Column

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

Telling the Musical Life

Off the top of my head I can think of three memoirs that I found very impressive. One was Dylan's "Chronicles: Vol. One" Being a Dylan fanatic I was primed to enjoy it but I was worried about what he would actually produce for there is no predicting what the man might do. (When he became a born-again Christian I knew anything was possible.) But the book blew me away with how interesting, insightful, informative and gracious it was.

Another was Al Kooper's "Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards." The title sort of tells it all and given his very interesting life that went from writing a hit for Gary Lewis and the Playboys, to musical director at the Moterey Pop Festival, to his work with Dylan, to his "Super Session" album with Mike Bloomfield and Steven Stills,to producing and playing on Suggie Otis' debut album to discovering Lynyrd Skynnard he had plenty to tell and he did it well with no holds barred.

Finally Levon Helm's "This Wheel's On Fire" was and honest look at an amazing life from his time with Ronnie Hawks to Dylan to his experiences in one of the best bands ever--The Band. There is a lot of sour grapes over his feud with Robbie Robertson that begs for Robertson's perspective but the book is always riveting and enjoyable.

The Pete Townshend, Carole King, and Graham Nash books are all very good...I definitely intend to get Rita Coolidge's book, as it sounds terrific....another absolutely terrific musician biography is Mark Oliver Everett's (the band Eels and a Man Called E) book, "Things The Grandchildren Should Know"...that is likely the best book I've read by a musician...tremendous...great post Henry!