The All Music Book Review
Well 2016 was a dark year in music history, as we said goodbye to many great musicians. Some of the more noteworthy names include, Prince, David Bowie, Glen Frey, Maurice White, Vanity, George Martin, Keith Emerson, Glen Lake, Merle Haggard, Alan Vega, Pete Burns, Leon Russel, Bob Walsh, Sharon Jones, and Canada’s legendary Leonard Cohen.
On the upside, there was a plethora of music books that hit the shelves this year as well. Here are a few that piqued my interest, and are worth picking up.
I’ll Never Write My Memoirs - Grace Jones
i’ll never write my memoirs
Iconic music and film legend Grace Jones wrote the memoir she said she wouldn’t, and it’s amazing. It’s a walk down memory lane for those who know her singing and movie career from the disco and new wave era of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. However, it begins long before this, with her strict religious upbringing in Jamaica, her foray into modelling, and right up to her current day performances that are drawing as much attention as ever. Her androgynous looks were what attracted many to her, especially those within the queer community, to which she gives more than a few acknowledgements of her success for their support. Who doesn’t remember her in the James Bond classic, A View to Kill, or playing that sexy vampire in, Vamp? From performing for queens at the wildest underground New York City gay bars, to performing at the Queen’s Jubilee in London, she dishes it all out! There’s also 16 glossy pages of beautiful images.
Somebody to Love: The Life, Death, and Legacy of Freddie Mercury
somebody to love
the life, death, and legacy of freddie mercury
Freddie Mercury left the rock n roll community 25 years ago, back in November, 1991. For the first time, the final years of one of the world's most captivating rock showman are laid bare, including interviews from the musician’s closest friends, personal photographs, and intimate details never revealed before. He, along with Rock Hudson, was one of the first celebrity figures to succumb to the new “gay disease”, AIDS. He also was the front man for one of the world’s most popular rock bands at the time, often having to hid his sexuality and thereby having difficulty finding meaningful relationships. Like many other celebrities, he appeared happy on the outside, but sorrow stricken on the inside. The death of this vibrant and spectacularly talented rock star, shook the world of medicine as well as the world of music.
Tranny – Laura Jane Grace
Tom Gabel shocked the rock n roll community when the front man of punk rock band, Against Me!, announced that he was transgendered and would begin transitioning to his female gender. He also made it clear that his band mates were accepting of this announcement, and they would continue on as a group with front woman, Laura Jane Grace. Since its inception in 1997, Against Me! has been one of punk's most influential modern bands, but also one of its most divisive. However, something much greater occupied Gabel - a secret kept for 30 years, only acknowledged in the scrawled-out pages of personal journals and hidden in lyrics. It wasn’t until May of 2012 that a Rolling Stone article finally revealed the true identity of Laura. “Tranny” offers readers an intimate look at Laura’s life, that includes never-before-seen journals, photographs, and personal stories of how she hid her inner struggles from her friends, family members, and fans alike. This is more than a book on rock n roll, it’s a story that many can relate to on a personal basis as well.
Fearless as Possible (Under the Circumstances) - Denise Donlon
fearless as possible (under the circumstances)
There have been a couple of books released by former Much Music (The New Music) veejays, the once-great Canadian music station that launched the careers of many musicians by way of televising music videos – our version of the American MTV. One such individual is Denise Donlon, who took her media platform and used it to develop her career and passions further. She held senior corporate positions at Sony Music Canada (their first female president), CBC English Canada, and The Zoomer. She also used her voice as a feminist and social activist to raise concerns for such notable causes as her philanthropic work with War Child Canada, Live8, MusiCounts, and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. Told with humour and honesty, Fearless as Possible (Under the Circumstances) is a candid memoir of one woman’s journey, navigating corporate culture with integrity, responsibility, and an irrepressible passion to be a force for good.
Other Much Music alumni releasing books are Christopher Ward's "Is This Live?", and the forthcoming novel by Kim Clarke Champniss, "Skinheads, Fur Traders, and DJ's"
Then and Now: Toronto’s Nightlife History – Denise Benson
then and now: toronto’s nightlife history
Toronto has always been a hotbed for music, from the 60’s Yorkville coffee houses, to today’s Grammy Award winners. One place people often discover music is in nightclubs on the dance floor. Denise Benson is one of those people who may have exposed you to some of that new music, either on the dance floor as a DJ, or between the sheets (of paper) with her Then and Now music retrospective column in the now defunct publication, The Grid. Then & Now: Toronto Nightlife History, offers an inside behind-the-scenes look at four decades of social spaces, dance clubs, and live music venues. Through interviews, research, and enthusiastic feedback from the party people who were there, Benson delves deep behind the scenes to reveal the histories of 48 influential nightlife spaces, many of them queer, and the story of a city that has grown alongside its sounds. Denise recently announced that her publisher, Three O’Clock Press, has ceased operations, however a few copies still remain at bookstores around the city. Excerpts can also be read at the link below.
I've included the following two books for their poignant depictation of how patriotism toward your country often shines bright through your music.
Testimony: A Memoir – Robbie Robertson
testimony: a memoir
For fans of classic Canadiana music, Robbie Robertson's memoir will satisfy those with a quest for knowledge on what it was like being a musician in one of Canada's most well-known bands over the past four decades. On the fortieth anniversary of The Band’s legendaryconcert film, The Last Waltz, (Martin Scorsese) Robertson finally tells his own spellbinding story of the band that changed music history, his own extraordinary personal journey, and his creative friendships with some of the greatest artists of the last half-century (Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan). It's as if he's reading aloud to you, as he recounts his beginnings on the Six Nations Indian Reserve, his escape to the streets of Toronto, and his travels to the Mississippi Delta that brought him to where his musical career would develop. It’s the story of exciting change as the world tumbled through the ʼ60s and early ʼ70s, and a generation came of age, built on music, love, and freedom.
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
Born to Run
While some may argue, it’s been said that Bruce Springsteen is one of America’s greatest stage performers in rock n roll. In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it, and that’s how this extraordinary autobiography begins. His “Born in the U.S.A.” single became a national anthem of sorts, often played at sporting events, and dance clubs alike. In the book he delves into his childhood upbringing in blue-collared Asbury Park, New Jersey, where he began his musical career, and which still remains true to his heart today. There’s also a whole section that explains the full meaning behind the classic. “Born to Run”. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.
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