don't have to have to know how to play an instrument nor do you have to
be able to carry a tune to enjoy and appreciate music. I know, because
my musical abilities are pretty slim, yet music has been a big part of
my life, as I'm sure it has been for you.
Today's Reading on Topic: Music takes us from pop to punk to rock n roll. We learn about the music business through fiction, memoir, biography, and sociology. There are books for teens and for adults. Crank up your speakers, loosen your vocal cords, and get ready to rock out.
The Sound Truth
- Rick Bragg conducted a number of interviews over two years to collect the foundational material for Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story (Harper, 2014, ISBN: 9780062078223). Lewis's story is more than a rags to riches to rags story of a rock star who indulged in life with abandon. Lewis was there at the start of rock and roll and saw it through to the next century, surviving despite his fall from grace, his many divorces, the death of children, too many drugs, and several car crashes. Bragg gives us insight into both an era and one of rock's greats.
- In Girl in a Band (Dey Street, 2015, ISBN: 9780062295897), Kim Gordon reflects on her life in New York during the 1980s and 1990s and her journey from childhood through art, music, and fame to marriage, motherhood, and divorce. This well-written memoir (illustrated by many photos) features Gordon's years with Sonic Youth and includes stories of other musicians, but it is also a tale of feminism and the music industry. After reading this, you'll understand why Gordon has become a role model for younger generations.
- Ben Yagoda's The B-Side (Riverhead, 2015, ISBN: 9781594488498) is based on meticulous research and dozens of interviews with twentieth-century songwriters and examines, as the subtitle says, "The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song." This very accessible study looks at music trends and how business, technology, media, and socioeconomic factors affect the making of pop music and the careers of songwriters from all genres. Music lovers shouldn't miss this easy-to-read take on the popular American music scene.
- Driftwood (Skyhorse, 2014, ISBN: 9781629144993) by Elizabeth Dutton is about twenty-seven-year-old Clem Jasper, daughter of a famous rock musician who dies unexpectedly, leaving her a series of letters as part of her inheritance. The notes, which contain clues to her father's past and hint at secrets he was unable to reveal in person, lead Clem on an epic road trip through her native California. The novel addresses, grief, self-discovery, family, and the power of music.
- Ravi Howard's Driving the King (Harper, 2015, ISBN: 9780060529611) is a fictional account of the famous singer Nat King Cole's relationship with his childhood friend and driver, Nat Weary. The story, set in the postwar years, is told through Weary's eyes and spotlights issues of race, class, and the entertainment industry. Although the novel takes liberties with the facts of Cole's life, Howard accurately evokes the issues faced by southern black musicians in the mid-twentieth century.
- Written by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cynthia Weil, I'm Glad I Did (Soho Teen, 2015, ISBN: 9781616953560) is set in 1963 Manhattan. Despite her parents' disapproval, sixteen-year-old JJ Green applies for and wins an internship with a Brill Building music publisher. Armed with talent and enthusiasm, JJ enters the dark, competitive world of the music industry. This young adult novel shows the unromantic side of the business, as JJ witnesses stiff competition, racism, and questionable ethics. Drawing on her own experiences, Weil paints a vivid picture of the underbelly of the music scene at the dawn of a new age.