The Best Music Books of 2023

Share This:

In the first part of our 2023 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) the Allman Brothers Band, Bob Dylan, Sly Stone, Rush 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 2023 that may interest you.

Part three covers classic-rock Christmas music and the fourth and final installment is all about new releases by classic rock artists.

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.

Click on the titles in blue for more information.

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

Brothers and Sisters: The Allman Brothers Band and the Inside Story of the Album That Defined the 70s—by Alan Paul
The book takes a deep dive into the time before and after their 1973 release, Brothers and Sisters, the band’s best-selling album. It delves into the making of the album, while also presenting a broader cultural history of the era, based on first-person interviews, historical documents and deep research and a trove of never-before-heard interviews.

The Beatles: The Definitive Collection—by Terry O’Neill
The 256-page book features the Beatles in hundreds of previously unpublished images and exclusive unknown stories of the Fab Four by the late O’Neill, who had exclusive access to their lives in the studio, on stage, on tour, and at home.

Lead Sister: The Story of Karen Carpenter—by Lucy O’Brien
This biography reframes Carpenter’s life and legacy as a pioneering woman with her own vision and agency. With exclusive interviews with friends, musicians and collaborators, O’Brien explores Carpenter’s contributions as a singer, drummer, arranger and producer, and traces the roots of the Carpenters’ sound.

Johnny Cash: The Life In Lyrics—by Johnny Cash, with Mark Stielper
According to an announcement, “This is the first time Cash’s 50 years of songwriting have been collected anywhere. The book includes the lyrics to 125 songs and the stories behind them…These pages explore Cash’s range as a poet and storyteller, taking readers from his early life and first successes through periods of personal challenge, activism and faith.

Livin’ On A Prayer: Big Songs Big Life—by Desmond Child with David Ritz
Child has collaborated as a composer with numerous artists, creating hits such as Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love A Bad Name” as well as Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and “The Cup Of Life.” In Livin’ on a Prayer, Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Child “takes center stage to share his transformational story from misfit outsider to cultural pacesetter,” says a press release.

The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial—by John Densmore
“This is the gripping account of the legal battle to control the Doors’ artistic destiny,” says the book’s announcement. In it, Doors drummer Densmore “looks at the conflict between his bandmates and him as they fought over the right to use the Doors’ name, revealing the ways in which this struggle mirrors and reflects a much larger societal issue: that no amount of money seems to be enough for even the wealthiest people.”

Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine—by Mark Davidson and Parker Fishel
This behemoth is a 608-page coffee-table book that, wrote our reviewer, “collects a wealth of previously unseen writings, drawings and handwritten lyrics sourced from the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Okla. The volume also makes room for about 1,100 images from 135 photographers and more than two dozen new essays from Dylan-connected journalists and musicians. It’s authored by Mark Davidson and Parker Fishel, the latter of whom has served as Dylan’s personal/official archivist for the past 12 years.”

Life in the Fast Lane: The Eagles’ Reckless Ride Down the Rock & Roll Highway—by Mick Wall
According to the advance promo, the author “delivers definitive insight into America’s best-selling band of all time, a band that has sold more records than Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones combined, exploring their meteoric rise to fame and the hedonistic days of the 70s music scene in LA, when American music was taking over the world.”

Living the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans—by Kenneth Womack
More than just the Beatles’ roadie, as he is so often described, Evans was “an invaluable member of the band’s inner circle. A towering figure in horn-rimmed glasses, he loomed large in the Beatles’ story, contributing at times as a performer and sometime lyricist, while struggling mightily to protect his beloved ‘boys.’ He was there for the whole of the group’s remarkable, unparalleled story.”

Tell Everyone – A People’s History of the Faces—by Richard Houghton
Fans relate their stories of he British band’s “legendary performances, often shambolic and almost always involving the band being drunk,” according to its announcement. Houghton has also recently published a book on the Who.

Giorgio Gomelsky ‘For Your Love’: The Incredible Life of a Music Impresario for the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds & Magma—by Francis Dumaurier
Dumaurier recounts his friend [the renowned record producer] Gomelsky’s love of life, his dynamism and the creativity that made him ‘push the envelope,’” says an advance blurb– acting as a catalyst for change and innovation.

George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle—by Philip Norman
The 512-page bio by the author of a major early Beatles bio is described as “a rare and revealing portrait of the most misunderstood and mysterious Beatle, [and] is based on decades-long research and unparalleled access to inside sources.”

Related: What were the best music books of 2022?

This Bird Has Flown—by Susanna Hoffs
The author is, of course, a core member of the Bangles and this is her debut novel. The publisher’s description says that it “explores love, passion, and the ghosts of our past, and offers a glimpse inside the music business.” The rights have already been acquired to make it into a feature film.

Biography of a Phantom: A Robert Johnson Blues Odyssey—by Robert “Mack” McCormick
The newest study of the influential if elusive blues giant is a “biography of a Phantom, filled with lush descriptive fieldwork and photographs, is an important historical object that deepens the understanding of a stellar musician,” says an announcement.

My Effin’ Life—by Geddy Lee
“Here for the first time,” says the advance promo, is the Rush co-founder’s “account of life inside and outside the band, generously illustrated with never-before-seen photos.”

I’m Into Something Good: My Life Managing 10cc, Herman’s Hermits & Many More!—by Harvey Lisberg
The subtitle spells out the author’s credentials. Says the publisher: “In this uproarious, frank and moving autobiography, he reveals the excesses of life on the road with Herman’s Hermits; the frustration of championing unknowns Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber; the highs and lows of managing the brilliant 10cc; and much more.”

All the Leaves Are Brown: How the Mamas & the Papas Came Together and Broke Apart—by Scott Shea
“Drawing on new interviews with former bandmates, session musicians, family members and many others, All the Leaves Are Brown is a layered, revelatory tale of overnight stardom and its many pitfalls,” says the publisher’s advance notice.

1964: Eyes of the Story—by Paul McCartney
Taken with a 35mm camera by McCartney, these largely unseen photographs capture the explosive period from the end of 1963 through early 1964.

Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs—by Willie Nelson, with David Ritz and Mickey Raphael
According to the publisher, “From his earliest work in the 1950s to today, Willie looks back at the songs that have defined his career.”

Tell it Like it Is: My Story—by Aaron Neville
For the first time, the singer, songwriter and Grammy Hall-of-Famer Aaron Neville—of the legendary Neville Brothers—tells his personal story of overcoming poverty, racism, addiction, and loss through faith, family, and music.

Lunacy: The Curious Phenomenon of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, 50 Years On—by John Kruth
Placing the album in its full cultural and musical context, Kruth provides an illuminating look at the ingredients of its great “sonic stew”—a mixture of musical styles from avant-garde electronic to jazz to classical, all of them contributing to its timeless originality. Also published in 2023: Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon: The Official 50th Anniversary Photobook, by Jill Furmanovsky.

Prine on Prine: Interviews and Encounters with John Prine—by Holly Gleason
The interviews in Prine on Prine “trace his career evolution, his singular mind, his enduring awareness of social issues, and his acute love of life,” says a press blurb.

Lou Reed: The King of New York—by Will Hermes
From the press material: Hermes follows Reed from Lower East Side cold-water flats to the landmark status he later achieved, and also tells the story of New York City as a cultural capital. He is the first biographer to draw on the New York Public Library’s much-publicized Reed archive.

Leon Russell: The Master of Space and Time’s Journey Through Rock & Roll History—by Bill Janovitz
The 592-page title is described as “the definitive biography of the legendary musician, composer and performer, a profound influence on countless artists, including George Harrison, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Willie Nelson and Tom Petty.

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin): A Memoir—by Sly Stone
The unexpected memoir “moves from Sly’s early career as a radio DJ and record producer through the dizzying heights of the San Francisco music scene in the late 1960s and into the darker, denser life (and music) of 1970s and 1980s Los Angeles,” says the publisher.

Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton, and Me—by Bernie Taupin
“I loved writing,” says Elton John’s longtime songwriting collaborator on his memoir. “I loved chronicling life and every moment I was cogent, sober, or blitzed, I was forever feeding off my surroundings, making copious notes as ammunition for future compositions.”

Lay It on the Line: A Backstage Pass to Rock Star Adventure, Conflict and TRIUMPH—by Rik Emmett
Merging memoir, anecdotes, and masterclasses on guitar, songwriting, and the artist’s mindset, Lay It on the Line offers insight and perspective into the many roles Triumph guitarist Rik Emmett took on.

Happy Forever: My Musical Adventures With The Turtles, Frank Zappa, T. Rex, Flo & Eddie, And More—by Mark Volman
The memoir by the singer who co-fronted the Turtles, the Mothers of Invention and Flo & Eddie “contains contributions from more than one hundred of Volman’s peers, friends and lovers, who share their thoughts on the man himself and on topics that span the social and cultural landscape of the past half-century.”

Turn It Up!: My Time Making Hit Records In The Glory Days Of Rock Music (Featuring Mötley Crüe, Poison, Twisted Sister, Jeff Beck, Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, And More)—by Tom Werman
As its subtitle spells out, Werman’s memoir chronicles his career as a producer for some of the biggest recording artists of the ’70s and ’80s.

Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You: A Memoir—by Lucinda Williams
The singer-songwriter and three-time Grammy winner “opens up about her traumatic childhood in the Deep South, her years of being overlooked in the music industry, and the stories that inspired her enduring songs.”

Non-Artist-Related (Alphabetical by Title)

Backstage & Beyond: 45 Years of Classic/Modern Rock Chats & Rants Part 1 + Part 2—by Jim Sullivan
The Boston-based veteran music journalist shares his interviews with dozens of rock stars, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Tina Turner, Neil Young, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Warren Zevon, Pete Townshend, Ray Davies and John Fogerty (all in the first volume), and Ramones, ihe Cars and yhe Clash to the Cure, the Police and Talking Heads (volume two).

The Bleecker Street Tapes: Echoes of Greenwich Village—by Bruce Pollock
The book expertly captures the life and times of artists who made their mark in New York City in the ’60s and ’70s, including Leonard Cohen, Roger McGuinn, Suzanne Vega, John Sebastian, Phil Ochs, Peter Tork, Richie Havens, Janis Ian and more.

But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: An Oral History of the ’60s Girl Groups—by Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz
The book features new interviews with 100+ subjects, the girl groups (such as the Ronettes, the Shirelles, the Supremes and the Vandellas) that redefined the early 1960s.

Down Home Music: The Stories and Photographs of Chris Strachwitz—by Joel Selvin with Chris Strachwitz
Fans of Americana and roots music will revel in this book’s rich variety and its story, told through unseen and newly scanned photographs by the founder of Arhoolie Records.

Hound Dog—by Eric Weisbard
It may be hard to imagine a book devoted to one 45 RPM single, but when that record is Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” (and Big Mama Thornton’s original version), there’s quite a lot to tell.

Parachute Women: Marianne Faithfull, Marsha Hunt, Bianca Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, and the Women Behind the Rolling Stones—by Elizabeth Winder
The four women namechecked in the subtitle had more to do with shaping the lives and music of the Rolling Stones than you could ever imagine, and they were an essential part of the band’s rise. Their often unbelievable (and sometimes harrowing) tales are intertwined in this revealing, fun-to-read account.

Time Has Come Today: Rock and Roll Diaries 1967-2007—by Harold Bronson
The co-founder of Rhino Records tells the label’s (and his own) story via concert accounts, historical events and meetings with many noted hitmakers with fascinating details that have never before been made public.

The White Label Promo Preservation Society Vol. 2: More Flop Albums You Ought To Know —by Sal Maida, Mitchell Cohen & Friends
Not every great album made the top of the charts—many didn’t chart at all! Here, as in the previous volume, the co-authors and a bunch of their friends (including BCB’s editor) write about their favorite albums that few people bought upon release.

There are more titles below the Amazon links! When you buy something using a link on this page, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting Best Classic Bands.

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

Eddie Cochran: In Person!: The Lost Treasures of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend—by Lee Bullman

Into the Void: From Birth to Black Sabbath—And Beyond—by Geezer Butler

Talking to My Angels—by Melissa Etheridge

The Singers Talk—The Greatest Singers of Our Time Discuss the One Thing They’re Never Asked About: Their Voices—by Jason Thomas Gordon

Loaded The Life (and Afterlife) of the Velvet Underground)—by Dylan Jones

Pledging My Time: Conversations with Bob Dylan Band Members—by Ray Padgett

Holding the Note: Profiles in Popular Music—by David Remnick

The Jive 95: An Oral History of America’s Greatest Underground Rock Radio Station, KSAN San Francisco—by Hank Rosenfeld

Beatles Please Please Me to With The Beatles—by Bruce Spizer

Deliver Me From Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska—by Warren Zanes

Best Classic Bands Staff

No Comments so far

Jump into a conversation

No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.