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100 Must-Read Musician Memoirs and Biographies

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Ashley Holstrom

Staff Writer

Ashley Holstrom helps make books at Sourcebooks. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color. Newsletter: Crooked Reads. Twitter: @alholstrom.

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One of the best ways to get into a new (old) band or musician is to find their memoirs and biographies. Immerse yourself in the creation of these gifted humans, stare googly-eyed at the photos printed on glossy pages in the middle of the book, and then jam out to their music. It’s all a win.

At least, that’s how I ended up obsessed with Guns N’ Roses. And The Doors. And Motley Crue. And Aerosmith. And, in the future, many more that I’m holding on to for just the right moment.

Here are 100 musician memoirs and biographies, sorted by the music’s genre (loosely defined), to get you rockin’ and rollin’ and movin’ and groovin’.


My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman

Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie

Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh

Love, Janis by Laura Joplin

Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn, George Vecsey

Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography by Jimmy McDonough

Reba: My Story by Reba McEntire, Tom Carter

It’s a Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock by Gene Odom, Frank Dorman

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt

the-50th-law-50-cent Hip Hop

The 50th Law by 50 Cent, Robert Greene

Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm by Percy Carey, Ronald Wimberly

Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality by Chuck D, Yusuf Jah

The Way I Am by Eminem

Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood by Ice-T, Douglas Century

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore

The Tao of Wu by The RZA

The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur

How to Ruin Everything: Essays by George Watsky

Gone ‘Til November by Lil Wayne


The Good Life by Tony Bennett

The Godfather of Soul: An Autobiography by James Brown

Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch

Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis

Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters by Robert Gordon

Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B.B. King by B.B. King, David Ritz

John Coltrane: His Life and Music by Lewis Porter

Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in Her Time by Phyllis Rose

Now and Then… by Gil Scott-Heron

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout


Catch a Fire: The Autobiography by Melanie B.

Black By Design: A 2-Tone Memoir by Pauline Black

Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash by Pat Gilbert

Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace

If Only by Geri Halliwell

Herbie Hancock: Possibilities by Herbie Hancock, Lisa Dickey

Reckless: My Life as a Pretender by Chrissie Hynde

Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs by John Lydon

I’ll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones, Paul Morley

A Natural Woman: A Memoir by Carole King

Army of She: Icelandic, Iconoclastic, Irrepressible Björk by Evelyn McDonnell

lobotomy-dee-dee-ramoneLobotomy: Surviving the Ramones by Dee Dee Ramone

Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag by Henry Rollins

Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, or My

Life As a Fabulous Ronette by Ronnie Spector, Vince Waldron

Rod: The Autobiography by Rod Stewart

Diana Ross: A Biography by J. Randy Taraborrelli

In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran by Nigel John Taylor

I, Tina by Tina Turner, Kurt Loder

Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White

Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been by Pharrell Williams

clothes-music-boys-viv-albertineRock ‘n’ Roll

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine

Between a Heart and a Rock Place: A Memoir by Pat Benatar

Chuck Berry: The Autobiography by Chuck Berry

Moonage Daydream: The Life & Times of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Lips Unsealed: A Memoir by Belinda Carlisle

Cash by Johnny Cash

Clapton: The Autobiography by Eric Clapton

Journals by Kurt Cobain

Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello

room-full-of-mirrors Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix by Charles R. Cross

Neon Angel by Cherie Currie

Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division by Deborah Curtis

Hammer of the Gods by Stephen Davis

Things The Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett

Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac by Mick Fleetwood, Stephen Davis

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick

Diary of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star by Ian Hunter

Dancing with Myself by Billy Idol

Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones

Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis

White Line Fever by Lemmy Kilmister

the-dirt-tommy-lee The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee

Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead by Phil Lesh

Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love by Courtney Love

The Long Hard Road Out of Hell by Marilyn Manson

Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd by Nick Mason, Philip Dodd

It’s So Easy: And Other Lies by Duff McKagan

Autobiography by Morrissey

Joan Jett by Todd Oldham, Joan Jett

I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne

Rocks: My Life in and out of Aerosmith by Joe Perry

Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley

life-keith-richardsLife by Keith Richards

Crazy from the Heat by David Lee Roth

Bird Lives!: The High Life & Hard Times of Charlie (Yardbird) Parker by Ross Russell

Slash by Slash, Anthony Bozza

Somebody to Love?: A Rock-and-Roll Memoir by Grace Slick, Andrea Cagan

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Face the Music: A Life Exposed by Paul Stanley

Seven Deadly Sins: Settling the Argument Between Born Bad and Damaged Good by Corey Taylor

Who I Am by Pete Townshend

The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa, Peter Occhiogrosso


Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke by Peter Guralnick

Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday, William Dufty

Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz

Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues by Elijah Wald

Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman by Fred Wesley