Books on Vocal Music

October 23, 2023

782. Books on vocal music

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Further Reading:

Daniel Bergner Sing for Your Life, 2016.

From a young age, Ryan Speedo Green had it rough. His abusive mother raised him, and his father was never around in the southeastern Virginia neighborhoods where he grew up. By age twelve, he was in a juvenile facility. But twelve years after that, he finished first out of 1,200 other talented singers in a competition sponsored by the New York Metropolitan Opera and is now a star singing in opera houses worldwide. Daniel Bergner tells his incredible story.

Rick Bragg Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, 2014.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg shares the story of Jerry Lee Lewis, the first unapologetically bad boy of rock music. Bragg shares the drugs, drinking, and wives, all seven of them, one of whom was his thirteen-year-old second cousin. Even Lewis’s shows sometimes ended in riots and boycotts. So here’s a candid look at the man behind the icon.

Craig Brown One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time, 2020.

British critic Craig Brown provides this biography not of a person but of the Beatles, one of history’s most famous and influential musical groups.

Michael Bush The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson, 2012.

International superstar Michael Jackson sang, danced, wrote, performed, and amazed everyone with his costumes. Costume designer Michael Bush looks at the funny and touching relationship he and fellow costume designer Dennis Tompkins had with Jackson backstage.

Mark Dillon Fifty Sides of the Beach Boys, 2013.

Through interviews with band members, close associates, and famous musicians, Mark Dillon tells the story behind fifty of the Beach Boys’ most iconic songs.

Robert Hilburn Johnny Cash: The Life, 2013.

Los Angeles Times music critic Robert Hilburn knew Johnny Cash personally. Here, he uses his interviews with Cash and June Carter Cash and material from family and friends. He presents a well-rounded portrait of one of America’s most beloved musical icons.

Blair Jackson and David Gans This is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead, 2015.

Jerry Garcia and the members of the Grateful Dead were more than a band. They were the focus of a subculture that gained a cult-like feel. If you’re a Deadhead, the Dead wasn’t a band you liked; it was a way of life. Jackson and Gans tell how the band began in Palo Alto to become a decades-long party celebrating music, love, and life. This inside look at the band is perfect for their fans.

Nate Patrin Bring that Beat Back: How Sampling Built Hip-Hop, 2020.

Nate Patrin uses the stories of four artists, Grandmaster Flash, Prince Paul, Dr. Dre, and Madlib, to show how they pioneered hip-hop from the early days of the 1970s through the 21st century. Sampling is when sounds already available are manipulated into new forms and then incorporated into music. Using these four musicians, Patin relates a history of the hip-hop genre.

Alex Ross Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, 2020.

The German composer Richard Wagner was one of the most influential composers in Western history. His influence on early 20th-century culture and art is unparalleled. And yet, when Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party adopted his music, he became best known for his anti-Semitism, and his name became synonymous with artistic evil in the eyes of many. Music critic Alex Ross examines both Wagner’s genius and the tragic effects of hate.

Dennis Bryon You Should Be Dancing: My Life with the Bee Gees, 2015.

At their peak, drummer Dennis Bryon shares life on the road with the Bee Gees. In addition to discussing the songs and the band members, he shares stories of encounters with other famous artists of the period, including Michael Jackson and Olivia Newton-John.

For more information on the Further Reading series, see “Further Reading: Start Here.”


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