I have a confession to make. I have a book problem. A genuine book problem. at any given moment I have an audio-book on the go, and my bookshelves are always overflowing. Don’t even think about letting me loose in Foyles. In good news though, consider me your faithful music memoir reviewer. Here are 5 memoirs that have valuable lessons for every musician out there..
1)You don’t need to come from a rich background (and have piano lessons from age 2!) to be a rock star!
One of the best memoirs I’ve ever read is the hilarious, witty, and at times heartbreaking Clothes, Music, Boys by Viv Albertine. Viv grew up without any female guitarists to look up to. She was from a working class background and thought music was the domain of rich men. So what did she do? she jumped right in and became the guitarist in The Slits (one of the most influential punk bands to date!) By doing so, she paved the way for countless women after her. In my opinion, the most inspiring part of the punk movement was the ‘can do’ attitude.
Takeaway: Can you string a couple of chords together? You can make music. do it.
2) Even legends make things they hate sometimes. oh, and they’re just people!
I enjoyed reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, and I was hit by the fact that being Bob Dylan has involved quite a lot of mundanity at times. Yes Dylan had a meteoric rise, but he’s also had years of plugging away at music since, and he’s no stranger to the daily grind. He’s also put time and money into projects he ended up hating and scrapping.
Takeaway:Bob Dylan is a genius. If he gets stuck sometimes, perhaps we can be a bit more patient with ourselves?
3) Singing is a job. It’s not always glamorous!
Want to understand the reality of being a singer? Read Tracey Thorn’s Naked at The Albert Hall. Tracey fronted Everything but the Girl but was a reluctant pop star. Tracey discusses the wide spread fantasy people have about singers. It’s easy to assume singers are born talented, like angels that fell out of heaven with perfect voices. This is not so. Yes talent is a big factor, but hard work is a much bigger part of the puzzle.
Takeaway: Singers are made not born. So keep practising!
4) You don’t have to be an extrovert to be a performer!
Often it’s the introverted, quiet types that long for the stage. Take Carrie Brownstein, guitarist in Sleater-Kinney. Carrie might have looked cool rocking out on stage, but she’s suffered from anxiety along the way. Sleater-Kinney broke the rules when it came to music. Lead Singer Corin Tucker would often tune the guitar to her voice, rather than to the other instruments, which gave Sleater-Kinney a discordant sound. Talk about doing things your own way.
Takeaway: Don’t be scared to be yourself!
5) Follow your dreams, at the very least you’ll have an adventure!
Last but by no means least, I can’t recommend Just Kids enough!This is Patti Smith’s memoir, and at it’s heart is a book about daring to be an artist. I don’t think Patti knew what she was going to end up doing (becoming the ‘Godmother of Punk’ couldn’t have been predicted!) but she knew it was going to be special.
Takeaway: whatever you need to do to support your dream, do it. Have faith in your purpose and hustle, hustle, hustle!
Is there an amazing memoir I’ve missed? drop me a comment and let me know!