The unexpected death of Prince in April this year came as a body blow to music fans still reeling from the death of David Bowie only a few months earlier. One of the most popular and influential artists of his generation, he was a chameleon both musically and personally, absorbing, merging and transforming genres and styles into something uniquely his own. This biography from 2011 was one of the first major works to examine Prince’s music and life in detail, the author interviewing as many people connected to the notoriously private musician as possible in lieu of assistance from the man himself.
If you’re a fan of the Great American Songbook then the name Harold Arlen will be well known to you already, but don’t feel too bad if it doesn’t ring any bells, you probably know at least some of his songs anyway; Somewhere Over the Rainbow perhaps? Arlen was one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, growing up in the heady days of New York vaudeville and cabaret before moving into musicals and eventually film. For those in the know, he sits happily beside Gershwin, Berlin and Porter as one of the supreme creators of the American popular song, beloved by all the great performers from Judy Garland to Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald, and so on, and so on. To watch Judy Garland in A Star is Born sing his song The Man That Got Away is really all you need to know.
Joe Strummer (born John Graham Mellor) used his stage name to more clearly reflect his life as one England’s up-and-coming rock musicians of the mid 1970s. In 1976 the experience of the Sex Pistols, then relatively unknown, opening for his band the 101ers seems to have dramatically shaken up his musical life, and shortly after he became one of the founding members of The Clash, one of the most important punk rock bands of that seismic era. The Clash, and Strummer himself, were intensely political (as was Punk itself) and this book of essays examines that heady cocktail of music and politics, as well as the sometimes paradoxical nature of Strummer within those worlds.
Melbourne-born guitarist John Williams has arguably done more to broaden the repertoire and audience for the classical guitar than anyone since legendary Spanish musician Andres Segovia, with whom Williams studied in the 1950s. But whereas Segovia stuck closely to the classic guitar repertoire Williams has been keen to move across genres, as with his fusion group Sky and collaborations with rock musicians such as Pete Townsend from The Who, as well as forays into jazz and world music. This is the first major, authorised biography of a musician considered by many to be one of the world’s finest instrumentalists, of any persuasion.
Judy Garland and Harold Arlen: magic