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Rock and Roll biographies

Rock and Roll biographies — We review the latest music bios, including ones on the Beatles, Marvin Gaye, and more

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Rock and Roll biographies

Given how crazed and colorful rock musicians tend to be, you would think the world of the rock biography would be thriving. Instead, most such bios are either glorified fanzines, sex-and-drugs exposes without much musical framework, or dull academic tomes. Amid the dross, though, there has been a passel of essential pop biographies:

Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation by Philip Norman (1981) The best, most levelheaded biography of the once-Fab Four is light on gossip and dirt but ably holds your hand through the facts and the historical context. A

Hellfire by Nick Tosches (1982) Whole lotta shakin’ indeed — a wild-eyed account of the life of Jerry Lee Lewis that’s the print equivalent of the Killer’s pounding, panting piano style. A-

Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz (1985) An elegantly written saga of the late, tormented Motown genius, with details on his angst-ridden, drug-heavy private life. A-

Heroes and Villains: The True Story of the Beach Boys by Steven Gaines (1986) The early surfer triumphs, Brian Wilson’s fall from grace (and sanity), and their sorry decline into a shoddy touring band-all laid out with a sharp eye for musical and financial detail. A-

Before I Get Old: The Story of the Who by Dave Marsh (1983) No one is a bigger fan of Pete Townshend and company than Marsh — and no one is a tougher critic, either, never letting them off the hook for their words, actions, and responsibilities as keepers of the rock flame. A