2022 in Review: The Best Music Books of the Year

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In the first part of our 2022 holiday gift guide, we looked at the best of the year’s reissues, boxed sets and historical collections.

For the second part, we put on our reading glasses and dug into the year’s best books for fans of classic rock and related music. The first segment of our survey is devoted to memoirs and biographies (arranged alphabetically by subject), including important new books on (or by) Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Bono, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Charlie Watts and others. The second part is a guide to new books on various music-related topics, arranged by title. And then, at the end, we’ve listed other assorted new releases of 2022 that may interest you.

There are no rankings for these titles because they’re all worthy.

Click on the links in the titles for more information on a specific book. All of these titles are available as physical books; many are also downloadable digitally.

Bios, Memoirs and Artist-Related (Alphabetical by Subject Name)

Peter Asher: A Life in Music—by David Jacks
Half of the hitmaking British Invasion duo Peter and Gordon, then a mega-successful producer and manager, Peter Asher is the subject of this new bio. Over a dozen years of research have gone into telling his story, with numerous interviews conducted with Asher, along with first-hand observations of him at work in various recording studios around Los Angeles.

The Beatles Rubber Soul to Revolver—by Bruce Spizer
The book contains chapters on the British, American and Canadian perspectives on these crucial albums, and an extensive treatment on the infamous Yesterday And Today “butcher cover” and substitute trunk cover. There are also chapters on the recording sessions and album covers, as well as on the news, music and films of the era to place these albums in their proper context.

Chuck Berry: An American Life—by RJ Smith
In this definitive bio, RJ Smith “sheds new light on a man few have ever really understood. By placing his life within the context of the American culture he made and eventually withdrew from, we understand how Berry became such a groundbreaking figure in music, erasing racial boundaries, crafting subtle political commentary, and paying a great price for his success,” according to the official book ad copy.

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story—by Bono
Bono takes us from his early days growing up in Dublin to U2’s unlikely journey to become one of the world’s most influential rock bands, to his more than 20 years of activism.

The Byrds: 1964-1967—by Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and David Crosby
The original Byrds’ three surviving founding members have curated this large-format tabletop book that offers a unique visual history of the group. Featuring more than 500 images from legendary photographers, the book also includes restored images from the Columbia Records archives and the personal archives of the band’s original manager.

Memoir of a Rascal—by Felix Cavaliere
Arriving three years after the memoir of his former bandmate Gene Cornish, the Rascals’ keyboardist/lead vocalist recalls the rise of the blue-eyed soul quartet via hits such as “Good Lovin’” and “Groovin’,” their socially conscious later hits and much more.

Long Train Runnin’: Our Story of the Doobie Brothers—by Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons
The co-founders of one of America’s most successful classic rock bands tell the tale from the beginning, through the early hits and leaner times, and on to their comeback, giving them even greater popularity with the addition of new lead singer Michael McDonald.

The Philosophy of Modern Song—by Bob Dylan
In essays on 66 songs, Bob Dylan offers not so much philosophy, as suggested by the title, but strong opinions on music, life and everything in between. Said our reviewer, “Even more idiosyncratic than the essays are the meditations—the publisher calls them ‘dreamlike riffs’—that accompany about half of them. Here, Dylan appears to put himself in the shoes of the songs’ protagonists and imagines a much fuller story than the lyrics provide.”

Folk Music: A Bob Dylan Biography in Seven Songs—by Greil Marcus
From the book announcement: “Marcus tells Dylan’s story through seven of his most transformative songs…Like Dylan’s songs, this book is a work of implicit patriotism and creative skepticism. It illuminates Dylan’s continuing presence in cultures, especially where such capacious imaginative identification with the other is in short supply. This is not only a deeply felt telling of the life and times of Bob Dylan, but a rich history of American folk songs and the new life they were given as Dylan sat down to write his own.”

Eagles: Up Ahead in the Distance—by Rik Forgo and Steve Cafarelli
The second of three volumes on the band details the group’s colorful history and ascent into rock’s upper echelon. The title covers, in incredible detail, the band’s eight albums released on the Asylum label from 1972 to 1980, with all the lineup changes along the way. Along with the great stories, there are scores of nuggets and anecdotes that even the most hardcore Eagles fans will learn for the first time.

Levon Helm: Rock, Roll & Ramble—The Inside Story of the Man, the Music and the Midnight Ramble—by John Barry
Music journalist John Barry, who has lived in Woodstock, was invited by Levon Helm to chronicle the achievements and travails that were capping his life. Barry was given access to Levon and permission to compile hours upon hours of recordings that captured the why and the how of one of the most stunning comebacks in modern music. The book is described as “a tale of tragedy and triumph set against a moving target of a music industry.”

Related: What were the best music books of 2021?

Jimi—by John McDermott and Janie Hendrix
Described as a “comprehensive visual celebration” and as the “ultimate tribute to the greatest guitar player in rock and roll history,” the book is written by Janie Hendrix (Jimi’s sister), and John McDermott of Experience Hendrix L.L.C. It includes extensive biographical texts, and a trove of lesser known and never-before-published photographs, personal memorabilia, lyrics and more.

Elton John at 75—by Gillian Gaar
From the book announcement: “Veteran rock journalist Gillian Gaar examines the music icon through the lens of 75 career accomplishments and life events. Key studio albums are featured, of course, as are a curated selection of his earworm singles. But Gaar delves deeper to reveal the events that helped chart the course of Elton’s career.”

The McCartney Legacy: Volume 1: 1969-73—by Allan Kozinn and Adrian Sinclair
Set against the backdrop of the Beatles splintering over both business and creative issues, the book covers a period in which McCartney recreated himself, both as a man and as a musician. Says the book announcement: “This is an in-depth and revealing exploration of his creative life beyond the Beatles—featuring hundreds of interviews with fellow musicians, tour managers, recording engineers, producers, filmmakers, and more.”

Charlie’s Good Tonight: The Life, the Times, and the Rolling Stones: The Authorized Biography of Charlie Watts—by Paul Sexton
The book’s title comes from a comment Mick Jagger made on stage during one of the Stones’ 1969 concerts at Madison Square Garden, immortalized in their great live album, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out. The biography includes forewords by Jagger and Keith Richards, and interviews with the two, as well as Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, and many of Watts’ family members, among others.

Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir—by Jann Wenner
The Rolling Stone magazine founder’s “deeply personal memoir” has received mixed reviews since its publication. According to its announcement, it “vividly describes and brings you inside the music, the politics and the lifestyle of a generation, an epoch of cultural change that swept America and beyond.”

Non-Artist-Related (Alphabetical by Title)

The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Illustrated Story of Sun Records and the 70 Recordings That Changed the World—by Peter Guralnick and Colin Escott
The book is described as “the official history of this legendary label, and looks at its story in a unique way: through the lens of 70 of its most iconic recordings. From the early days with primal blues artists like Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King to long nights in the studio with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, you will see how the label was shaped and how it redefined American music.”

The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond—by Chris Blackwell with Paul Morley
The Islander is the story of label founder Chris Blackwell and his cohorts at Island Records, who nurtured and broke out musicians who had been overlooked by bigger record labels, including Steve Winwood, Nick Drake, John Martyn and Cat Stevens—and, of course, Bob Marley.

Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll—by Lenny Kaye
Musician and author Lenny Kaye takes a different tack than those rock historians whose tomes have preceded his. While Kaye does necessarily follow a timeline, his chronology meets up with geography, the music’s story diced up into chapters that elucidate the genesis of the various “scenes” that defined rock’s growth over its first four decades.

Looking for the Magic: New York City, the ’70s and the Rise of Arista Records—by Mitchell Cohen
The book is described in a press release as “a cultural-historical remix, a fresh perspective on how one record company, Arista Records, reflected its place and time, New York in the 1970s and early 1980s.” Through interviews with dozens of artists and executives, Cohen “goes inside the business of making and marketing music during this vibrant and diverse period.”

New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows and Songs That Make NYC Rock—by Frank Mastropolo
A love letter to the Big Apple, the book tells more than 200 inside stories of the artists, writers, DJs and impresarios who came together in Manhattan to make rock history from the 1950s to today. You will go behind the scenes of New York’s legendary gigs at Fillmore East, Madison Square Garden, the Bottom Line, Central Park and the Apollo Theater. Discover how the iconic songs written about New York were produced. And visit rock’s landmark recording studios, record shops, and radio stations.

Record Store Day—The Most Improbable Comeback of the 21st Century—by Larry Jaffee
The fascinating volume “tells the story of Record Store Day in the voices of the artists who love records, the people who founded Record Store Day, and the people who make up a record store: those who run them, those who shop in them and those who make the music they love in them.”

And Don’t Forget These (Alphabetical by Author)…

New Highway: Selected Lyrics, Poems, Prose, Essays, Eulogies and Blues—by Dave Alvin
This anthology of writings by the celebrated Americana pioneer is a companion piece to his considerable musical output, and presents a cross-section of his work.

Anthems We Love—by Steve Baltin
The author examines 29 classic songs from Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, the Beach Boys, Carly Simon and others, and addresses how they have attained anthem status.

Music + Revolution: Greenwich Village in the 1960s—by Richard Barone
Written by the frontman of the Bongos, the book comprehensively chronicles the rise of folk music, and then rock, in downtown New York City at the time of Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, the Lovin’ Spoonful and others

In Your Mind—The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono—by Madeline Bocaro
A definitive and generously illustrated look at the life and career of one of the most original—and controversial—artists and thinkers of the past century.

The book’s cover photo was taken by Eric Swayne

Pattie Boyd: My Life in Pictures—by Pattie Boyd
A visual trove of photographs, letters, diaries and more from the \fashion model, photographer and wife of George Harrison and Eric Clapton.

Confessions—Stories to Rock Your Soul—by Nadine Condon
Thirty years working with rock music legends like Jefferson Starship culminated in Nadine’s Wild Weekend, a four-day music festival in San Francisco. Why then, did Nadine, the “Godmother of Rock,” leave the exciting music business to pursue an anonymous career in hospice?

The Hag: The Life, Times, and Music of Merle Haggard—by Marc Eliot
The bio of the country great is augmented by deep research, including over 100 new interviews, plus sharp detail and ample anecdotal material.

Rock’s in My Head—by Art Fein
Journalist, producer, record company staffer, TV host and more, Art Fein draws on 10,000 pages of a journal he began keeping in the early 1970s, chronicling his rock ’n’ roll adventures.

The Who: Concert Memories from the Classic Years, 1964-1976—by Edoardo Genzolini
Not another bio, but rather the reflections of the band’s fans. “The reader will be thrown into untold stories, hundreds of previously unpublished photographs, and uncirculated recordings clarifying the misinformation, myths, and legends,” says the advertising copy.

Addicted to Noise—by Michael Goldberg
The book features the best interviews, profiles and essays written during the author’s 40-plus years as a music journalist. It spans interviews with Frank Zappa and Tom Waits to essays on how Jack Kerouac influenced Bob Dylan and the lasting importance of San Francisco’s first punk rock club.

Arrow Through the Heart: The Biography of Andy Gibb—by Matthew Hild
The first bio of the late younger brother of the Bee Gees “draws upon extensive research, rare archival interviews with Andy Gibb and members of his family, and interviews conducted by the author with nearly 50 of Andy’s friends and associates.”

The Lives of Brian: A Memoir—by Brian Johnson
The memoir follows the usual arc—growing up in a small town, starting his own band—and then goes into hyperdrive as the author ultimately replaces Bon Scott, the lead singer of one of the world biggest rock acts, AC/DC.

Nightfly: The Life of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen—by Peter Jones
New bio of one-half of the acclaimed Steely Dan, including his solo career.

(Photo © Elliott Landy. Used with permission)

Photographs of Janis Joplin On the Road & On Stage—by Elliott Landy
The 196-page book features iconic images of the music legend as well as 100 never-before-published photos, all from the acclaimed photographer. The photographs are accompanied by Joplin’s candid thoughts taken from conversations and interviews.

God Only Knows: The Story of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys and the California Myth—by David Leaf
This substantial update of the 1978 bio is an intimate look at Wilson’s life and career, told through the eyes of those who were there.

The Rolling Stones 1972 50th Anniversary Edition—by Jim Marshall
The collection presents Jim Marshall’s images as they were meant to be seen: at a larger size and in the rich, high-contrast tones photographer he favored. The original content is enhanced with never-before-seen proof sheets and two new essays by photographer and film director Anton Corbijn and Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe.

Mirror in the Sky: The Life and Music of Stevie Nicks—by Simon Morrison
The book “examines Stevie Nicks as a singer and songwriter before and beyond her career with Fleetwood Mac, from the Arizona landscape of her childhood to the strobe-lit Night of 1000 Stevies celebrations.”

Bowie at 75—by Martin Popoff
The author examines David Bowie’s life through 75 significant career achievements and life events, including all 27 studio albums.

The Birth of Loud—Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock ‘n’ Roll—by Ian S. Port
The narrative recreates the rivalry between the two men who innovated the electric guitar’s amplified sound, and their intense competition to convince rock stars to play the instruments they built.

Goodnight Boogie—A Tale of Guns, Wolves & The Blues of Hound Dog Taylor—by Matt Rogers
The first in-depth biographical study of the Blues Hall of Famer, whose life was as compelling as his music.

Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands—by Linda Ronstadt and Lawrence Downes
In this sequel to her memoir, the singer “evokes the magical panorama of the high desert, a landscape etched by sunlight and carved by wind, offering a personal tour built around meals and memories of the place where she came of age.”

For the Records—Close Encounters With Pop Music—by Gene Sculatti
One of the nation’s first rock critics recounts his experiences with the music that has moved him, from early childhood up through the past year, illuminated by personal recollections and cultural observations.

Gary Moore: The Official Biography—by Harry Shapiro
Through extensive and revealing interviews with family members, friends and fellow musicians, biographer Harry Shapiro takes readers right to the heart of the guitarist’s life and career.

From Squeaky Clean to Dirty Water: My Life with the Sixties Garage Rock Trailblazers the Standells—by Larry Tamblyn
A view of the inner workings of a successful and influential ’60s rock group, and an intimate look at the author’s early life growing up in a show business family.

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Best Classic Bands Staff

4 Comments so far

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  1. 122intheshade
    #1 122intheshade 28 November, 2022, 01:23

    Man, that’s a LOT of cool books. I would have liked a bit more from the Arista book. But it was cool nonetheless.

    I hope no one here bought the “signed” Dylan book. Ironic that another 60s icon turned into the very thing that a lot of artists from that era raged against.

    It takes a lot to laugh . . .

    Reply this comment
    • GDPraetorius
      GDPraetorius 16 December, 2022, 16:52

      Check out BABYSITTING A BAND ON THE ROCKS! A wonderful insider view into the craziness of the late 70s/early 80s classic rock concert world. On Amazon and all other online booksellers.

      Reply this comment

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