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Five for Friday: Artist Biographies

Stories about favorite musicians and their pasts literally fill volume upon literary volume. But the person entrusted to tell the story is often equally important, if not more so, than the story itself. For this edition of Five for Friday, Music Direct brings you five of the finest artist biographies.

Rich Cohen The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones
Author Rich Cohen has a unique relationship with Mick Jagger in that he has seen the singer change for more than two decades while also watching him try – and fail – at new endeavors, such as Jagger's now-cancelled HBO show "Vinyl," for which Cohen helped write the script. Cohen often refers to Jagger as a "good friend" but that didn't prevent the writer from painting a less-than-friendly portrait of the British icon in this biography, which refers to him as "monstrous" at one point. The type of long-spanning relationship Cohen has with the story's subject results in a read that provides little new information but an entirely new perspective.

Michael Azerrad Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana
Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana was published the year prior to Kurt Cobain's death, allowing for a more complete – and less tragic – look at a groundbreaking band in its prime. Considering how Cobain has seemingly become more of a celebrity since his passing, this book is a breath of fresh air in the sense that it lacks the underlying tone of hero worship and doesn't aim to commemorate or praise. Instead, it provides readers with a candid look at the life and growth of Cobain and the band as a whole, preserving a moment in time when they were at their highest point, and largely oblivious to the lows ahead.

David Ritz Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye
For this biography, author David Ritz captures the full scope of Marvin Gaye's tumultuous life by drawing from interviews he conducted before the artist's death. The biography includes stories from close friends – and stars in their own right – such as Diana Ross, Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, and more. The insights reveal various angles of Gaye's life. The overall story proves an intriguing read, a result of Ritz's storytelling sensibilities and, of course, Gaye's unique circumstances.

Evelyn McDonnell Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways
Named after the Runaways' second studio album, Evelyn McDonnell tells the story of the pioneering female punk rock band in grueling detail. McDonnell not only chronicles the band but the big picture of how a group of teenagers knocked down the doors for the many hopefuls who have followed in their footsteps. Drawing on interviews with game players ranging from publicists to producers – and nearly every former member – this biography tells a well-rounded story of the influential band.

Rob Sheffield On Bowie
Authors are often in a reflective mood following the death of an artist, let alone one as pivotal as David Bowie. Such was the case in the creation of this biography, which doubles as a lengthy eulogy commemorating the Thin White Duke. While many biographies take years to write, Sheffield began penning this one right after he heard the news Bowie died. The Rolling Stone scribe finished it in just one month. Sheffield said immediately writing about Bowie's passing proved cathartic, an emotion that largely shapes the book's overall tone. The tome weighs heavily on dissecting why Bowie's influence had such a wide reach, and seeks to explain what the loss of Bowie means moving forward by looking to his past.

September 2, 2016

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