Roger Daltrey of the Who sang, “I hope I die before I get old,” but these days his peers are settling into their golden years with apparent contentment, as they continue to tour, like 69-year-old Paul McCartney, who performed a two-and-a-half-hour show at Yankee Stadium this summer. The rockers are even calling attention to their advancing ages by penning memoirs recalling their glory days. And publishers are happy to publish those baby boomer musician memoirs.
Lauren Marino, v-p and editorial director of Gotham Books, observes, “What seems to be working now are books by older rock stars—Steven Tyler (Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? Ecco, May), Sammy Hagar (Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, It Books, Mar.), and Keith Richards have all hit the New York Times bestseller lists. Keith Richards’s Life (Little, Brown) planted itself on the New York Times hardcover list for 22 weeks after its November 2010 publication with pretty traditional, down and dirty tell-alls. The Patti Smith (also a baby boomer/older rocker) title [Just Kids] is much more poetic, but clearly baby boomers are revisiting the rock heroes and stars of their youth.”
In December, Cool Titles will publish Devils and Blue Dresses: My Wild Ride as a Rock and Roll Legend by Mitch Ryder. And William Morrow has two forthcoming memoirs by musicians of a certain age: an as-yet-untitled memoir from Gregg Allman (born 1947) due in March that will launch with an event at the Allman Brothers Band Museum, in Macon, Ga., and Luck or Something Like It (Apr.) by the still-touring, pre–baby boomer, Kenny Rogers (born 1938). “When you have an author who has amassed a passionate following over the years and that’s combined with great behind-the-scenes storytelling, you’ve got a pretty good formula for success,” says William Morrow deputy publisher Lynn Grady.
That formula is being applied to stars from other eras as well. St. Martin’s Press executive editor Elizabeth Beier says, “The prime pop culture readers who are in their 30s and 40s now are getting the memories and perspective of some of their own, from Enter Night [May], our Metallica book by Mick Wall, to books by Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses [see Why I Write, p. 22] and many more coming. We’ve been marinating in the 1960s and 1970s, and readers are about to see a leap into the 1980s and 1990s.” The house will publish Prince: Inside the Music and the Masks by Ronin Ro in November and 40 Years of Queen by Harry Doherty in October.
As in all categories, quality counts more than generation or genre. “We look for authors who have a compelling personal story, a distinctive voice, and whose experience captures an important, resonant cultural moment,” says Spiegel & Grau executive editor Christopher Jackson. “Readers should feel like they’re getting an authentic, intimate experience: the chance to inhabit the artist’s vision, see the world as the artist does, and observe the raw life and inspirations behind the music we love.”
Jackson edited Decoded (2010) by Jay-Z. He also edited Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny by Nile Rodgers, the musician and songwriter responsible for Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” as well as “Le Freak,” the disco hit of the title.
Rapper Common, whose recent invitation to the White House caused a stir, has penned One Day It’ll All Make Sense with Adam Bradley (Atria, Sept.). Malaika Adero, Atria v-p and senior editor, says, “Books such as Miles Davis: An Autobiography by Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe (published in 1989 by S&S/Touchstone) reach bestseller status on initial publication and endure, remaining in print and becoming iconic. But,” she notes, “readers have caught on to the celebrities who promise to share their stories, thoughts, and experiences, yet deliver narratives that are whitewashed and superficial.”
Jamie Raab, Grand Central publisher, notes that stories “written by people who have full-bodied, rich stories to tell, and tell them with honesty and a sense of perspective” win out, adding, “Other books that appeal to music fans are those that break the mold and/or are keepsakes that fans simply want to own.” Raab places in that category Grand Central’s Lady Gaga x Richardson (Nov.) by Lady Gaga and Terry Richardson, a $50 hardcover that includes a selection of the more than 100,000 photographs that Richardson took of the musician.
Pearl Jam Twenty (S&S, Sept.) by Pearl Jam is a collective memoir by the often publicity-shy band, which has sold 60 million albums worldwide. Writers Jonathan Cohen and Mark Wilkerson assembled the commentary. And Da Capo will publish The Book of Drugs by Mike Doughty, lead singer of the band Soul Coughing, in February. Da Capo’s Seven Deadly Sins (July) by Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor spent several weeks on the extended New York Times bestseller list. Executive editor Ben Schaefer says, “Who hasn’t at some point in life thought it would be a hell of a lot of fun to be a rock star and wondered what it was like, the good and the bad, and especially the highs and lows? People may also have a somewhat morbid fascination with the lows and stories of self-degradation. Redemption never hurts, but neither does being nonapologetic.”
Lives in the Spotlight
Memoirs like Keith Richards’s Life may have started the trend, but biographies of musicians are riding the wave. How high are expectations for musician biographies? Hyperion will publish 75,000 copies each of the paperback Poker Face: The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga by Maureen Callahan and the hardcover Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music by Tim Riley, both coming this September.
Interlink has Jimmy Cliff: An Unauthorized Biography by David Katz ( Nov.). Gotham has two biographies about the kinds of baby boomer stars whose memoirs have been so successful: Jagger: Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue by Marc Spitz (Sept.) and More Room in a Broken Heart: The True Adventures of Carly Simon by Stephen Davis (Jan.). And Hal Leonard/Backbeat Books will publish Bad Reputation: The Unauthorized Biography of Joan Jett by Dave Thompson in September.
Chronicle will publish a photo essay of musician Beck with a double-sided poster jacket in November. Senior editor Steve Mockus says, “Now that music fans are more accustomed to downloading music than physically owning it, it seems more important than ever to make physical objects special.”
Sterling publisher Jason Prince says, “Part of the appeal of our books is that they are very hard to replicate on a flat screen. With lush production, a lot of bells and whistles, and in many cases, keepsake and memorabilia objects included in the packages, we have created a line of books as objects.” Sterling will publish Fleetwood Mac: The Definitive History by Mike Evans in October.
With music instruction books, however, e-books are coming on strong. Collin Bay, head of artist relations and production development at Mel Bay Publications, where guitar method and chord books remain top sellers, reports that e-book sales are “an integral component of revenue.” The publisher has seen four months of record e-book sales so far this year. Online sales have also grown, while sales in bricks-and-mortar music retail stores have flattened.components/article_pagination.html not found (No such file or directory)