New books on popular music feature fascinating inside stories of stars, from the current diva Beyoncé and Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein to rock legends such as Lou Reed and Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, and offer a great summer read. Check them out!
Becoming Beyoncé : the untold story / J. Randy Taraborrelli.
“Beyoncé Knowles is a woman who began her career at the age of eight performing in pageant shows and talent contests, honing her craft through her teenage years until, at the age of 16, she had her first number one record with Destiny’s Child. That hit-making trio launched Beyoncé’s successful solo career, catapulting her, as of 2014, to #1 on Forbes annual list of most wealthy celebrities–the same year she made the cover of Time. Becoming Beyoncé is not only the story of struggle, sacrifice, and what it takes to make it in the cut-throat record industry, it’s the story of the great rewards of such success and the devastating toll it often takes on the human spirit.” (Syndetics summary)
Notes from the Velvet Underground : the life of Lou Reed / Howard Sounes.
“In this in-depth, meticulously researched and very entertaining biography, respected biographer Howard Sounes examines the life and work of this fascinating man, from birth to death, including his time as the leader of The Velvet Underground. Written with a deep knowledge and understanding of the music, Sounes also sheds entirely new light on the artist’s creative process, his mental health problems, his bisexuality, his three marriages, and his addictions to drugs and alcohol. This book brings Lou Reed and his world alive.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Hunger makes me a modern girl : a memoir / Carrie Brownstein.
“Bookended with sea changes in the life of Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein’s memoir is as much about the band as it is about herself (minus her Portlandia fame). Brownstein flips easily from brainy ruminations on nostalgia, fandom, and record labels to trenchant stories about sexism, music journalism, and how a soy allergy not drugs or alcohol brought her to her knees on tour. Sleater-Kinney fans went nuts late last year when the trio broke their years-long hiatus, and Brownstein’s memoir will give them more to salivate over.” (adapted from Booklist)
Frank & Ava : in love and war / John Brady.
“Their wild affair broke all the rules of the prudish era as Frank left his wife and children and pursued Ava on an international stage. They became romantic renegades, with the press following them from location to location. The love story of this couple has never been fully explored or explained until now. Frank & Ava delves deeply into the lives of these two iconic stars and their turbulent lifelong relationship. More than anything else, this is the story of a romance lived out under battlefield conditions.” (Syndetics summary)
Foo Fighters : learning to fly / Mick Wall.
“Everyone from Sir Paul McCartney and Jimmy Page to Queens of the Stone Age now relishes the chance to share a stage with Dave Grohl and his legendary Foo Fighters. With exclusive testimony from true insiders (including Krist Novoselic, Grohl’s bass-playing partner in Nirvana, ex-girlfirends, record company executives, tour photographers and confidantes), this book is an exploration of the real story behind Grohl and the Foo Fighters – the only serious literary biography of the group and its leader, one of the most famous and critically bulletproof rock figures of the 21st century.” (Syndetics summary)
Unfaithful music & disappearing ink / Elvis Costello.
“This memoir, written entirely by Costello, offers his unique view of his unlikely and sometimes comical rise to international success, with diversions through the previously undocumented emotional foundations of some of his best-known songs and the hits of tomorrow. It features many stories and observations about his renowned cowriters and co-conspirators, though Costello also pauses along the way for considerations of the less appealing side of fame. The idiosyncratic memoir of a singular man, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink is destined to be a classic.” (Syndetics summary)
Petty : the biography / Warren Zanes.
“An exhilarating and intimate account of the life of music legend Tom Petty, by an accomplished writer and musician who toured with Petty. This is a book for those who know and love the songs, from “American Girl” and “Refugee” to “Free Fallin'” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and for those who want to see the classic rock and roll era embodied in one man’s remarkable story. Dark and mysterious, Petty manages to come back, again and again, showing us what the music can do and where it can take us.” (Syndetics summary)
Long promised road : Carl Wilson, soul of the Beach Boys : the biography / Kent Crowley.
“No life in popular music touched on as many major musical milestones as that of The Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson. While he is often unjustly overlooked as a mere adjunct to his more famous brothers Brian and Dennis, Carl was a major international rock star from his early teens. This major new biography reveals the true story of modern rock’n’roll, lived from the center of the most important decades of popular music.” (Syndetics summary)
On the road with Janis Joplin / John Byrne Cooke.
“From 1967 to 1970, Cooke was the tour manager for Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company, giving him a first-hand view of Joplin’s ascent to stardom, her reaction to fame, and her untimely death from a drug overdose. As someone who worked for and also befriended Joplin, Cooke has a unique perspective, writing both about his own experiences on the road and painting a picture that covers the full spectrum of Joplin’s personality as an artist and a person, as well as the world she lived in. The key to Cooke’s success in writing about such a dynamic character lies in the fact that he, too, is a strong presence.” (adapted from Publisher Weekly)
The Wu-Tang manual / the RZA with Chris Norris.
“The enigmatic State Island hip-hop collective offers a definitive introduction to the mysteries and complexities of the Wu-Tang Universe, revealing the intricate web of personalities and alter egos, warrior codes, numerological systems, and Eastern spiritual and philosophical concepts that define their world. Original.” (Syndetics summary)
Live wire : Bon Scott : a memoir by three of the people who knew him best / Mary Renshaw, John D’Arcy and Gabby D’Arcy.
“From his early days with The Valentines, through to the rise of AC/DC, Live Wire gives us the real story of what it was like to be Bon Scott’s friend, tour with him, and be part of the close-knit world out of which one of biggest bands of all time emerged. With Bon, there was always sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, but this deeply personal insight also shows the humor, intelligence, and warmth of the man. From dilapidated apartments in inner Melbourne, through to the legendary early years of AC/DC, Live Wire is a revealing portrait of Bon, told by three of the people who knew him best.” (Syndetics summary)
John Farnham : the untold story / Jane Gazzo.
“John Farnham is nothing less than an Aussie icon. In a career spanning almost five decades, the likeable, charismatic star has entertained countless Australians of every generation, selling millions of records along the way. But his extraordinary story is as much about tackling adversity as it is about topping the charts. Former teen idol, Australian of the Year, the man known across the nation as ‘The Voice’, John Farnham has earned his reputation as a genuine legend of the local entertainment industry.” (Syndetics summary)
Can I say : living large, cheating death, and drums, drums, drums / Travis Barker ; with Gavin Edwards.
“Travis Barker’s soul-baring memoir chronicles the highlights and lowlights of the renowned drummer’s art and his life, including the harrowing plane crash that nearly killed him and his traumatic road to recovery–a fascinating never-before-told-in-full story of personal reinvention grounded in musical salvation and fatherhood. His pulsating memoir is as energetic as his acclaimed beats. It brings to a close the first chapters of a well-lived life, inspiring readers to follow the rhythms of their own hearts and find meaning in their lives.” (Syndetics summary)
Sounds like me : my life (so far) in song / Sara Bareilles.
“Sara Bareilles shares the joys and the struggles that come with creating great work, all while staying true to yourself. Imbued with humor and marked by Sara’s confessional writing style, this collection tells the inside story behind some of her most popular songs. More than a privileged view inside the experience of a remarkable musical talent–this is a moving tribute to the universal search for growth, healing, and self-acceptance.” (Syndetics summary)