“It was writing this book that inspired me to record again with Crazy Horse,” said Neil Young during a recent talk at Book Expo America in New York City. He was being interviewed by Patti Smith, who herself had a bestselling National Book Award-wining book, Just Kids, in 2010. They were singer-songwriters, rock musicians, talking about the craft of book writing. In October, Blue Rider will publish Neil Young’s memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, and Young is but one of several big-name musicians coming out with memoirs this season.
In an announced 400,000-copy printing of Who I Am from Harper, Pete Townshend—guitarist, singer, and songwriter of the Who—digs deep into his tumultuous upbringing and discusses his struggles with sex and drugs. In Never a Dull Moment, rock singer Rod Stewart celebrates rock star–dom as he writes about his music beginnings with the Jeff Beck Group and later his involvement with the Faces, as well as his own solo career.
Hunter Davies, who in 1968 wrote the authorized, much acclaimed biography The Beatles, has The John Lennon Letters—a lifetime’s worth of letters published for the first time. Judging by the 200,000-copy announced print run, publisher Little, Brown is banking on the epistolary interest of Lennon’s legions of fans.
Moving on to the influential musicians and singers of the 1990s, Courtney Love of the band Hole, who was married to Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, will come out with her memoir, as of now untitled. It is coauthored by Anthony Bozza (Whatever You Say I Am: The Life and Times of Eminem; Slash), who has also co-written the memoir of Wyclef Jean. In Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story, Jean talks about his childhood in Haiti, his time with the hip-hop band the Fugees, and his bid to run for president of Haiti.
In the genre of biographies, the names of subjects are just as big. Philip Norman, best known for biographies of Elton John and the Beatles—including the bestselling John Lennon: The Life—turns his attention to another big 1960s rock icon in Mick Jagger. And in what just might be the definitive bio of “The Boss,” Bruce, Peter A. Carlin gained access to Springsteen’s family members and band mates. Carlin is best known for his Paul McCartney: A Life.
Classical music is making a reappearance this season, with a history of the classical music label Naxos, as well as big biographies of major composers Wagner and Beethoven. In Reinventing Bach, Paul Elie (The Life You Save May Be Your Own) presents an exceptional study of the ways that numerous musicians in the 20th and 21st centuries have reinvented Bach’s music through various technologies. In a similarly themed book, How Music Works, David Byrne of the influential band Talking Heads, takes a look at how music is shaped by time and place and how technology has changed our relationship with it.
Music Top 10
Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young. Penguin/Blue Rider, Oct.
Who I Am: A Memoir by Peter Townshend. Harper, Oct.
Never a Dull Moment: My Autobiography by Rod Stewart. Crown Archetype, Oct.
The John Lennon Letters by John Lennon, edited by Hunter Davies. Little, Brown, Oct.
Untitled by Courtney Love, with Anthony Bozza. Morrow, Oct.
Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story by Wyclef Jean with Anthony Bozza. It Books, Sept.
Mick Jagger by Philip Norman. Ecco, Oct.
Bruce by Peter A Carlin. Touchstone, Nov.
Reinventing Bach by Paul Elie. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept.
How Music Works by David Byrne. McSweeney’s, Sept.
Read and sort all our picks from this fall's music titles in the spreadsheet below: