Now and then, an artist of particularly notability will make a transition in their field, jumping from one art form to another. Though this is relatively rare, it is getting less so- and whether it be painters trying their hand at music or a ballet dancer venturing into the world of sculpture, crossovers of this kind can produce some pretty unexpected results. Here’s a look at some musicians who have created widely celebrated works of literature.
10. In His Own Words – John Lennon
Though it’s no secret that the late great Lennon enjoyed the occasional foray into literature, this publication is unknown to most. Composed of the Beatles early literary ventures, In His Own Write is packed with poems, illustrations and short stories written by Lennon in the early part of his career. Release at the height of Beatle mania in 1964, you may be surprised to hear that the book is jammed full of a large number surreal and improvisational themes. Certainly worth a read.
9. Hard Ground – Tom Waits
A similar kind of feel to ‘In His Own Write’, Hard Ground is too a collection of the poetry and literary prowess of a man most commonly celebrated for his music. Containing stunning photography by the highly talented Michael O’Brien, Hard Ground is a fascinating journey of affecting poetry with some pretty interesting ideas thrown in for good measure. Though it’s hardly rare for musicians of similar calibre to Waits to practice poetry with as much panache as their song writing, Waits does much to set himself apart in this instance.
8. Life – Keith Richards
Whilst most may be surprised to know Keith Richards can read and write at all, it would simply shock others to the core to know that he’s created one of the most compelling and popular memoirs of all time. Released in 2010, ‘Life’ was created with the help of journalist James Fox who conducted various in depth interviews with prominent figures in the Rolling Stones’ turbulent life. Whereas some rock n’ roll memoirs are a cheesy championing of former exploits and a bit of sly complaining about how things are oh so different nowadays, this one holds a definite air of compassion and sincerity within its pages, as well as one hell of a story.
7. The Death of Bunny Munro – Nick Cave
Best known as the quirky frontman of the eponymous ‘Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’, this Australian is also partial to a bit of writing. Having penned several novels as well as the screenplays for classic period dramas ‘The Proposition’ and more recently ‘Lawless’, it would be fair to say he knows what he’s doing too. This particular novel was released in 2009 and follows a protagonist by name of Bunny Munro and his obscure life as an aging lothario with a deep interest in both women and alcohol. Though it hardly sounds like the most original synopsis, it’s certainly a great read.
6. Threepenny Memoir – Carl Barat
Another surprisingly sincere recollection of former glory, Carl Barat discusses his time at the top with former band The Libertines in this most substantial of obvious cash-ins. As well as the expected stories about staying up for days on end surviving solely on booze and cocaine, another dimension of attraction is added by the eloquent yet very relatable style in which Barat reminisces on his time spent with Pete Doherty and co.
5. Horses Neck – Pete Townsend
As The Who’s guitarist and principle songwriter, you’d hardly expect that Pete Townsend has somewhat of a soft spot when it comes to putting pen to paper. Even more unexpected is the fact that he’s been at it the whole time, from his days as an equipment wrecking wild man in the 1960’s and 70’s right through until now. This particular work was published in 1984, maybe just as he was starting to calm down a little, and comprises of a series of short stories created by the legendary guitarist between1979 and 1984. Thought to be semi-autobiographical, if you’re a fan you’ve no reason not to read it.
4. Scar Tissue – Anthony Kiedis
Less a memoir, more a ‘this is what I’ve got up to, so far’ Scar Tissue is a truly incredible read. At times outright hilarious and others bleak beyond words, the dude really has had some life. From his early days as a child citizen of Hollywood catching frequent glimpses into the raunchiness of it all right through to his current apex at the forefront of Red Hot Chili Peppers, all is covered in this brutally honest and well documented tale of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.
3. I, Me, Mine – George Harrison
Perhaps the least outwardly expressive and openly confident of The Beatles, George Harrison is nonetheless an idol to millions. Harrison’s half memoir/picture + lyric book is entitled ‘I, Me, Mine’- after the song of the same name he penned as part of The Beatles final LP ‘Let It Be’. Though far from an un-interesting read, anyone looking to gain some insight or dirt on the biggest band of the 21st century would be advised to look elsewhere. This is one for those of us who regard Harrison as a personal favorite.
2. Just Kids – Patti Smith
An unmistakably iconic figure in modern music and indeed some sects of literature, you may be shocked to know times haven’t always been so kind to Patti Smith. Documenting the several transitions in her life taken to arrive where she is today, this musical memoir is as great as you’d expect from any artist who is critically acclaimed in both music and literature. From humble beginnings born to a poor New Jersey family to the makings of her success in the 60’s NYC and of course her move from poetry to song writing- it’s all here.
1. Chronicles: Volume One – Bob Dylan
As the first part of Bob Dylan’s three part memoir, Chronicles: Volume One covers the singers arrival in New York City and the process taken leading up to the release of his debut album. Though ignoring a fair chunk in relation to his mid-1960’s heyday, Chronicles is nonetheless a gratifying read and shares a satisfactory amount of insight into the makings of one of the most prominent and recognisable musicians ever. Dylan’s stream-of-consciousness technique at points throughout the book only adds to the delicious sixties feel his style possesses, not to mention doing a lot for the ease of reading.