While many a musician has been known to carry a notebook for writing lyrics and composing music, I chose these four musicians and their subsequent books because they all had specifically indicated that they were written based upon the journals that they kept.
Henry Rollins, the once notorious frontman of the hardcore punk band Black Flag is a musician, writer, journalist, publisher, actor, television and radio host, spoken word artist, comedian, and activist.
Get in the Van is Rollins classic self-published memoir from 1994 and is composed of journal entries that Rollins kept while he was lead singer of the band Black Flag from 1981 to its breakup in 1986. Sections of the book were read and recorded by Rollins and released as a 2-CD set, which won a Grammy in 1995 for Best Spoken Word Album. (He gave away the Grammy to a friend, as he has stated, “I don’t want any trophies for art.”)
Nikki Sixx, best known as the co-founder, bass player, and primary songwriter of the band Mötley Crüe, co-wrote The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star with Ian Gittins.
The Heroin Diaries is a 413-page collection of diary entries written between Christmas of 1986 and Christmas of 1987. In considerable detail, the diaries document the recording of Mötley Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls album and subsequent tour, ending with Sixx’s near-death from a heroin overdose in late 1987. Sixx’s seriously dark struggles with addiction and depression are interwoven with humorous anecdotes about his wild lifestyle at the time.
An interesting insight into the late, great, guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads‘ life, Off the Rails: Aboard the Crazy Train in the Blizzard of Ozz was written by prolific rock bassist Rudy Sarzo. The book also talks about the birth of Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career and his bizarre relationship with Sharon Osbourne.
“Believe me it was not easy chronicling all of the daily events that happened on and off the road. Fortunately, I had kept a journal of our travels so I had accurate details.” – Rudy Sarzo’
Kurt Cobain was an American musician best known as the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the rock band Nirvana. Cobain formed Nirvana with Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1985 and established it as part of the Seattle music scene, having its debut album Bleach released on the independent record label Sub Pop in 1989.
From Publisher’s Weekly: These journal entries by Nirvana front man Cobain record his thoughts from the late 1980s until his suicide in 1994. There are no real answers to his death to be found in this collection of scrawled notes, first drafts of letters, shopping lists, and ballpoint pen drawings, although the nature of Cobain’s fame will make it hard for readers not to look for them.
Hungry for more? Check out The 25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time at Rolling Stone.
Do you have a favorite music related memoir? I’ve heard great things about the Patti Smith book and it’s been on my Kindle for quite some time, patiently waiting for me to read it.