Recommended Midsummer Reading For Music Lovers

Recommended Midsummer Reading For Music Lovers

"I immersed myself in books and rock n' roll, the adolescent salvation..." -Patti Smith, Just Kids
Photo c/o Frank Stefanko, Patti Smith, NYC, 1976

From concocting the perfect margarita to catching as many shows as possible at your local outdoor concert series, seasonal plans laid by the idyllic light of day seem to slip away in the cool embrace of summer's shade. But with the dog days of summer close on our heels and Labor Day on the near horizon, the fast-approaching holiday weekend comes with the promise of some much-needed relaxation and an opportune chance to check at least a few of those must-read books of your list. Whether you're in search of a compelling paperback for poolside ruminations or a conversation-starting coffee table book for your next barbecue, each of these new and noteworthy books provide music lovers with an exceptional summertime escape into the lives and legacies of music legend even if you never got around to booking that extravagant vacation of daydreams yore.

Just shy of a year since singer-songwriter Paul Simon bowed out of a touring career spanning more than a half-century with last September's historic "Homeward Bound - The Farewell Performance", this recent memoir from the other half of the Simon & Garfunkel namesake is a welcomed one. Bounding between the present and past with free-flowing prose and temperant wisdom attributed to a life well-lived, What Is It All but Luminous ebbs with all the earnest musings and poetic ramblings one might come to expect from Art Garfunkel. Grounding this autobiographical abstraction are the artist's first-person accounts of history as it happened, detailing a man's continued coming-of-age and the lifelong friendship of two folk-rock pathfinders. Without all of the self-indulgent fussiness of his many harder-rocking compatriots--who, naturally, also hold a special place in our hearts and home libraries--, Garfunkel's story is a refreshing one and we are all the more contented for having read it.

In 1969, the music world deemed their love too libidinous when the iconic couple's "Je t’aime... moi non plus" was banned from radio play but the rest of pop culture begged to differ. Fifty years later, author Véronique Mortaigne celebrates it, symbolically reclaiming the unsung anthem of Parisian provocation and with it, its two greatest constituents, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. Whisking its reader from salacious liaisons in Paris to the extravagant coasts where the star-crossed lovers spent many'a summer to the inner-workings of how the complex coupling of one self-destructive singer-songwriter to English muse-turned-musician/actress became synonymous with sex, style, music, celebrity and the exuberant spirit of France at the culmination of the swinging 60s, this well-written if not indulgently romantic re-telling is only matched by the immense wealth of corroborable research. A legendary love story unlike any other which puts even the most fantastic efforts of Hollywood to shame, Je t'aime profiles the cyclical tumult of one of music history's most captivating couples from its adulterous genesis to a similar ends with no shortage of heartfelt splendor and star-studded success in between. 

This summer, Grammy-winning artist Ani DiFranco adds New York Times bestselling author to her already-impressive resume with No Walls and the Recurring Dream. Having grown up on such hits from the singer-songwriter as "Both Hands" and "Lost Woman Song", DiFranco's signature blend of staccato effervescence and socio-political agency has long been known to us. With that same poignancy, she put pen to paper and a magnifying glass to the challenging upbringing that would not simply define the years to follow but transcend them, catapulting her into a life of activism, artistry and fierce independence. This masterwork reads as one intersectional feminist and phenomenal artist's lifetime exercise in remarkable vulnerability and the result is an anecdotal anthology of empowerment paid forward.

Following a portrait sitting with the artist in 1972, Norman Seeff would go on lens the lady of the canyon a dozen more times over the next fifteen years, all the while building an earnest friendship and enthralling collaborative photographic series in the process. From seasonally-apropos images like this one depicting Mitchell afloat in what appears to be a cosmic sea of infinite blue captured at her Beverly Hills home to other rare and iconic shots, Seeff's latest monograph sees release three decades later in celebration of the singer-songwriter's 75th birthday with a special premium edition including an 11x14 print from the duo's widely-storied series is now available for purchase from Morrison Hotel Gallery. 

This book might've been released last summer but chances are we'll be re-visiting it before season's end and for good reason. Naively intermittent with doodles, personal snapshots and fragments of prose otherwise reserved for ballads yet to be heard are hand-scrawled lyrics to some of the artist's biggest charttoppers of the past decade like "Dog Days Are Over" and "Shake It Out", unwittingly lending themselves to the intimate utterances of their unassuming reader. It's a glimpse not only inside of Welch's creative process but also a peek beyond the fiery moptop and into those worlds contained within the artist's mind. From never-before-seen poems to the inspiration behind each of her acclaimed albums, this delightfully-curated cabinet of curiosities may not have the story arcs or bold divulgences you seek but for those looking to get lost in the lighthearted musings of one of the most enchanting performers and poets of the century present, a treasure trove.