9 Revealing Biographies About Music Legends

Behind every great song, there is a story associated with it. Heartache, drugs, a rough childhood and the desire to do something different often encapsulates a musician’s journey.  For the legends we’ve come to cherish and who inspire us often have richer stories with many combinations of highs and lows.

In the past twelve months or so, several biographies and autobiographies have been made available about Pete Townshend from The Who, Peter Criss from KISS, Bruce Springsteen, John Cage, the 20th Century avant-garde composer and several others.

It's So Easy - Duff McKagan - PaperbackIt’s So Easy: and other lies by Duff McKagan

As a founding member of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, Duff McKagan shares his story about his rise to the pinnacle of fame and fortune, his struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction and his transformation to sobriety.

 

 

 

Bruce - Peter Ames Carlin - HardcoverBruce by Peter Ames Carlin

For more than four decades, Bruce Springsteen has reflected the heart and soul of America with a career that includes twenty Grammy Awards, more than 120 million albums sold, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award.  Written in cooperation with Bruce Springsteen, this new biography by acclaimed music writer Peter Ames Carlin presents an intimate and vivid portrait of a rock icon.

Built from years of research and unparalleled access to its subject and his inner circle, Bruce presents the most revealing account yet of a man laden with family tragedy, a tremendous dedication to his artistry, and an all-consuming passion for fame and influence. With this book, the E Street Band members finally bare their feelings about their abrupt dismissal in 1989, and how Springsteen’s ambivalence nearly capsized their 1999 reunion.

Who I Am - Pete Townshend - HardcoverWho I Am by Pete Townshend

Songwriter, composer, lead guitarist and creative powerhouse behind the legendary Who, Pete Townshend, a pre-eminent influence on rock, tells his own story in this new memoir.  Townshend chronicles a difficult childhood, ambition, controversy, relentless perfectionism, rock ‘n’ roll excess, emotional and spiritual turmoil, and ultimate redemption.

Townshend spearheaded 60s rock by smashing guitars in auto-destructive performances and writing songs that challenged the function of popular music.  He created the power chord and the broke the three-minute mould of the pop-song in Tommy, Quadrophenia and later works, developing a new structure for rock music, elevating it as an art form.

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by R.J. Smith

James Brown was a showman who transformed American music. The One tells the story of a man who was raised in poverty in the segregated South, but grew up to earn and lose several fortunes.  Covering everything from Brown’s unconventional childhood (his aunt ran a bordello), to his role in the Black Power movement, to his high-profile friendships, to his complicated family life,  this new biography about the Godfather of soul recounts the story of a musical genius and his impact on music and culture.

 

Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die - Willie Nelson - HardcoverRoll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road by Willie Nelson

In Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, Willie Nelson muses about his greatest influences and the things that are most important to him, and celebrates the family, friends, and colleagues who have blessed his remarkable journey. Willie riffs on everything: music, wives, Texas, politics, horses, religion, marijuana, children, the environment, poker, hogs, Nashville, karma, and more.

 

 

Iron Man - Tony Iommi - Hardcover

Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath by Tony Iommi

Iron Man chronicles the story of pioneering guitarist Tony Iommi and the history of Black Sabbath.  Iron Man reveals the man behind the icon yet still captures Iommi’s humor, intelligence, and warmth. He speaks honestly and unflinchingly about his rough-and-tumble childhood, the accident that almost ended his career, his failed marriages, personal tragedies, battles with addiction, band mates, famous friends, newfound daughter, and the ups and downs of his life as an artist.

 

Miles Davis: The Complete Illustrated History 

Here is the illustrated history of Miles Davis, the world’s most popular jazz trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and musical visionary. Davis is one of the most innovative, influential, and respected figures in the history of music. He’s been at the forefront of bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and jazz-rock fusion, and remains the favorite and best-selling jazz artist ever, beloved worldwide.

He’s also a fascinating character—moody, dangerous, brilliant. His story is phenomenal, including tempestous relationships with movie stars, heroin addictions, police busts, and more; connections with other jazz greats like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, Gil Evans, John McLaughlin, and many others; and later fusion ventures that outraged the worlds of jazz and rock.

Where the Heart Beats - Kay Larson - HardcoverWhere the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artist by Kay Larson

This year marks the centenary of John Cage.  As such, several new recordings have been released.  Cage was a visionary and transformed perception of what constitutes of music. What empowered John Cage to compose his incredible music was his conversion to Zen Buddhism. This is the story of how Zen saved Cage from himself.

Where the Heart Beats is the first book to address the phenomenal importance of Zen Buddhism to John Cage’s life and to the artistic avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s. Zen’s power to transform Cage’s troubled mind—by showing him his own enlightened nature—liberated him from an acute personal crisis that threatened everything he most deeply cared about his life, his music, and his relationship with his life partner, Merce Cunningham. Caught in a society that rejected his art, his politics, and his sexual orientation, Cage was transformed by Zen from an overlooked and marginal musician into the absolute epicenter of the avant-garde.

Using Cage’s life as a starting point, Where the Heart Beats looks beyond to the individuals Cage influenced and the art he inspired. His creative genius touched Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Alan Kaprow, Morton Feldman, and Leo Castelli, who all went on to revolutionize their respective disciplines.  Cage’s story showcases how Zen Buddhism transformed the very heart of American culture.

Makeup to Breakup - Peter Criss - HardcoverMakeup to Breakup: My life in and out of Kiss by Peter Criss

Founding KISS drummer Peter “Catman” Criss has lived an incredible life in music, from the streets of Brooklyn to the social clubs of New York City to the ultimate heights of rock ’n’ roll success and excess. Born Peter Criscuola, Makeup to Breakup is Criss’s eye-opening journey from the pledge to his ma that he’d one day play Madison Square Garden to doing just that. It is the definitive and heartfelt account of one of rock’s most iconic figures, and the importance of faith and family.

Criss came a long way from the homemade drum set he pounded on nonstop as a kid growing up in Brooklyn in the fifties. He endured lean years, street violence, and the rollercoaster music scene of the sixties, but he always knew he’d make it.

KISS formed in 1973 and broke new ground with their elaborate makeup, live theatrics, and rock sound.

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