I read Matthew Walther’s piece (originally published in the March 2013 issue) on rock n’ roll memoirs.
Here are a few rock n’ roll bios I have read over the years that I would recommend:
Richie Havens w/Steve Davidowitz, They Can’t Hide Us Anymore, 1999
Donovan Leitch, The Autobiography of Donovan – The Hurdy Gurdy Man, 2005
Joe Boyd, White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, 2006
Tommy James w/Martin Fitzpatrick, Me, The Mob & The Music:One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells, 2010
Havens proves that it is possible to write memoirs without detailing one’s sexual exploits or drug use (well, almost). As you can see both Donovan and Boyd had no need for a co-writer. O.K., so who is Joe Boyd? He started out as a concert promoter who turned record producer who has been associated with the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention and R.E.M. While Boyd isn’t a performer, he has seen and done everything the rock stars have done.
But James’ book might be the most unique. It largely focuses on his relationship with Morris Levy of Roulette Records who was heavily connected to the mob and later convicted of extortion. James estimates that Levy stole $30 to $40 million in song royalties from him. Only since James’ catalogue has been part of Rhino Records has he been consistently compensated for his music.
One other interesting aspect of James’ book is his relationship with Democratic presidential candidate Hubert H. Humphrey. After James spent several months campaigning for Humphrey, the Vice-President showed his appreciation by writing the liner notes for his Crimson & Clover album.
There are plans for Me, The Mob & The Music to be made into both a Broadway play and a movie.