Best Books in Music of 2012 - Chris Heim's Picks

Dec 13, 2012

1. When I Left Home: My Story by Buddy Guy (DaCapo Press) The newly named Kennedy Center honoree offered a surprisingly readable look back at his life here, including a vivid account of the tough times he faced at first in Chicago and intriguing portraits of some of the blues legends whose paths he crossed on the way to become one himself.

2. The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun by Robert Greenfield (Simon & Schuster) Ertegun may not be a household name, but it's hard to imagine American popular music without the label he (and brother Neshui and Jerry Wexler) founded. Its groundbreaking R&B stars (including Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner and Ray Charles) helped launch the then struggling indie and the major rock acts that followed (including the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin) insured its place in label and music history.

3. A Ship Without A Sail: The Life of Lorenz Hart by Gary Marmorstein (Simon & Schuster) Hart was one of the great lyricists of the Great American Songbook providing the brilliant words to go with Richard Rodgers tantalizing music. Marmorstein tells the story of the tragic life behind the enduring music.

4. The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by R.J. Smith (Gotham Books) The 'hardest working man in show business' and the godfather of funk had both a difficult life and a difficult personality. Smith offers a compelling portrait in all its complexities and contradictions.

5. The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places by Bernie Krause (Little, Brown and Company) Did you know that every beach has its own distinctive sonic signature? Just one of the intriguing facts from Krause in this unusual look at music as it evolved from the sounds of the planet itself to the many different creatures that inhabit it.