Since this year’s summer reading slogan is “Libraries Rock,” I asked my rock musician friends how reading and libraries influenced their lives and careers.
“As a child growing up in Little Italy, books opened a whole new world for me in my tenement apartment. Reading flamed my desire to travel, explore music, the arts, and see as many other cultures as possible.”
Morris “Mo” Pleasure (Pianist and musical director for Bette Midler; member of Earth, Wind, & Fire; session and back up musician for Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Christina Aguilera, and Ray Charles):
“I’ve used a lot of my book reading to help me write music, especially lyrics. Also, now since I’m an older traveled musician I’ve read autobiographies on artists that I’ve known and shared some of the situations they wrote about in their books. It’s interesting and inspiring to hear their perspective of the same experience. “
“I frequented the library when I was a kid. Where the Red Fern Grows was the first time a book made me cry. My kids love our local library, even when I don’t let them play games on the computer. We ought to have more rock concerts in libraries. There’s a nice energy when you’re breaking the rules. Everyone can feel it.”
“My story with reading and rock music begins at the same place: the back cover of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper LP. I was 6 years old and having trouble learning to read. My very wise older sister gave me her copy of Sgt. Pepper and told me that I could listen to the album and read along. The Beatles were the first to print the lyrics on an album jacket. Little did they know this would help a 6 year old Indiana kid learn to read while getting hooked on rock music. I’ve been an avid reader and an avid rocker ever since.”
Dean Falcone (musician, producer, songwriter)
“Books have always been an integral part of my life. Like a good song you are transported either out of your reality or deeper into it. Reading has been inspirational and caused me to use my imagination when writing lyrics and music. Books have always helped me be creative. I devour music bios.”
Zak Nilsson (drummer and son of Harry Nilsson):
“As a kid I was a voracious reader, the kind who went to the library every week and checked out entire stacks of books and read them all. Once when we were at an airport catching a flight, my dad [Harry Nilsson]ducked into one of the shops and bought a copy of Watership Down for me. He signed it, on the first page. He believed in education and literature, and wanted to make sure I was exposed to the world of books. I’ll always be grateful for that.”
“This rocker is a reader! I am never without at least two books on my reading table. Often there are considerably more. Books fuel my imagination and sustain me as an artist.” –Christine Ohlman “The Beehive Queen”
(Saturday Night Live Band, Rebel Montez)
Greg Sherrod (Vocal coach and musician)
“I am a serious reader and collector of books about and by musicians. As a musician I know that there is no one way to make music. There is no road map. Reading about how great and talented musicians navigated their lives and challenges to become who they are is a constant source of information and knowledge. Every book by or about a musician has a lesson to teach me about how to make music.”
Favorite book as a child: Soul On Ice by Eldredge Cleaver.
Richard Dart (Monkees, Micky Dolenz backing drummer):
“Wow – I read constantly! I grew up reading about my heroes in the music business and learned all I could from their stories! Without all of that research I would never have gotten to be where I am today. Truth.”
Chris LeRoy (The Dangers):
“In 1963 I heard my first rock record in the listening room downstairs in the children’s section of the Colton, California Public Library- it was Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture. In 1968, because I knew Bob Dylan loved him, I checked out my first rock book – it was Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory. By 1969 I returned the book, paid the fine and wrote my own first rock song. I continue to frequent the library to find the rock, to reach the roots to my music, to my soul.”
“When I was kid, I used to get dropped off at the Trumbull, Connecticut Library by my mom. The goal was to get info for a book report I was supposed to be doing for school. The moment her car pulled away, I would go straight to the card catalog and look for any book on the Rolling Stones, The Who, The Clash, and more.”
Bryan J. Howard (Cracker):
“Books, music, and arts are the keys that unlock the human condition and make the world a better place.”
Favorite children’s books: Misty from Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, and Max the Dog Who Refused to Die by Kyra Petrovskaya Wayne .
“Books make you see things in a new way, and for me, that’s the essence of creativity and therefore the essence of music.”
–Brandy Wood (Cracker, Big Sister, Cherry Red)
“Reading has played a very important role in the development of my creativity . . . When I write songs, there are so many ideas that can come from the perspectives and stories from so many wonderful books and authors. The possibilities are endless!”
“Often times a phrase in a book will pop out at me, I’ll jot it down, and then later work it into a song. Songwriting is essentially story telling so the two for me go hand and hand.”
Be sure to check the blog tomorrow morning for thoughts from a variety of authors about how music influenced their work. And if you are are musician, let us know in the comments below how books influenced you in your musical life.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
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