In the words of Biographer Richard Holmes, a biography should be able to bring the subject to life. It’s more than just a list of events that happened but telling a story strong enough to propel the readers to action.
As an indie artist, you must have read the biography of your favorite artists. It’s time to expand your library to include the biography and memoir of artists whose impact goes beyond their immediate fanbase.
If you intend to see your music permeating and reaching where you can’t ever reach, then you should read the biographies of those who have done it before. The number of memoirs and biographies in music is growing by the day; that’s why we’ve selected only 5 Biographies and Memoirs indie artists should read.
1. Bob Marley: The Untold Story
Bob Marley is the most successful artist to have come out of Jamaica. That’s not why his biography is a must-read for indie artists and fans; there’s more.
The biography focused on the music prowess, recordings, and inspiration behind Bob’s songs. That’s unlike most other biographies and memoirs Indie Artists should read that focus on the life and personality of the subject.
One thing you’ll find in the biography beyond the Jamaican musical history is the story of Marley’s impoverished beginnings and how it formed his strength of character. More like the little beginnings that most indie artists experience.
2. The Tao of Wu
It all started with The Wu-Tang Manual, a noobs guide to Shaolin Mythology before The Tao of Wu came about digging deeper into hip-hop and spirituality.
When you start reading about kung-fu clicks, esoteric Buddhism, true mathematics, chess tactics, and comic books, you’ll wonder if this was really written about a rapper and how it can help indie artists.
While the book is full of ideas, indie artists’ sweet spot will be the in-depth discussion into production techniques and equipment that made up the popular Wu-Tang template. Don’t be derailed by the theosophical ideas you’ll first encounter; there’s a lot to learn beneath the surface.
3. Elton John: “Me”
Me is a story of a shy English boy with the birth name Reginald Dwight who later dubbed himself Elton. You’ll find the story of how he went from being a glitter rock starlet of the seventies to becoming an elder statesman later in life.
In a memoir that was released in 2019, you’ll know that Captain Fantastic has been saving all of the stories and salty gossip of his career for the book. No wonder The Guardian, in their review, described the book as hilariously self-lacerating.
Just like Elton’s songs, there’s a lot of stories to entertain yourself with rather than limiting yourself to a few. You’ll discover that Elton makes fun of himself than anyone else. What that implies for you as an indie artist is handling the mockery the world is going to throw at you continually.
4. Jay-Z: Decoded
The New York Times captioned the part autobiography as a guide into his life and lyrics, and they are not wrong. The book achieved two primary goals; a description of the world in which Jay-Z lived through his youth while also focusing on deconstructing his lyrics.
Decoded is not the regular memoir or what many will refer to as an artistic manifesto; you have to approach it from the angle of being a genuine music lesson. The memoir situates rap within a social and political context.
What Jay-Z did was to unpack complex riffs and lyrics for 36 of his songs. What this implies for you as an indie artist is to learn from the musical prowess of Jay-Z. In the words of The Guardian, while Jay-Z’s memoir might appear scrappy, it did an excellent job of proving he’s an artist that should never be underestimated.
5. Quest Love: ‘Mo Meta Blues’
To be fair, Mo Meta Blues is incredible. Imagine someone who is one of the unembarrassed music geeks in the industry to have put together a memoir. If you don’t know much about Quest Love, just know he loves music, knows almost all the records, who played what, and who could have done it better.
There’s a lot to learn from this memoir as the subject is an unrepentant student of music and pop culture. Always thinking like a critic, reflecting on songs and ranking songs.
How sweet will it be for you to be able to learn from Quest Love’s restless and jam-packed music brain.