The Buzz

Memoirs that look behind the music

Categories: Books, Celebrities

Many of our musical heroes have hit the point in their careers when it's time to look back. They have memories of everything from the music to the touring to the awards to the women. This year has seen a slew of stars from all genres put down their guitars and pick up a pen — or trust someone else to do it. With this sudden selection of rockin' reads out there, the hard part is deciding what to pick up!


 Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin. (Simon and Schuster)

Bruce is one highly coveted title this year, and should be. From Springsteen's music, to his battles with depression, to his emergence as a highly politicized entertainer, it's all here. The unauthorized biography by Peter Ames Carlin details his formative years in New Jersey, and his relationship with his hard-to-impress dad, Doug. We learn about his family, managers, bandmates — the book quotes Clarence Clemons, interviewed before his death last year. Even his flaws are examined. Apparently "the Boss" is actually a crummy boss. Other than glossing over his romances — little on wife Patti Scialfa or his ex, Julianne Phillips — this is a complete biography of a virtuoso talent. He's only 63 years old — there are surely many more stories to come.

Mick Jagger

 Mick Jagger by Philip Norman. (HarperCollins)

One of the thickest, more indulgent rock star surveys out there is that of Mick Jagger. The story of this Rolling Stones rock icon is so well known now that there are few new places to venture. But biographer Philip Norman certainly tries in these 600 pages. He covers Jagger's many sides, from cunning businessman to notorious penny pincher to frontman of one of the world's most famous rock bands. All the familiar tales are here — from how the band was formed, to the infamous Altamont concert, to his relationships with Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall. A thorough reference for all things Mick.

Who I Am: a Memoir

Pete Townshend comes across as a searching, introspective, slightly insecure individual in Who I Am. Looking back on a life of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, trashed hotel rooms and helping friends like Eric Clapton kick his drug addiction, one would think The Who's guitarist would have more to revel in. But the memoir confronts some early-life trauma and brings to light his own deficiencies as a husband and father. He dispels the rock star myth, and delves into an emotional journey of a star misunderstood.

Cyndi Lauper: a Memoir

 Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir. (Simon and Schuster) Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir takes us through the highs and lows of an '80s pop star life. It's an unpretentious, plain-English account of how a girl from Queens, New York, became an MTV darling. The photos in the centre section are especially fun — with captions like "Playing with my dolls in the alley next to my house," "On tour in Montreal, checking the sound." After years of dye jobs spanning the Roy G. Biv spectrum, it's a pleasing account of Lauper's true colours.

Luck or Something Like It

Kenny Rogers focuses on his life's musical journey in Luck or Something Like It, taking a work-hard / play-hard point of view. He explains how he avoided a path of self-destruction: no alcohol or cigarettes, only "some" drugs. He recalls working with Lionel Richie and Dolly Parton, touches on a past of sex scandals, and takes responsibility for his four failed marriages. He does, however, veer away from any talk of plastic surgery, advised by his publishers to drop that chapter.

Purpose: An Immigrant's Story

Wyclef Jean of Fugees fame became a symbol of hope with his commitment to rebuild Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Financial scandal befell his charity, and now he aims to set the record straight. Purpose: An Immigrant's Story is his version of what happened, including details on abandoning his Haitian presidential bid. But overshadowing it all here is the story of his love affair with Lauryn Hill, as Jean freely goes into detail, despite still being married to his wife of almost 20 years.

Joni: The Creative Odyssey

Journalist Katherine Monk travels deeps into the life, mind, and process of Joni Mitchell in Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell. This is not a foray for beginners, but rather for superfans who are looking for a more cerebral analysis of this reclusive cultural icon.

Waging Heavy Peace

 Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young. (Penguin Group)

Waging Heavy Peace is a rare, first-person glimpse into the life of Neil Young. He conversationally recalls times of music, drugs and love. He talks about guitars, tantrums, his brain aneurism in 2005, and admits to his own shortcomings as a father. Still, his love for his family comes through, especially when he speaks of his son Ben, who has cerebral palsy.

It's My Way

She's a Canadian icon who inspired hope and free expression with her protest songs and activism. Buffy Sainte-Marie: It's My Way takes readers through Sainte-Marie's life as an activist, writer, actor, teacher, and parent. Historian Blair Stonechild, head of native studies at First Nations University in Regina, explains some history of the Cree people, and of the reserve in Saskatchewan where Sainte-Marie was born.

I'm Your Man

 I'm Your Man by Sylvie Simmonds (McClelland & Stewart)

One of the most highly anticipated musical biographies of the year is I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. Biographer Sylvie Simmons examines every angle to tell the complete story of this influential rebel/poet/singer/legend from Montreal. Drawn from research, interviews, and Cohen's personal archives, it's the definitive account of a remarkable life.

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