Musical Memoirs | Wyatt’s World

Memoirs take a musical turn this fall, with a number of high-profile singers turning to the page rather than the microphone to tell their tales. Here are five essential titles as an overture.

  • Just Getting Started by Tony Bennett (Harper, Nov.). borntorun-jpg92316
    At age 90, legendary singer Bennett looks back at the people who shaped his life and shares his thoughts about fellow musicians such as Cole Porter and Amy Winehouse. Get in the mood by playing his music: “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” is an iconic choice but also consider “The Shadow of Your Smile” to remember why Bennett is a singular talent.
  • Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins (Crown, Oct.).
    Genesis drummer and singer Collins reflects on his experience in music, including his solo career and struggles with addiction. For a musical tie-in, recommend the artist’s past work, much of which has been rereleased this year via remastered albums. Recall one of his top songs with “In the Air Tonight.”
  • Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen (S. & S., Sept.).
    In what is perhaps the most anticipated musical memoir of the season (it’s due out next week), “The Boss” Springsteen discusses his early years and influences, his highly successful career, and the meaning of his music. The book is published to coincide with the new album release, Chapter and Verse, with 18 songs that serve as a lyrical biography. The album features “Born To Run,” a touchstone of Springsteen’s oeuvre.
  • My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire by Maurice White with Herb Powell (Amistad: HarperCollins).
    White died in 2016, leaving this book as his final testament to a life filled with hardship but also exceptional art. He talks about his difficult childhood, the beginnings of his musical career, and his star-studded rise to pop-scene rule. Spin “September” to return to White’s joyful noise.
  • I Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman (Da Capo, Oct.).
    Beach Boys cofounder Wilson’s rocky existence is chronicled in yet another of this season’s long-awaited accounts. From the songs that defined a generation to mental illness to comeback, Wilson reportedly digs deep here. The volume comes out October 11. In the meantime, play “Good Vibrations” to get carried back to the singer/songwriter’s heyday.
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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at