Top Music Books Of 2020

By Team JamBase Oct 12, 2020 1:56 pm PDT

Below you will find the Top Music Books released in 2020; many of which are favorites of Team JamBase and all of which make great gifts for music lovers of all stripes. Whether you’re looking for a little something for yourself or the perfect gift for someone else, you’ll find biographies, instruction, photojournalism and discussions of cultural relevance from artists across a spectrum of genres and across many decades.


We hope you love the products we recommend as much as we do! Just so you know, JamBase may collect a share of sales from the links on this page if you decide to purchase. Happy gifting!


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Not for You: Pearl Jam and the Present Tense

Not for You: Pearl Jam and the Present Tense is the first full-length biographic book detailing America’s preeminent band Pearl Jam, from their albums Ten to Gigaton. A study of Pearl Jam’s role in history – the book is part autobiography, and entirely outspoken, discursive, and droll. Not For You explores Pearl Jam’s odyssey and their cultural importance from the ’90s to the present.

Year of the Monkey

Taking us from California to the Arizona desert, from a Kentucky farm to the hospital room of a valued mentor, illustrated by Patti Smith’s signature Polaroids, her book Year of the Monkey melds the western landscape with her own dreamscape in a haunting, poetic blend of fact and fiction. As a stranger tells Smith, “Anything is possible. After all, it’s the Year of the Monkey.” But as Smith heads toward a new decade in her own life, she offers this balm to the reader: her wisdom, wit, gimlet eye, and above all, a rugged hope for a better world.

Bruce Springsteen: All the Songs — The Story Behind Every Track

The latest book in the bestselling All the Songs series, this is the most in-depth exploration of Bruce Springsteen‘s songs ever written. Spanning nearly 50 years of albums, EPs, B-sides, and more, read the full story behind every single song that The Boss has ever released. No stone is left unturned across the book’s 670 pages, from the inspiration behind the lyrics and melody to the recording process and even the musicians and producers who worked on each track. Uncover the stories behind the music in Bruce Springsteen: All the Songs — The Story Behind Every Track.

Wild Thing: The Short, Spellbinding Life of Jimi Hendrix

Over 50 years after his death, Jimi Hendrix is celebrated as the greatest rock guitarist of all time. Bringing Jimi’s story to vivid life against the backdrop of midcentury rock, and with a wealth of new information in the new book, Wild Thing: The Short, Spellbinding Life of Jimi Hendrix, acclaimed music biographer Philip Norman delivers a captivating and definitive portrait of a musical legend. From 1966 to 1970, Jimi Hendrix totally rewrote the rules of rock stardom, notably at Monterey and Woodstock, and became the highest-paid musician of his day. But it all abruptly ended in the shabby basement of a London hotel with Jimi’s too-early death. With remarkable detail, Wild Thing finally reveals the truth behind this long-shrouded tragedy.

Remain in Love

In Remain in Love, author Chris Frantz writes about the beginnings of Talking Heads – their days as art students in Providence, moving to the sparse Chrystie Street loft Frantz, Tina Weymouth, and Byrne shared where the music that defined an era was written. With never-before-seen photos and immersive vivid detail, Frantz’s book describes life on tour – and reveals the mechanics of a long and complicated working relationship with a mercurial frontman. At the heart of Remain in Love is Frantz’s love for Weymouth – Remain in Love is a frank and open memoir of an emblematic life in music and in love.

How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back

There are few creative acts more mysterious and magical than writing a song. But what if the goal wasn’t so mysterious and was actually achievable for anyone who wants to experience more magic and creativity in their life? That’s something that anyone will be inspired to do after reading Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy‘s book, How to Write One Song. The idea of becoming a capital-S songwriter can seem daunting, but approached as a focused, self-contained event, the mystery and fear subsides, and songwriting becomes an exciting pursuit. Tweedy’s book How to Write One Song brings readers into the intimate process of writing one song—lyrics, music, and putting it all together—and accesses the deep sense of wonder that remains at the heart of this curious, yet incredibly fulfilling, artistic act. But it’s equally about the importance of making creativity part of your life every day, and of experiencing the hope, inspiration, and joy available to anyone who’s willing to get started.

Total F*cking Godhead: The Biography of Chris Cornell

In the book Total F*cking Godhead, with input from those who knew and worked with him the rise of Chris Cornell and his immortal band Soundgarden as they emerged from the 1980s post-punk underground to dominate popular culture in the ’90s alongside Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Nirvana is recounted. Total F*cking Godhead was written by Seattle resident and rock writer Corbin Reiff, who also examines Cornell’s dynamic solo career as well as his time in Audioslave. In the book, Reiff delves into Cornell’s hard-fought battle with addiction, and the supercharged reunion with the band that made him famous before everything came to a shocking end.

BONZO: 30 Rock Drummers Remember the Legendary John Bonham

Few rock drummers remain as universally praised as Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. Listen to any Zeppelin album, and you will hear a virtual showcase on expert rock drumming – while never getting in the way of the group’s other members and their contributions, singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, and bassist John Paul Jones. But sadly, one of rock’s all-time greats died tragically young – he was only 32 years old – resulting in the end of one of rock’s most celebrated bands. To mark 40 years since his passing the book, Bonzo: 30 Rock Drummers Remember the Legendary John Bonham has been assembled – comprised of interviews with some of the top drummers of rock (including Kenny Aronoff, Mike Portnoy, John Dolmayan, Brian Tich and Steve Gorman, among others), discussing what made Bonham such a special and unforgettable drummer.

Beastie Boys

Filmmaker/photographer Spike Jonze and Beastie Boys met for the first time in Los Angeles in 1991, when Jonze went out to photograph the band for the cover of Dirt magazine. A connection formed between the three MCs and the young photographer. Almost 30 years later, the book, Beastie Boys, collects for the first time more than two hundred of Jonze’s personal photographs. Beastie Boys also includes new writing by Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz, and provides an intimate look at the greatest act of the hip-hop generation in their truest colors as only a close friend could see them — from performing live onstage to writing together at Mike’s apartment to getting into character for a video to dressing up as old men to hit the basketball court to recording music in the studio to goofing around on the streets of New York.

The Beatles Anthology

Created with their full cooperation, The Beatles Anthology is, in effect, The Beatles‘ autobiography. This extraordinary project was made possible because Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the late George Harrison agreed to tell their combined story especially for this book. Together with Yoko Ono Lennon, they have opened their personal and management archives specifically for The Beatles Anthology. The book is an unprecedented release of photographs which they took along their ride to fame, and showcases fascinating documents and memorabilia from their homes and offices.

Queen Live Collected: 1970-2020

Throughout their 20+ years as one of the worlds best loved rock bands, Queen played over 700 concerts around the world. The band’s earliest documented concerts were at colleges in the Home Counties of England in 1970. Their performance at Live Aid in 1985 at Wembley is considered one of the best live shows anywhere and their final show was at Knebworth Park on August 9, 1986 was tremendously impactul. And then there was the Freddie Mercury Memorial Concert at Wembley Stadium. Queen Live Collected: 1970-2020 captures it all as it unfolded.

This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s “Kid A” and the Beginning of the 21st Century

In 1999, five musicians entered a recording studio in Paris without a deadline. Their band was widely recognized as the best and most forward-thinking in rock, a rarefied status granting them the time, money, and space to make a masterpiece. But Radiohead didn’t want to make another rock record. Instead, they set out to create the future. This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s “Kid A” and the Beginning of the 21st Century chronicles how for more than a year, they battled writer’s block, intra-band disagreements, and crippling self-doubt, ultimately producing an album that was not only a complete departure from their prior guitar-based rock sound, it was the sound of a new era-and. What they created was Kid A. Deploying a mix of criticism, journalism, and personal memoir, Steven Hyden skillfully revisits this enigmatic, alluring LP and investigates the many ways in which Kid A shaped and foreshadowed our world.

Let Love Rule

As a book, Let Love Rule is a work of deep reflection. Lenny Kravitz looks back at his life with candor, self-scrutiny, and humor. “My life is all about opposites,” he writes. “Black and white. Jewish and Christian. The Jackson 5 and Led Zeppelin. I accepted my Gemini soul. I owned it. I adored it. Yins and yangs mingled in various parts of my heart and mind, giving me balance and fueling my curiosity and comfort.” Let Love Rule is the tale of a wildly creative kid who, despite tough struggles at school and extreme tension at home, finds salvation in music. “I see my story as a suite of songs that have a magical connection. I never understood that connection until I sat down to write. It was then that the magic started to flow.”

Rust in Peace: The Inside Story of the Megadeth Masterpiece

In the book Rust in Peace: The Inside Story of the Megadeth Masterpiece, Megadeth‘s lead vocalist and guitarist, Dave Mustaine, gives readers a never-before-seen glimpse into the artistry and insanity that went into making the band’s most iconic record, Rust In Peace. Alcohol, drugs, sex, money, power, property, prestige, the lies fed to Megadeth by the industry-and the lies they told each other-threatened to eat away at the band’s bond like rust, devouring it until only the music survived.

She Come By It Natural

In She Come By It Natural, a book originally published in a four-part series for The Journal of Roots Music, No Depression, Sarah Smarsh explores the overlooked contributions to social progress by such women—including those averse to the term “feminism”—as exemplified by Dolly Parton‘s life and art. Far beyond the recently resurrected “Jolene” or quintessential “9 to 5,” Parton’s songs for decades have validated women who go unheard: the poor woman, the pregnant teenager, the struggling mother disparaged as “trailer trash.” Parton’s broader career—from singing on the front porch of her family’s cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains to achieving stardom in Nashville and Hollywood, from “girl singer” managed by powerful men to leader of a self-made business and philanthropy empire—offers a springboard to examining the intersections of gender, class, and culture.

The Butterfly Effect

Written by veteran journalist and music critic Marcus J. Moore, this is the first biography of Kendrick Lamar and the book is a definitive account of his coming-of-age as an artist, his resurrection of jazz, his profound impact on a racially fraught America, and his emergence as the bona fide King of Rap. The thirteen-time Grammy Award­-winning rapper is just in his early thirties, but he’s already won the Pulitzer Prize for Music, produced and curated the soundtrack of the megahit film Black Panther, and has been named one of Time’s 100 Influential People. But what’s even more striking about the Compton-born lyricist and performer is how he’s established himself as a formidable adversary of oppression and force for change. Through his confessional poetics, his politically charged anthems, and his radical performances, Lamar has become a beacon of light for countless people.

The Music Gods are Real: Volume 1 – The Road to the Show

In The Music Gods are Real: Volume 1 – The Road to the Show, author Jonathan A. Fink takes his readers along for the ride as he continues on his spiritual path, this time with music as his guide. This book also chronicles the music road to the show for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Phish, Widespread Panic, the Grateful Dead, Mumford & Sons, the Black Crowes, the Counting Crows, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, the Kitchen Dwellers, Twiddle, and more. “The road to the show” as a metaphor for life. “The Show” is symbolic for achieving goals, whatever they may be. The road is not flat or straight. There will be ups and downs along the way. But whether you are a minor league baseball player, a musician, a financial advisor or whatever else you might aspire to be in life, you will learn from every accomplishment and setback and keep moving forward on your own road to the show. May the Music Gods always be with you!

Hope you enjoyed this list of top music books and found some gift ideas for the music lover in your life. Don’t miss the rest of our 2020 Holiday Buying Guides for even more great gift ideas.

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