BOOKS ON WOMEN IN MUSIC
Updated: Mar 23
On the occasion of International Book Day, the music is her passion team made a selection of our favorite books on and written by female musicians!
As spring turns into summer and the days get longer – and with prolonged social distancing measures dictating our daily lives – we now have more time than ever to take a deep dive into the lives and lessons of our favorite female artists.
If you always wanted to read the mind of your favorite female musician – this is for you. To pass the time and pick the brains of our musical idols, or perhaps just to escape our daily routines, we have put together a list of our top books by female singers. Whether you seek to want to come out of this time as an equality ambassador or just a bigger fan of one of these power women – we’re sure you’ll gain some interesting insights from our book tips below!
“More Myself” by Alicia Keys (2020)
This book completely captivated me from the founding member of Sonic Youth, a fashion icon, and a role model for a generation of women. In this book, she is telling us her story, a story about rock n roll, motherhood, independence, and of course equality empowerment. She is giving us in this book a deep dive not only into her profession but also into her personal life. She takes us back to a dark and rising New York back in the 1980s and 90s that gave birth to one of the greatest rock bands. At the same time, she takes us on her very personal journey from girl to woman in a band.ist from such a synaptic side that one thinks of only one thing when living the book: it should never end.
“Girl in a band” by Kim Gordon (2015)
Kim Gordon played several roles in her life: founding member of Sonic Youth, fashion icon, and role model for a generation of women. In this book, she is telling us her story, a story about rock n roll, motherhood, independence, and of course equality empowerment. She is giving us in this book a deep dive not only into her profession but also into her personal life. She takes us back to a dark and rising New York back in the 1980s and 90s that gave birth to one of the greatest rock bands. At the same time, she takes us on her very personal journey from girl to woman in a band.
The book shows us, how challenging life as a woman in the male-dominated rock scene was at the time.
“Living like a Runway” by Lita Ford (2016)
In this autobiography of Lita Ford, vocalist and songwriter Lita Ford, who was the lead guitarist for the all-female rock band “The Runaways” you get a deep dive into the eventful life of the British-American rock guitarist. It was in 1975 when Lita left home at the age of sixteen to join the world’s first major all-female rock group. The book shows us, how challenging life as a woman in the male-dominated rock scene was at the time.
“These Girls” - A foray through feminist music history by Juliane Streich (2019)
This book tip is unfortunately only reserved for our German-speaking readers so far, but since I am so enthusiastic about it, I wanted to share it with you anyway. On the basis of a hundred entries, the anthology draws a chronicle of female music that spans epochs, countries, and genres. In this book, the lasting influence that women had on various musical styles is underlined. Page after page of this book is pure equality empowerment. From Sia to Janell Monáe to Lana Del Rey, the book makes us aware of the concentrated girl power in music history.
“High Times” by Uschi Obermaier (2007)
The 60s and 70s come alive again in the biography of an empowered woman who went her way without compromise. Uschi Obermaier became the symbol of free love for an entire generation and the role model for numerous girls who, like her, fell in love with the great musicians of the time. Uschi Obermaier was the erotic figurehead of counterculture, a pop icon of the sixties and seventies, and the finest example of a passionate music lover.
“Reckless: My Life as a Pretender” by Chrissie Hynde (2015)
When reading I have a great preference for musical biographies not only of my favorite artists but in general. Most of the biographies are revealing, in this case, also comes loaded with a power and a lot of valuable information for these times. "Reckless: My Life as a Pretender" is the biography of Chrissie Hynde founder of the British punk rock band The Pretenders. As the band's leader, main songwriter, and only original member of the group, in this biography Chrissie tells from her education in Ohio, her first days in the London punk scene, how she survived being the leader of a constantly changing lineup, to her powerful female factors that managed to put the group she founded in 1978 on top. She also reviews a hilarious anecdote in which she tells stories like a lunch with David Bowie being just a fan, or her unforgettable first meeting with Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead, among others.
"On the road with Janis Joplin" by John Byrne Cooke (2014)
John Byrne Cooke was a member of the film team of D. A. Pennebaker, a famous American filmmaker and documentary filmmaker considered to be one of the founders of the Cinéma Vérité movement. As a result of this work, he witnessed the amazing performances of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix at the Monterrey Pop Festival in June 1967. Less than six months later, he became Janis' manager from 1967 until his death. In this book Cooke reveals the never-before-told story of how Janis Joplin became the first female superstar of rock and roll, looking back at the years he lived next to her, from his first meeting at the Monterrey festival to Europe, Woodstock and Festival Express, John Cooke tells the whole incredible story as only someone who lived it can.
It's definitely one of my favorite books.
"Just Kids" by Patti Smith (2010)
It's definitely one of my favorite books. “Just Kids” is much more than a musical biography, it's a masterpiece by the enormous Patti Smith, the icon of the punk movement, poet, and exceptional artist. It is very easy to get under the skin of this story, to travel mentally to that New York of the early 70s, a time that all music lovers at some point dream of belonging to, an era that for her is characterized above all by a deep friendship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe who later became world-famous. The book begins with the beautiful story of two soul mates who live for and through art, and at the same time create a fascinating picture of a revolutionary era, an intense love story, which then turns into a deep friendship. Stories that began in Brooklyn and then move to the famous Chelsea Hotel, where, in addition to them, numerous artists, musicians, and writers have spent time making this place a cultural and artistic center of the bohemian world of New York.“Just Kids”' journey also introduces you to the musical world of Patti Smith, taking you to the ground floor that made her one of the most influential artists of the decade. The book's name captures a moment in the fall of 1967 when Patti and Robert, young, inseparable, perfectly bohemian and completely unknown up to that moment, meet a couple of tourists in Washington Square Park who stop them at the request of a photo by the woman because she claimed that they "looked like artists", but the man of the couple did not agree, and said very contemptuously: “They’re just kids.
"Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys" by Viv Albertine (2014)
The name of the book has its origin in the adolescence of Viv Albertine the guitarist of the British punk band "The Slits" since these were the words that her mother constantly repeated to her because those were the only things that interested her, however, the book is not as frivolous as the title. This autobiography is an honest journey through her troubled life, from a broken home in childhood to punk to drugs, to divorce, to in vitro fertilization, to her fight against cancer. From musical appeal, Viv tells the story of how, through sheer will, talent and courage, she forced herself into a male-dominated industry, becoming part of a movement that changed music and inspired a generation of female rockers. Among the great anecdotes he tells is that he played with the controversial Sex Pistols bassist "Sid Vicious", and reviews his intense relationship with the English band The Clash and their singer and guitarist Mick Jones, with whom she had an affair.
"Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll" by. Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson (2013)
27 members have passed through the various Heart formations since its beginning in 1970 until today, however, the soul of the band has always been the sister’s Ann and Nancy Wilson. This book takes you on a journey into the world of the Wilsons, from how their love of music was born, their first performances as teenagers in their hometown of Seattle, Washington, to the process that led them to share more than four decades on the stage as songwriters, musicians and female leaders of one of the most important bands in American rock music. Kicking and Dreaming" is an intimate, honest, and exclusively feminine vision of rock and roll life.
"My Love Story" by Tina Turner (2019)
In „My Love Story”, record-setting singer and soul artist Tina Turner sets the record straight on her relationships, career, and life. From being raised in Nutbush, Tennessee, to toxic relationships and her rise to fame – in this autobiography, the Queen of Rock’n’Roll tells the often discussed story of her life in her own words. No sugar-coating, no faking – this book offers a glimpse at the mind of a woman that shows us how to overcome anything. She even answers her most famous question: “What’s love got to do with it?” The answer: everything.
"Celia: My Life" by Celia Cruz (2004)
In her autobiography, the late Queen of Salsa, Cuban-born superstar Celia Cruz offers a glimpse at her largely private life of contrasts. “My Life” is the last hoorah of an artist, who always took full ownership of her story – as she does in death, putting it into her own words through a collection of recorded interviews and memories. With a foreword of legendary African American poet Maya Angelou, this book is a bind ray of sunshine. Throughout her life, Celia was known for her humbleness towards fans - and of course for her lust for life. I never experienced Celia's artistry while she was alive - but her star shines on through her music, and this book.
Her mind that is brutally honest and uncensored to the core.