By: Kat Harlton
As you may have noticed from my Instagram, I love reading music memoirs. In fact they are probably my favorite type of book to read. I started reading memoirs and autobiographies at an early age, I was always super fascinated to discover how others succeeded in their dreams, and what they learned along the way. Below is a list of some of my favorites, some I’ve read multiple times, and others just once, but all have left an impression on me.
Patti Smith is an American singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist who became an influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses. Called the “punk poet laureate,” Smith fused rock and poetry in her work. Not too long after I had finished reading “Just Kids” I had the opportunity to see her perform at Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre and she lived up to all my exceptions.
As someone who dabbled with writing and poetry and was also heavily involved in Toronto’s music scene at the time, I found “Just Kids” really inspiring creatively. I also loved learning about her beautiful relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, I think it’s a great example of what it truly means to love someone.
Pamela Des Barres is a former rock and roll groupie, musician, actress, author and magazine writer. Shortly after I started “I’m With The Band” I had the opportunity to meet her in November 2013 when she gave a reading and Q&A at The Drake Hotel. Just like in her book, she was super nice and very honest and open about her past. This is definitely high on my list of favorite music memoirs/autobiographies
Bobbie Brown is an American actress, model and former beauty pageant contestant. She appeared in the video for Warrant’s glam metal anthem “Cherry Pie” and was on the cover of the album of the same name. Although I would say “Dirty Rocker Boys” is a lighter read, Brown definitely provides a unique female perspective of the whole ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll’ scene that was happening in the 80’s and early 90’s. She talks about her drug addiction, celebrity hookups, as well as her relationship with Warrant’s Jani Lane and Motely Crue’s Tommy Lee.
This was on my Christmas wish list a few years back. Similar in style to Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”, “Girl In A Band” focuses on Sonic Youth founding member Kim Gordon’s life stories, details about her relationship with Thurston Moore and defining what it meant to be a woman in rock in uncharted territory.
In the summer of 2003, I was lucky enough to be one of the almost half a million people who attended the Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto benefit concert. Also referred to as ‘Toronto Rocks’, ‘SARSStock’ etc.
The concert was organized upon the suggestion of headliners The Rolling Stones, who wanted to help revive Toronto’s economy after the SARS outbreaks earlier in the year. There is nothing quite like seeing The Rolling Stones live as a teenager and they definitely left an impression on me, so I was super excited for this book.
This is a big read. The paperback version is thick, but also the content makes it a lot to digest. When you’ve had a career as long as Keith Richards has, you have a lot to share, and the man doesn’t disappoint. Richards talks about his musical inspirations, The Rolling Stones’ infamous drug busts, his relationships, addiction and more. This is high on my list, and makes for a great summer/vacation read.
Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about this book recently since the Netflix movie came out. The Netflix movie is fun, but the book is soooo much better. There are a lot of stories packed in here that the movie didn’t get to, and some of them are extremely disturbing in cases. Definitely the ‘bible’ for music memoirs. Joe Levy at Rolling Stone calls The Dirt “without a doubt . . . the most detailed account of the awesome pleasures and perils of rock & roll stardom I have ever read. It is completely compelling and utterly revolting.”
I didn’t know a lot about Bob Dylan’s story other than what I learned through mainstream media, but this memoir changed that. Dylan shares stories about his career, relationships and life in general. For someone who values his privacy, he gets pretty intimate in this book.
Shop My Favorite Music Memoirs:
We hope you love the books we recommend! Just so you know, The Harlton Empire may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.