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11 Must-Read Musical Biographies

Prince’s recent death shocked the world, with many mourning the passing of an enigmatic musical legend. Matt Thorne’s account of the life of Prince has been called the definitive work on the man who revolutionised pop music.

Musicians lead fascinating lives and biographies often reveal some of the most interesting stories behind the legends, so we’ve collected some the best told stories of musicians’ lives. The ones that can provide vicarious thrills and historical insights into both the music and life, while being absolutely compulsive reads. From the classical aficionados to the masters of rock, below are some titles to enjoy.

LemmyMick Wall is one of the best known music biographers, and his take on the late Lemmy from Motorhead is pretty amazing. As Lemmy himself said – “Mick Wall is one of few rock writers in the world who can actually write and seems to know anything about rock music. I can and do talk to him for hours – poor bastard”.

In Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein offers an intimate and revealing narrative of her escape from a turbulent family life to becoming the guitarist of the feminist punk-rock band Sleater-Kinney. Her prose translates beautifully onto the page.

A prelude to fame, Just Kids recounts the friendship of two young artists – Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe – whose passion fuelled their lifelong pursuit of art. An unforgettable portrait of New York and two amazing artists.I'll Never Write My Memoirs

You couldn’t have a list of musical biographies without talking about Scar Tissue, the amazing story from Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Antony Kiedis. This book transcends the typical rock biography, and is instead a compelling story of dedication and debauchery, of intrigue and integrity, of recklessness and redemption.

In the interestingly named I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, Grace takes us on a journey from her religious upbringing in Jamaica to her heyday in Paris and New York in the 70s and 80s to present day.

Dave Grohl is often described as the nicest guy in rock n’ roll, and This Is A Call does nothing to disprove this. From Nirvana to the Foo Fighters, this account offers an insight into the life of a great modern musician.

In her provocative, surprising and funny memoir Cadence, ABC Classic FM’s Emma Ayres cycles her way from England to Hong Kong with a violin she calls Aurelia strapped to her back. Not only a travel story, this also tells of the music that inspired and shaped her.

In a voice that is uniquely and intimately his own, with the disarming honesty that has always been his trademark, Keith Richards’ Life brings us the essential life story of a rock legend. An absolute must read.

GurrumulFrom concert halls to recording studios and into the Yolngu heartland, this is the story of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Part biography and part roadtrip, this is the story of a great talent revealed and of an astonishing musical gift that has left audiences all over the world spellbound.

Not a musician per se, Molly Meldrum was an integral part of the Australian music landscape as host of Countdown. The Never, Um, Ending Story tells how he talked, partied, argued, exchanged blows and became firm friends with a rollcall of the world’s greatest musical names.

What are some of the best biographies or autobiographies of musicians that you’ve enjoyed? Let us know in the comments.


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