The Ox: The Authorized Biography of The Who’s John Entwistle, by Paul Rees (Hachette, $38, 352 pages, out now).
Here’s something unusual in biography business: The family of the late Who bassist John Entwistle actually encouraged author Paul Rees to write a warts-and-all book on the musician. "My father wasn’t an angel,” son Christopher Entwistle told Rolling Stone magazine. “I didn’t want it to be a fluff piece.” Nicknamed the Ox for his stoicism, Entwistle was a prototypical seventies rock star, given to outrageous spending indulgences and a profound enthusiasm for cocaine, cognac and women. Surviving Who members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend were not interviewed for the book.
Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest, by Ian Zack (Beacon, $38.95, 288 pages, out now)
Unfamiliar with Odetta’s oeuvre? No problem: publisher Beacon Press compiled a playlist representative of the operatic-voiced folk-revival icon. Among the songs selected are The Midnight Special, Take This Hammer, Gallows Pole and Muleskinner Blues. Listen to them before, during or after reading what is billed as the “first full biography” of the Civil Rights era siren. Author Ian Zack’s previous book was Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis.
Break Shot: My First 21 Years, written and narrated by James Taylor (Audible, 93 minutes, free, out now)
James Taylor grew up privately schooled and privileged, but his first 21 years weren’t always a day at the beach (even if he and his family summered in Martha’s Vineyard). In Break Shot, an audio book and a sort of companion to Taylor’s American Standard album of cover songs, the singer-songwriter gently narrates the story of his complicated upbringing – “I wanted to jump out of my family tree” – with interludes of his soft renditions of such material as God Bless the Child. Before Taylor saw fire and rain, he saw the inside of a psychiatric hospital for nine months as a clinically depressed teenager. Then his parents’ marriage broke apart, his music career began and heroin happened. It all plays out like a movie waiting to happen.
Ted Templeman: A Platinum Producer’s Life in Music, by Ted Templeman and Greg Renoff (ECW, $24.95, 472 pages, due April 21)
He was a jazz prodigy growing up in coastal California in the 1950s. He was a member of Harpers Bizarre, the sun-splashed pop band that in the Summer of Love had a hit with Paul Simon’s The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy). He was a studio producer and record label man who discovered the Doobie Brothers, and that’s him saying “Come on, Dave, gimme me a break” on the Van Halen song Unchained. Who is this guy? He’s Ted Templeman, the well-tanned music-biz legend who tells his story to author and Van Halen insider Greg Renoff.
Anthem: Rush in the ’70s, by Martin Popoff (ECW, $39.95, 295 pages, due May 12)
For much of its career, the Canadian prog-rock power trio Rush was something pop culture and the mainstream media felt perfectly comfortable ignoring. Then, in 2009, Rush was lovably saluted in the comedy film I Love You, Man. In 2013, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and, two years later, four decades deep into its career, finally made it onto the cover of Rolling Stone. Heavy-music maven Martin Popoff goes back to the now-retired band’s beginnings and commercial breakout in the 1970s, to be followed in the fall by the next book in his series, Limelight: Rush in the ’80s.
America, the Band: An Authorized Biography, by Jude Warne (Rowman & Littlefield, $31.95, 288 pages, due May 15)
The first thing first-time author Jude Warne noticed when she set about to write a book on the soft-rock seventies band America was that everybody said the same thing about the group: “They’re such nice guys.” So, they’re not the Eagles. And they’re not Bread or Crosby, Stills & Nash. Nor are they Neil Young (even if their hit A Horse With No Name argued otherwise). The book’s author, who in her 2015 master’s thesis compared the characters of Bruce Springsteen’s album Darkness on the Edge of Town to those in Sherwood Anderson’s 1919 short-story cycle Winesburg, Ohio, once again sets her sights on the heart of America – this time, the band.
Hollywood Park: A Memoir, by Mikel Jollett (Celadon, $34.99, 384 pages, due May 26)
Mikel Jollett was born into an infamous cult, separated from his parents at six months and endured a tumultuous – to say the least; abusive, to say the most – childhood. “We were never young,” his memoir begins, referring to him and his brother. “We were just too afraid of ourselves.” Jollett lived through it to become a writer, a frequent contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered and a respected indie musician. Now the front-man of Airborne Toxic Event (named after a poisonous cloud in Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel White Noise) is set to release his memoir in the middle of an airborne toxic pandemic. The book, highly anticipated, should be a doozy.
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