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A Music Festival Reading List: 10 Great Music Books

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • April 17, 2020

Coachella for Everyone!

If not for the coronavirus pandemic, today would have kicked off the final weekend of the epic Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. In all likelihood, this particular cancellation is not significant to most of us. Yet it is emblematic of the collective experiences we are all missing out on in this difficult season.

As usual, we have a bookish solution for this. Maybe we can't enjoy Coachella (or any live-music concerts) right now but we can all share this literary exploration of the star-studded desert fête. Here are some great music memoirs and biographies about past festival headliners, as well as a few from notable artists who have yet to appear on the Coachella stage.

Rock Icons

The great eighties and nineties rock band Guns N' Roses reunited for an appearance at Coachella in 2016. Slash's 2007 memoir, entitled simply, Slash, shares a thoroughly gritty account of his experience growing up and becoming one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time.

In 2014, Blondie frontwoman, Debbie Harry made a surprise appearance onstage with the indie-rock band Arcade Fire. Her 2019 memoir, Face It promises an arresting mix of visceral, soulful storytelling and artwork, including never-before-seen photographs, bespoke illustrations, and fan art installations.

Paul McCartney graced the Coachella stage in 2009 and 2016. Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles is based on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews over the course of five years. The 1997 book offers an intimate look into the life and career of the brilliant musician.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have performed at Coachella multiple times, including 2003, 2007, and 2013. With his bestselling 2004 memoir, Scar Tissue, lead singer Anthony Kiedis delivers a compelling tale packed with dedication and debauchery, intrigue and integrity, and recklessness and redemption.

Hip-Hop and Soul Stars

The Beastie Boys made some noise at the festival in 2003. In 2018's Beastie Boys Book, six years after losing bandmate Adam Yauch to cancer, the surviving Beasties share a smorgasbord of the wild stories, photos, artwork, and even recipes from their wild thirty-year run in the business.

Living legend Mavis Staples appeared at Coachella in 2016, offering what seemed like an unconventional choice for the hipster audience, but she tore it up, even offering a heartfelt tribute to Prince who had just passed away. Greg Kot's 2014 biography I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staples Singers, and the Music that Shaped the Civil Rights Era was written with her full cooperation and it's packed with never-before-heard stories of her life and career.

Appearing at the festival in 2013, The Wu-Tang Clan is regarded as one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time. The Wu-Tang Manual by rapper-producer The RZA provides a fascinating look inside the minds and lives of this intriguing collective of artists.

Notable No-Shows

And here are two exciting artists who have yet to grace the Coachella stage, but we still want to read their great new memoirs!

Elton John is in the midst of a three-year retirement tour, but we secretly hope he never hangs up his fabulous feathered hats. His revelatory 2019 autobiography, Me, delivers an eye-opening view into his life and times.

Alicia Keys has long distinguished herself as an extraordinary talent, but in recent years, she has also emerged as a wise, sensitive, feminist role model with her high-profile appearances on The Voice and as the host of the Grammy Awards. Her new memoir More Myself offers an intimate look into the artist's personal and professional journey.

So maybe we can't go to any actual concerts right now, but that doesn't mean we can't immerse ourselves in music. So queue up your Spotify playlist and crack open one of these great volumes.

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Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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