The best music biographies written by women

The Books I Picked & Why

Johnny Thunders: In Cold Blood

By Nina Antonia

Johnny Thunders: In Cold Blood

Why this book?

The definitive, authorised Johnny Thunders biography, beautifully written by a beloved confidant of the late New York Doll. With a star like Thunders, lesser writers would give in to the temptation to mythologise, but Antonia is a balanced, clear-eyed biographer, presenting her friend’s complex story with style, compassion, grace, and honesty. Nina is the bohemian queen of decadence and rock ‘n’ roll’s darker side, and this book is one of many jewels in her crown.


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The Saga of Hawkwind

By Carol Clerk

The Saga of Hawkwind

Why this book?

Carol Clerk was something of a rock star in her own right: a major force in music writing, Clerk’s tough, witty voice continues to resound years after her untimely passing. Her biography of countercultural hippy icons Hawkwind is fascinating, and she weaves together the voices, memories, tales, and travails with effortless brio. Like Nina Antonia, she had a kinship with the musicians she wrote about, garnering stories with ease because they trusted her, and rightly so.


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My Rock 'n' Roll Friend

By Tracey Thorn

My Rock 'n' Roll Friend

Why this book?

Musician and author Thorn places Go-Betweens drummer Lindy Morrison in the spotlight in this warm, often fiery book which, as a sometime drummer, I loved and related to very keenly. It is a love letter, as so many biographies are, albeit as much to a friendship as it is to an artist. But it is also a reflection on how women interact, how women navigate the music industry, how creative, clever women (like female biographers!) are often dismissed, trivialised, undermined, even silenced. Women will get great strength from My Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend, and as for men, well, the world would probably be a better place if more chaps connected with this book.


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Sweating Tears with Fat White Family

By Adelle Stripe, Lisa Cradduck

Sweating Tears with Fat White Family

Why this book?

I love to see different takes on music biography: shifts away from conventional formats are a happy place for me. Stripe, inspired by the 90s series Star Test (which I was obsessed with too) takes on the notorious Fat White Family, presenting them in all of their demonic rock ‘n’ roll depravity through exclusive interview material. Cradduck’s folklorically inspired illustrations in the Rough Trade edition complement the text with grotesque perfection.


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Dusty: The Classic Biography

By Lucy O’Brien

Dusty: The Classic Biography

Why this book?

This enduring LGBTQ icon might have been famously enigmatic, but O’Brien presents the story of the cool queen of blue-eyed soul with depth, precision, and humanity, qualities present in all of O’Brien’s books. Dusty’s tale is multi-faceted, often troubled, and tremendously relatable, but her profound strength comes through in this meticulously researched book, which also features an array of interviews with contemporaries and colleagues such as Tom Jones, Lulu, and Jerry Wexler. 


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