

The Storyteller : Tales Of Life And Music by Dave Grohl

The legendary American musician, singer, songwriter and documentary filmmaker offers a collection of stories, written by his own hand, that focus on the memories of his life, from his childhood to today.

Unrequited Infatuations : Odyssey Of A Rock And Roll Consigliere : (A Cautionary Tale) by Stevie Van Zandt

Identifying himself as a “political Rock Artist,” Van Zandt combines his expansive knowledge of music creation with his personal development in the sociopolitical sphere, recounting moments such as the making of the star-studded “Sun City” p(with Jackson Browne, no less); and his politically charged solo albums including Voice of America.

Vibrate Higher : A Rap Story by Talib Kweli

One of the most lyrically gifted, socially conscious rappers of the past twenty years offers a firsthand account of hip-hop as a political force in addition to illuminating his own upbringing and artistic success.

You Are Beautiful And You Are Alone : The Biography Of Nico by Jennifer Otter

Drawing on the archives at the Andy Warhol Museum, various private collections, rarely seen footage and interviews, a rock-and-roll historian presents this new biography of Nico, the iconic and mysterious singer who was best known for her work with the Velvet Underground.

The following memoirs and biographies of other musical behemoths published in 2021 are on order, so keep checking our Library catalog for their availability:

All Things Must Pass Away : Harrison, Clapton, And Other Assorted Love Songs by Kenneth Womack

George Harrison and Eric Clapton embarked upon a singular personal and creative friendship that impacted rock’s unfolding future in resounding and far-reaching ways. This book traces the emergence of their relationship from 1968 through the early 1970s and shows how  their revolutionary musicianship and songwriting would eclipse rock music as an evolving genre.

Eruption : conversations with Eddie Van Halen by Brad Tolinski

The life of the late groundbreaking musician is recalled through over fifty hours of interviews and delves both into his musical legacy as well as his lifelong issues with social anxiety and substance abuse.

From Staircase To Stage : The Story Of Raekwon And The Wu-Tang Clan by Raekwon with Anthony Bozza

Raekwon is one of the founding members of Wu-Tang Clan, and his voice and cadence are synonymous with the sound that has made the group iconic since 1991. Now, for the first time, Raekwon tells his whole story, from struggling through poverty in order to make ends meet to turning a hobby into a legacy.

Have A Little Faith : The John Hiatt Story by Michael Elliott

By the mid-1980s, singer-songwriter John Hiatt had been dropped from three record labels, burned through two marriages, and fallen deep into alcoholism. By February 1987 he was back in the studio on a shoestring budget recording what would become his masterpiece. Elliott takes readers on a journey from the musical landscape of the 1960s through today, placing Hiatt’s career in context.

Led Zeppelin : The Biography by Bob Spitz

An account of the dramatic rise and fall of Led Zeppelin from 1968 to 1980. Spitz describes how each member of the foursome (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham) perceived the music of their teens and how they coalesced into a successful unit combining electric blues with rock, that laid the groundwork for heavy metal with their ear-splitting, raucous offerings.

My life In Dire Straits : The Inside Story Of One Of The Biggest Bands In Rock History by John Illsley

Starting with his own unlikely beginnings in Middle England, John Illsley recounts the rise of Dire Straits from humble origins in London’s spit-and-sawdust pubs to the best-known venues in the world, the working men’s clubs to Madison Square Garden, sharing gigs with wild punk bands to the Live Aid stage at Wembley until, ultimately, the shattering demands of touring on a global scale and living life in the spotlight took their inevitable toll.

Saved By A Song : The Art And Healing Power Of Songwriting by Mary Gauthier

From the Grammy nominated folk singer and songwriter, an inspiring exploration of creativity and the redemptive power of song.

Set The Night On Fire : Living, Dying, And Playing Guitar With The Doors by Robby Krieger

In his tell-all, legendary Doors guitarist, Robby Krieger, one of Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” opens up about his band’s meteoric career, his own darkest moments, and the most famous black eye in rock ‘n’ roll.

Three Pianos : A Memoir by Andrew McMahon

From beloved indie musician Andrew McMahon comes a searing, honest, and beautifully written memoir about his childhood and his career, told through the lens of his three pianos. 

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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