From Robbie to Bruce: 2016’s Best Rock and Roll Reads

Robbie Robertson’s Testimony, which was released this week (Nov. 15, 2016), recounts the successes and struggles of one of rock music’s most legendary songwriters, from his childhood to the disbanding of The Band in 1976, chronicled in the legendary Martin Scorsese documentary The Last Waltz. (Read an exclusive excerpt from Testimony in the next issue of Zoomer magazine, hitting news stands on Dec. 5).

With this highly-anticipated memoir from one of Canada’s greatest musical exports in hand, we look back at a few other notable rock and roll reads of 2016.

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Brian Wilson, I Am Brian Wilson

“Telling my story honestly means remembering things I sometimes prefer to forget,” the legendary Beach Boy says. “I would like people to get to know what I’ve gone through, and I hope that my story will give them strength.”

Brian Wilson is credited as a musical genius and one of the greatest singer/songwriters in the history of popular music. The 74-year-old’s also suffered immeasurable heartache and pain, falling prey to substance abuse and a crooked therapist for years all the while battling mental illness. He knows what it’s like to be on top of the world and at the bottom of the barrel – as evidenced in the acclaimed 2014 biopic Love & Mercy – and for the first time he tells his own incredible story in his own words.

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Paul Simon, Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon

Before Brian Wilson penned his own autobiography, acclaimed journalist Peter Ames Carlin chronicled his life, as well as the lives of other rock luminaries like Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen in multiple biographies. This time around he tackles Paul Simon, the boy from Queens, New York, who began writing tunes in the 1950s and grew up to be one of the greatest American songwriters ever. From his pairing with Art Garfunkel to his solo success and the ups and downs of his personal life, Carlin’s portrait of Paul Simon proves not only the first, but possibly the most definitive, major biography of the singer/songwriter until Simon sits down to write his life story himself.

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Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run

Like its author’s greatest musical hits, Born to Run has proven a runaway literary success. Springsteen, 67, proves equally candid and honest as he delves into the story of his life, chronicling both his successes and struggles, including a family history of depression. Buoyed by Springsteen’s honesty, lauded by critics and gobbled up by fans, Born to Run is one of the year’s most celebrated celebrity memoirs.

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Phil Collins, Not Dead Yet

It’s a tongue-in-cheek book title for a legendary singer/songwriter whose career spans everything from beloved Grammy and Oscar-winning hits to, well, “Sussudio.” Still, Collins is careful not to take himself too seriously, though he does broach often painful and regretful topics in his memoir, including adultery and substance abuse, alongside tales about his time with Genesis, his solo career and, most importantly, his family.

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Honourable Mentions…

They aren’t memoirs/biographies but they still offer insight into some of rock and roll’s greatest legends. Bob Dylan’s The Lyrics: 1961-2012 contains virtually every song the freshly minted Nobel laureate ever wrote – perfect for long-time fans or a new generation eager to learn just what the heck those words are that Dylan’s mumbling onstage these days. Meanwhile, Johnny Cash’s Forever Words: The Unknown Poems collects the Man in Black’s many unpublished and never-before-seen lyrics while the revised and updated The Complete David Bowie serves as an encyclopaedia of all things Bowie, from songs to concerts to albums and important dates, culminating with the singer’s last album, 2016’s Blackstar.