Five books for the music lover on your holiday list

Categories: Chicago Tribune


Choosing a gift for a music lover does not necessarily mean having to fill a stocking with CDs, records or an iTunes gift card. They will readily accept books on their favorite subject, which is a good thing, considering the holiday season is ripe for new biographies and other music-related books. Here are five worth consideration.

Dancing With Myself by Billy Idol (Touchstone, $28)

MTV worked for and against British dance-rocker Billy Idol. He became a video star thanks, in part, to his curled-upper-lip sneer, but that stardom somewhat diluted the street-punk credibility he had earned with his former band, Generation X. This memoir covers the hedonism of those early years and reveals a singer trying to come to terms with a disapproving father as well as a maturing rock star striving to remain creatively engaged.

Through the Eye of the Tiger by Jim Peterik (BenBella Books, $16.95 paperback)

The title refers to Peterik’s Grammy-winning tenure in Survivor, but this entertaining memoir also covers his time in the Ides of March, the Chicago-area garage rockers in the late 1960s who had a huge hit (1970’s “Vehicle”) and brushed shoulders with Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin along the way. His pages bring to life what it was like being teenagers suddenly catapulted into rock ‘n’ roll stardom — cruising down Cermak Road and waiting for their single to play on WLS-AM is a vivid memory — and Peterik also provides advice to young bands. (“Never play an encore unless the crowd demands it.”)

Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin by David Ritz (Little, Brown, $30)

This prolific music biographer dives deep into the Queen of Soul’s life, taking more than 500 pages to tell her rags-to-riches story starting in Detroit in the early 1960s and covering highs and tragic lows over the decades to come. Ritz collaborated with Franklin on an authorized biography in 1999, so this follow-up, without her involvement but featuring fresh interviews with family members and collaborators, holds the promise of fresh revelations about this icon.

Parchman Farm: Photographs and Field Recordings, 1947-1959 by Alan Lomax (Dust-to-Digital, $35)

The late folklorist is a totem in American field recording, and this stylish book features both his black-and-white and color photography from the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where he recorded work songs, the blues, spirituals and other music by chain gang laborers. The majority of these haunting photographs have not seen the light of day, and there are also two CDs of Lomax recordings, about a third of which had never been released.

Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story by Rick Bragg (Harper, $27.99)

There is no living rock ‘n’ roll contradiction greater than Jerry Lee Lewis, and author Rick Bragg gives the firebrand piano pounder and vocalist an opportunity to tell his story in a way that moves him past the cartoonish image he holds in contemporary pop culture. This book spans 500 pages, but all of it is necessary to tell a story that starts in poverty-stricken, Depression-era Louisiana and travels across the Bible Belt during a cultural shift that he helped create. This is epic Southern storytelling at its most gripping.


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