x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Our top ten musician biographies

We take a look at 10 books that allow fans to dig deeper into the lives of the musicians they idolise.

FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2007 file photo, British singer Amy Winehouse poses for photographs after being interviewed by The Associated Press at a studio in north London. Amy Winehouse, the beehived soul-jazz diva whose self-destructive habits overshadowed a distinctive musical talent, was found dead Saturday in her London home, police said. She was 27. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File) *** Local Caption *** Britain Obit Amy Winehouse.JPEG-04a24.jpg
FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2007 file photo, British singer Amy Winehouse poses for photographs after being interviewed by The Associated Press at a studio in north London. Amy Winehouse, the beehived soul-jazz diva whose self-destructive habits overshadowed a distinctive musical talent, was found dead Saturday in her London home, police said. She was 27. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File) *** Local Caption *** Britain Obit Amy Winehouse.JPEG-04a24.jpg

On July 5, HarperCollins will publish Amy, My Daughter, a new biography of the late singer Amy Winehouse. The author is her father Mitch, a former London taxi driver whose passion for jazz soundtracked Amy's childhood. Just how good the book is, only time will tell, but Amy, My Daughter has at least one thing to commend it. All sales proceeds will go to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, a charity for young people in need.

Mitch Winehouse's book will join a vast array of music biographies/memoirs representing artists from Adele to ZZ Top. Our appetite for such tomes seems insatiable, their pages manna for the fan who needs to know that little bit more. The 10 listed below are prime examples of the genre.

10. Under The Ivy: The Life & Music Of Kate Bush - Graeme Thomson - Omnibus Press

The Irish Times thought this "perhaps the best music biography of the past decade". Thomson's study of the famously reclusive Bush tapped a gap in the market, bringing her ever-attentive fans a fresh look behind the veil. Old school friends are interviewed, and the making of each album is thoroughly dissected.

9. Starman: David Bowie - The Definitive Biography - Paul Trynka - Sphere

Bowie biographies are not scarce, but this one is a welcome addition. Starman doesn't fawn and Trynka dares to call the youthful Bowie "a second-rate singer with first-class ambition". When the Thin White Duke's genius does emerge, however, the author has many fresh insights.

8. Dream A Little Dream Of Me: The Life Of "Mama" Cass Elliot - Eddie Fiegel - Sidgwick & Jackson

An ace study of the voice of The Mamas & The Papas, and a woman determined to be "the most famous fat girl who ever lived". Fiegel explains how Elliot - who died from heart failure age 32 in 1974 - charmed Jimi Hendrix, Jack Nicholson and all right-thinking music fans.

7. Django: The Life And Music Of A Gypsy Legend - Michael Dregni - Oxford University Press

Exploring Django Reinhardt's liking for fast cars and roast hedgehog, and the chalk/cheese dynamic between him and violinist Stéphane Grappelli, this is the definitive book on the jazz guitar great. It was published in 2005, Dregni communing with the last survivors of Django's inner circle (Reinhardt died in 1953, at age 43).

6. Crazy From The Heat - David Lee Roth - Hyperion

Books by hard rockers don't come any more funny or intelligent than this. Whether telling of mountaineering in the Himalayas or explaining why he insisted that brown M&Ms be removed from packs supplied to Van Halen, Roth is a master of the pithy anecdote.

5. Just Kids - Patti Smith - Bloomsbury

Written with great poise and clarity, Just Kids is a kind of prequel to Smith's own fame, a compelling account of her New York days with friend and sometime lover, the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The antithesis of the self-aggrandising, hit-album counting autobiography.

4. Shakey: Neil Young's Biography - Jimmy McDonough - Jonathan Cape

McDonough's epic, much-acclaimed account of Young's life began as an authorised biography, but then Young got cold feet and stopped cooperating. The resulting book surveys the singer from a unique vantage point, McDonough enjoying unprecedented access, but ultimately free to broach difficult subjects.

3. Life: Keith Richards with James Fox - Weidenfeld & Nicolson

One revelation in particular miffed Mick, but Keef's memoir was always destined for the best-seller lists. Falling out of trees; brandishing sabres at thieves; blowing raspberries at the reaper - the man they call the human riff has lived a life less ordinary.

2. Things The Grandchildren Should Know - Mark Oliver Everett - Little, Brown

Everett - better known as 'E' of US rock band Eels - is candid here about the family tragedies he has suffered. His affecting, beautifully written autobiography is ultimately uplifting, however. "The Kurt Vonnegut of rock", opined Rolling Stone. Pete Townshend loves it, too.

1. Chronicles: Volume One - Bob Dylan - Simon & Schuster

Dylan's tight, Beat writer-like prose hops back and forth in time, vividly evoking his first year in New York, his Minnesota childhood and the folk music scene that was like "a paradise I had to leave". Proof that the great lyricist is also a great memoirist.