The new crop of rock biographies published recently has me thinking about the role that popular musicians play in our lives. As teenagers, we follow their every move, they serve as subjects of gossip and recipients of ridicule. Eventually, we see these performers as old friends, reminding us of fond memories and unfortunate haircuts. These books illustrate the individuals behind the music, human beings, both fabulous and flawed. The shelves of the library are full of great biographies about anyone who’s ever been anyone, but you’ll probably find me in the 700’s, flipping pages and humming “Stairway to Heaven”.
For the first time, Neil Young looks at his own life and his musical legacy. The book is written in 68 short chapters covering everything from his childhood in Ontario and his early struggles to the fast lane drug inspired days with Buffalo Springfield and CSNY . He details his fears as a solo artist and his successes and failures in and out of the music business. His love for Pegi, his wife, and his three children flow off the pages, as does his commitment to a variety of charitable causes.
Who I Am by Pete Townshend
Believing a life unexamined is not a life truly lived, Townshend has chosen to open up about the details of his life, both personally and professionally. He talks about the success of the Who and details the little-known stories of the band. Digging into his own troubled childhood and his failed relationships during the heights of stardom, Townshend poured most of his emotions into his music. Much of the narrative comes from diary entries so the book has a confessional approach, showing a talented and troubled man.
Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Leslie Ann Jones
Years after his death, many family members, close friends and associates are opening up about the man they knew. The story details how a shy lonely Parsi boy from Zanzibar became an outrageous and flamboyant performer, and a legend of the English rock and roll scene. Mercury’s life, as the band Queen climbed the charts, became one of every-increasing hedonism as he became more and more emotionally isolated. This story of a man and his music is both bittersweet and fascinating.
Shut up and give me the Mic by Dee Snider
Dee Snider, the songwriter and lead singer for the band, Twisted Sister, seemed on the surface to represent every cliché about the “hair” bands of the 1980’s but underneath lay a classically trained choir boy who struggled to find his path in music. It was meeting with Suzette, his wife, that helped Snider develop his own style and find fame. Ever the achiever, Snider has done television, movies, starred on Broadway and appeared before Congress. In the book, crazy anecdotes are mixed in with heartfelt family stories, showing that Snider has remained true to himself.
Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir by Cyndi Lauper
Rock and roll has always been primarily a man’s world, so it’s the rare female performer who achieves lasting fame. Cyndi Lauper has lasted due to the combination of talent, perseverance and a “don’t really care if you like me, I’m just going to keep singing” attitude. Tackling her life with humour, Cyndi talks about the failures that lead to her success, challenging herself as both a mother and an activist and her goals for the future. She is a strong woman and an excellent role model to anyone who wants to pursue their dreams.