10 Best Rock Autobiographies
Often ludicrous, the lives of famous (and even semi-famous) rock musicians tend to make for some killer stories. That’s why year after year, a flurry of musical autobiographies hits bookstores. Whether you go the digital route on Amazon or iTunes or you prefer holding an actual book (imagine that!) in your hands, there’s a ton of great reading material out there to dig into. Diffuser.fm has quite the book collection, so we’ve decided to put together a list of the 10 Best Rock Autobiographies.
Blur might not pop to mind when most music fans think about the whole drugged-out-rock-band thing, but after reading ‘Bit of a Blur: The Autobiography’ from bassist Alex James, we know better. He and his Blur bandmates might have conquered their liver-damaging habits, but not before James lived a high-rolling lifestyle that, thanks to cocaine and alcohol abuse, cost him more than a million dollars. Yes folks, some Britpoppers partied as hard as ‘70s-era Aerosmith.
‘This Wheel’s on Fire’ is late drummer/vocalist Levon Helm’s take on his days as a member of influential roots rock outfit the Band. The Arkansas-born Helm was the only non-Canadian member of the group, which famously backed Bob Dylan before striking out on their own. Helm’s bitter take on the making of ‘The Last Waltz,’ the Band’s star-studded Martin Scorsese-directed farewell concert film, is worth the price of admission alone.
‘See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody’ reveals Bob Mould’s past struggles with being homosexual and charting a genre-crossing course as a solo artist and member of Hüsker Dü and Sugar. Mould has had quite a colorful career, and at one point he was even shortlisted to produce Nirvana’s landmark ‘Nevermind’ album. Those kinds of revelations, coupled with frank accounts of his sexual life, make Mould’s ‘See a Little Light’ a compelling read.
‘Just Kids’ is Patti Smith’s memoir detailing her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, her late friend and collaborator. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s deep admiration for Mapplethorpe shines through in every chapter, as does her love for the New York City art scene of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Like the other titles highlighted on this list of the 10 Best Rock Autobiographies, you don’t necessarily have to be a Patti Smith fan to appreciate how great a book ‘Just Kids’ is.
‘Get in the Van’ is Henry Rollins’ memoir reflecting on his days on tour as the singer of seminal punkers Black Flag. The book is composed of journal entries the frontman kept from 1981-1986 and offers a rare glimpse into the struggles related to the early DIY tour circuit Black Flag helped trailblaze. Rollins won a Grammy in 1995 for Best Spoken Word Album for a 2-CD set he recorded from passages included in the book.
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s ‘Mo’ Meta Blues’ is as much a love letter to music as it is an autobiography. Thompson -- who is the drummer in the Roots as well as a sought-after producer/musician -- uses classic hip-hop, soul, rock and pop albums and songs to help contextualize each passage in the book, all the while offering his whip-smart take on each piece of music he mentions. He's a gifted writer, and we hope he finds room in his crazed schedule to pen another book in the future.
A lot of the press attention around the time Keith Richard’s ‘Life’ hit bookstores centered around the legendary Rolling Stones guitarist’s thoughts on his rocky relationship with Mick Jagger. But there’s way more to ‘Life’ than just the beef between the ‘Glimmer Twins.’ Richards also dishes on his past soap opera-worthy personal life and famous battles with substance abuse, leaving you feeling like you downed a fifth of Jack Daniels after just reading a few chapters.
Who would have guessed the drummer of Semisonic would be responsible for one of the most engrossing rock books released in the last decade? ‘So You Wanna…’ is Jacob Slichter’s recounting of the ‘Closing Time’ band’s rise and fall as alternative rock radio stars. His witty observations and humorous take on the often ridiculous situations Semisonic found themselves in during their major label days will have you in stitches.
When it comes to rock ‘n’ roll debauchery, Mötley Crüe’s ‘The Dirt’ might as well be a how-to guide. Throughout the book, the Saints of the Sunset Strip walk the reader through every sordid detail of their lives on the road, including groupie-related shenanigans, snorting ants with Ozzy Osbourne, and singer Vince Neil’s drunk infamous driving accident, which killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley. It’s not pretty stuff, but we’ll be damned if ‘The Dirt’ isn’t a page-turner.
Even if you aren’t a fan of Galaxie 500 or Luna, Dean Wareham’s warts-and-all look at his days fronting both bands throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s is a must-read for any music geek. There’s the usual salad days fare included, but it’s Wareham’s brutally honest recollection of his extramarital affair with Luna bandmate (and future wife) Britta Phillips that lands ‘Black Postcards’ on top of Diffuser.fm’s 10 Best Rock Autobiographies list.