I wake up in the morning make a pot of coffee and it’s time to work on songs. I’m staring down several numbers that are missing big pieces. Whoah boyeeeee. Putting off getting to work on them can be an art form in itself. This blog can be a good distraction but it’s writing so I can’t really do it in a half-assed way. At this point, I have a piece on Chuck Berry and one on old field recordings that desperately need editing. So I spin old records and download a lot of music. I read a lot of books, blogs and magazines.
My comfort books are mostly fiction and literature, lots of old novels and stories. I like 19th Century stuff a lot, but my no means exclusively. Tolstoy and Isaac Bashevis Singer are my all-time favorite writers. There’s a lesser-known 20th Century guy from Northern Ireland called Brian Moore whose novels I’ve read like a junkie. Vonnegut always helps me out when I’m in a tough place. I’ve recently gotten into some older works by V.S. Naipul. My favorite one is called Miguel Street. I’ve got a stack of cheap-o, sci-fi paperback collections from the 1950’s, that I read for pleasure. I really like British poems by the Romantic poets. I take a lot of comfort in stories by Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar too. These days I’ve been digging some non fiction too. I’ve been flipping out on the lectures of Joseph Campbell. There’s also a brilliant psychologist called Marion Woodman whose work really floors me more than anything I’ve read in a long time.
I’ve wasted a joyous good deal of my time in life reading music history books, biographies and essays. My all time favorite are music autobiographies and memoirs. There’s nothing quite so relaxing and comforting to me. Below you’ll find a list of some of my favorites. These are just the autobiographies. There are stacks of great biographies and writings on music that I love. Maybe one day soon I’ll write about some of those too. For now, I’ll just list the autobiographies I can remember. Once again folks, it’s incomplete, directly from memory and in no particular order. You won’t find Bound For Glory or Beneath The Underdog here because I never got through them. They may be wonderful. I’ll give them another shot. Anyway, here are some real goodies. I highly recommend them all.
…And please…drop me a line and tell me about which music autobiographies didn’t make my list. I’d love to read all of your recommendations.
Lady Sings The Blues by Billy Holiday
All You Need is Ears by George Martin
Fleetwood by Mick Fleetwood
Chronicles by Bob Dylan
I Put A Spell on You by Nina Simone
This Wheel’s on Fire by Levon Helm
Good Morning Blues by Count Basie as told to Albert Murray
Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans by Louis Armstrong
Born Under a Hoo Doo Moon by Dr. John
They Can’t Hide Us Anymore by Richie Havens
Blues All Around Me by B.B. King
Man of Constant Sorrow by Ralph Stanley
Big Bill Blues by Big Bill Broonzy
Hound Dog by Leiber and Stoller
The Godfather of Soul by James Brown
Guitars, Bars and Motown Superstars by Dennis Coffey
I am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne
Chuck Berry by Chuck Berry
I Me Mine by George Harrison
Me, The Mob and the Music by Tommy James
Miles by Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe
Rage To Survive by Etta James
Brother Ray by Ray Charles
Just Kids by Patti Smith
To Be Loved by Berry Gordy
Willie by Wille Nelson
Stone Alone by Bill Wyman
I’ll throw in Groucho and Me by Groucho Marx, even though he’s not a musician. I just love that book so much. You might try his collected letters as well.
Oh…and I also read most of Keith Richards’ memoir in a hotel room somewhere. It wasn’t my copy but I’m the only morning person in Rock and Roll so there’s always a couple of good hours of quiet reading time before the band gets up.
…Ok Milty, back to work!