The ten best music books of 2012
Read more about the Boss in Peter Ames Carlin's Bruce.
This year, ambitious new books tackled the lives of music legends from Neil Young to Pete Townshend -- and many of these 2012 releases managed to burst through genres to offer significantly more than the average biography. We at Backbeat explored memoirs, historical surveys, ruminations on philosophy and even self-help to put together our list of the best releases of 2012. You're bound to find something you enjoy in our final favorites.
10. Rod Stewart, Rod: The Autobiography In Rod Stewart's new autobiography, he writes about his life for the first time, using his own words to candidly chronicle his life -- both on and off the stage -- across years of touring, three marriages and five decades as a performer. Regardless of whether they're fans, readers will appreciate Stewart's perspective in his later life, and the wisdom (however unexpected) that comes along with that.
9. Pete Seeger, Pete Seeger: In His Own Words Pete Seeger is a musical and political icon, but he's also made his mark as a writer. His personal writings, documents and letters have been stored for years in his family barn, which is part of what makes his new autobiography so interesting. This collection comprises the most intimate portrayal of his life that readers have ever seen. From his involvement in labor movements and civil rights to his relationships with Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie, Seeger leaves no stone unturned.
8. Heart, Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll Ann and Nancy Wilson, the sisters behind Heart, were some of the only women in rock and roll to write their own music and play their own instruments. They refused to let their sexuality steal the spotlight from their talent. That refusal to let themselves or their music be defined by gender paved the way for many female musicians today. In Kicking and Dreaming, the Wilson sisters worked with music biographer Charles Cross to document their childhood and early success with a focus on the strength of family bond, all while providing a unique -- and distinctly female -- take on rock and roll.
7. Willie Nelson, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From the Road Willie Nelson's autobiography is a journey through the singer's many remarkable experiences and interests. from his music, family, politics and religion to pot, the environment and his humor-filled ruminations on life. Part road journal, part biography, the book gives readers a deeply personal look into the life and adventures of one of America's musical treasures through insights from Nelson, his friends and his family.
6. Dolly Parton, Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You Inspired by (and expanding on) the commencement speech that Dolly Parton gave at the University of Tennessee, Dream More is equal parts personal philosophy and self-help, and the results veer from typical music-biography stock to enter new territory. Relating back to experiences in her own life, Parton provides uplifting encouragement to readers to live life on their own terms.
5. David Byrne, How Music Works To say that David Byrne explores the more scientific side of music in How Music Works is a vast understatement, because in his new book, he acts as a musical anthropologist, seeking out patterns and changes in music that have been influenced over time by cultural and physical context -- including his own music. Byrne takes readers through his own musical journey, chronologically, exploring his many influences, and the shifts and evolution those influences caused.
4. Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Bruce is the first biography in 25 years to be written with the actual cooperation of Springsteen himself, and the result is a meticulously researched, raw look into the life and workings of a man and musician who redefined American music. Researched and written by Peter Ames Carlin, Bruce is a frank and intimate portrayal that includes commentary from the E Street Band and their feelings about dismissal and problems with their later reunion, as well as details about the Boss's tough childhood and struggle with personal issues.
3. Neil Young, Waging Heavy Peace Waging Heavy Peace is Neil Young's life, told by the only person we really want to hear it from: the man himself. From his Ontario childhood and the influence of his parents, to crazy stories of his early days performing in Canada, to his move to Los Angeles and experiences with Buffalo Springfield and CSNY, his storytelling is as uncompromising and candid as his songwriting.
2. Common, One Day It'll All Make Sense One Day It'll All Make Sense isn't just a memoir written by a musician; it's a memoir about the things that create a full person, and how someone can come from nothing and achieve success, through personal drive, with the help of loving friends and family. As he recounts his rise to fame, Common delves into the challenges of balancing fame, love, relationships and family.
1. Pete Townshend, Who I Am According to Pete Townshend, he planned on writing his memoir when he was 21. Now, at 67, the work of the voice of a generation has been published, and it's every bit as crazy, witty, sad and outrageous as fans would expect it to be. From smashing his first guitar, to later smashes, to drinking and doing drugs to the point of near-certain death, to helping rescue Eric Clapton from a heroin addiction, to being banned from the Holiday Inn for life, to his many inspirations and inventions, Townshend lets you into his world, no holds barred.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.