Why the Flood of Musician Memoirs? An Exploration by Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #84

There’s been an explo­sion of rock and roll auto­bi­ogra­phies in recent years, with pret­ty much every music leg­end (and many oth­ers) being invit­ed by some pub­lish­er or oth­er to write or dic­tate their sto­ry. What’s the par­tic­u­lar appeal of this kind of recount­ing, what’s the con­nec­tion between writ­ing and read­ing these books on the one hand and pro­duc­ing and lis­ten­ing to the actu­al music on the oth­er? Do we get a rough­ly equiv­a­lent ben­e­fit from a biog­ra­phy, doc­u­men­tary, or film depic­tion of the per­son­’s life?

Your hosts Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Eri­ca Spyres, and Bri­an Hirt along with guest Lau­ra Davis-Chanin, author of her own music mem­oir, each picked a book, cov­er­ing Elvis Costel­lo, Car­rie Brown­stein, Ozzy Osbourne, and Deb­bie Har­ry respec­tive­ly. Reflect­ing on these read­ing expe­ri­ences we com­pare the author’s pur­pos­es in writ­ing the book, how con­fes­sion­al or drug-addled or twist­ed the sto­ry is, what is empha­sized and what’s not, and what res­onat­ed in the sto­ry beyond the idio­syn­crat­ic recount­ing of that per­son­’s life.

Check out Lau­ra’s two books, hear her talk about her musi­cal adven­tures on Naked­ly Exam­ined Music, and hear her dis­cuss clas­sic lit­er­a­ture on Phi Fic.

Some of the NEM episodes where Mark talked with guests about their auto-biogra­phies fea­tured Chris Frantz of Talk­ing Heads, Jim Peterik of Sur­vivor, Andy Pow­ell of Wish­bone Ash, Dan­ny Seraphine of Chica­go and John Andrew Fredrick of The Black Watch.

We did­n’t use much research for this episode, but you can read lists of par­tic­u­lar­ly good music mem­oirs from Rolling Stone and The Guardian. The Oak­land Press has an arti­cle about music biogra­phies and auto­bi­ogra­phies emerg­ing at the end of 2020.

Hear more of this pod­cast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can access by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts.

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.