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Rock & Roll Reads

Updated: December 14, 2012

Biographies, nonfiction, memoirs, and fiction about musicians and the music industry.

by Doyle, Roddy, 1958-
Roddy Doyle's funny and lovable debut about a group of working class Dublin kids who form a soul band.

Call Number: 789.14 M919Mo
In one of the wildest, most over the top rock memoirs ever written, the members of Motley Crue talk about sex, substance abuse, excess, arrests, and near-death experiences... but surprisingly little about their music.

by Ritz, David.
Call Number: 789.14 G286Ri 1991
Though there have been several good biographies of the troubled singer, Ritz's benefits from the many interviews and conversations he had with Gaye in the years just before his death.

by Guralnick, Peter.
Call Number: 789.14 C773Gu
In his 33 short years, Sam Cooke managed to do an astounding amount of living. In addition to being one of the most popular performers of his era, he had his own record label, wrote many of his own songs, and mentored a young Aretha Franklin. Acclaimed music journalist and biographer Peter Guralnick examines Cooke's genius as well as his many demons.

by Yarm, Mark.
Call Number: 781.99 Y28
Yarm conducted hundreds of interviews with the personalities who made the Seattle music scene of the late 80s and early 90s, and comes away with a story of a pop culture movement done in by its own success.

by Masino, Susan, 1955-
Call Number: 789.14 W723Ma
This may not be "Rock and Roll," but man did these guys live it. This book traces back three generations of Williams men (and a few women) in an electrifying read that will have you hoping that something good will happen to someone. Starting with Hank Sr., you learn how his musical career lasted only a few short years, but left a huge legacy. Next is Hank Jr., who probably almost died three times before he actually became famous. Then finally Hank the Third, who has been broke since he was born, and has never been on the good side of the law or his father. And since Hank3 has a son, I'm sure he'll carry the family tradition.

by Sullivan, James, 1965 Nov. 7-
Call Number: 789.14 B8777Su
At the heart of this biography is Brown's legendary show at Boston Garden the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the role Brown played in keeping the peace even as violence broke out in hundreds of other U.S. cities.

by Ro, Ronin.
Call Number: 788.99 D285Ro
In addition to chronicling the scandal-ridden record label, Ro also looks into the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop feud and the murders of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.

by Cross, Charles R.
Call Number: 789.14 C652Cr
Cross conducted hundreds of interviews and gained access to Cobain's journals for this intimate, painful biography of the rock star, who committed suicide in 1994.

by Tosches, Nick.
Call Number: 789.14 L6745To 1998
Rolling Stone called Tosches's account of Jerry Lee Lewis and the many scandals that surrounded his career "the best rock and roll biography ever written."

by Hornby, Nick.
Call Number: Ed.b
"What came first, the music or the misery? Did I listen to music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to music?" Record store owner Rob Fleming has just been dumped, and finds himself torn between a life built around pop music, top 5 lists, and his vinyl collection, and something more... grown-up.

by Klosterman, Chuck, 1972-
Call Number: 781.99 K66-1
Klosterman goes on a coast-to-coast road trip, ostensibly to visit the sites of famous rock and roll deaths, but spends as much time musing and cracking wise about his love life, neuroses, and pop culture touchstones.

by Portman, Frank.
A hilarious story about a music-obsessed teen outcast who forms a band while trying to uncover the mystery of his father's disappearance using clues found in The Catcher in the Rye.

by Guralnick, Peter.
Call Number: 789.14 P934Gu
Quite simply the most authoritative, readable biography of Elvis Presley ever written. Here, Guralnick follows Presley's career through 1958, when he was drafted into the Army. The rest of the story is told in the equally good, if more depressing follow-up, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley.

by Cherry Vanilla.
Call Number: 789.14 C5228
Notorious underground scenester and sometime singer Cherry Vanilla regales us with her xxxploits in 1960s and '70s NYC. She hobnobbed with a string of notables, including Warhol, Bowie and Sting. Her tales of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll are frank and sometimes graphic, but somehow Cherry manages to emerge as a feisty, endearing survivor.

by Richards, Keith, 1943-
Call Number: 789.24 R512-1
In his memoir, the legendary guitarist confesses that he once considered becoming a librarian. How could we NOT include his book here?

by Fletcher, Tony.
Call Number: 789.24 M818Fle
Fletcher posits that the notorious Who drummer likely struggled with undiagnosed mental illness, and presents a man who could be impish and charming one moment, abusive and self-destructive the next.

by Currie, Cherie, 1959-
Call Number: 789.14 C976-1
Cherie Currie's account of spending her teen years as the lead singer of The Runaways is brutal and unflinching.

by Young, James 1952-
Call Number: 789.34 N633Yo
Unsettling account of the final years of a dreary, once-beautiful girl. Nico, the German-born model and ex-singer for the Velvet Underground was, by the 1980s, on a ramshackle European tour to fund a heroin habit that she (ickily) shared with her son. Like its subject, the book is a riveting bummer.

by Hopkins, Jerry.
Call Number: 789.14 M879Ho 2006
Over 30 years after it was first published, it's still in print, and still the definitive biography on Doors frontman Jim Morrison.

by Freeman, Scott, 1958-
Call Number: 789.14 R313Fr
Before his untimely death at the age of 26, Otis Redding had established himself as the heart of Stax Records and one of the finest vocalists and performers of his, or any, era.

by Azerrad, Michael.
Call Number: 781.99 A993 2002
Azerrad looks at bands that thrived in the 80s underground scene, and built their followings with independent record labels and a DIY aesthetic. Includes chapters on The Replacements, Sonic Youth, the Minutemen, Black Flag, and many others.

Call Number: 781.99 P7245 1997
This gritty, raucous account of the punk scene from the late 60s through the early 80s includes interviews with everyone from Lou Reed to Iggy Pop to Joey Ramone.

by Ro, Ronin.
Call Number: 789.14 D627Ro
A look at the hip-hop pioneers, their influence and legacy, and the still-unsolved 2002 murder of Jam Master Jay.

by Hagar, Sammy.
Call Number: 789.24 H141
Montrose, UFOs, and Van Halen... oh my! Sammy Hagar takes you on a long and strange trip of a music career spreading over 40 years. From his beginnings to recent years with super group Chickenfoot, Sammy details all the rock 'n roll that one person can handle in one lifetime. Insider information to the numerous Van Halen breakups and crazy Eddie's behavior leaves the reader wanting more with every page. Let's hope that this isn't the last book Sammy Hagar will write.

by Salewicz, Chris.
Call Number: 789.24 S927Sa
When punk legend Joe Strummer died unexpectedly in 2002, he left behind a musical legacy much bigger than The Clash. Salewicz paints a clear-eyed, unsentimental portrait of a complicated man.

by Cross, Charles R.
Call Number: 789.14 H498Cr
This landmark biography, published on the 35th anniversary of Hendrix's death, does a particularly good job of describing the musician's difficult childhood, and includes many new interviews with Hendrix's surviving family members and others who knew him.

by Helm, Levon.
Call Number: 789.14 H478
Levon Helm's stories about The Band and the feud with Robbie Robertson might be the big draw, but some of the best stories in this engaging memoir come from the early years when he and other Band members played with Ronnie Hawkins.

by Spitz, Marc.
Call Number: 781.99 S761

The Southern California punk scene gets the Please Kill Me treatment in this oral history, which covers the rise of notable and notorious L.A. acts like The Germs, X, Los Lobos, and The Runaways.