The best music books that should be made into movies

Why am I passionate about this?

As pop music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly forty years and author of more than twenty books on pop music, books on these subjects have always held a special fascination for me. To me, musicians are heroes like athletes or warriors and their paths make for extraordinary drama—usually set to some fabulous soundtrack. There is a big, wonderful world beyond Ray and Bohemian Rhapsody and I can’t wait to see what Hollywood comes up with. 


I wrote...

Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues

By Joel Selvin,

Book cover of Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues

What is my book about?

While the cinematic aspects of the life of Bert Berns didn’t entirely escape my attention, my overarching agenda was to fashion a definitive biography of an important and forgotten songwriter and record man. With his doomed heart hanging over him, his fate tangled up in songs of his like “Piece of My Heart,” and his desperate drive to leave his mark in the short time he had, Berns blazed a trail through Brill Building era pop, jumping to England after the Beatles made a worldwide hit of his “Twist and Shout.” After making a string of soul classics that helped define the era, he turned his attention to his own label, Bang Records, building to a cataclysmic crescendo involving gangsters, scary threats, and cash payoffs.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Really the Blues

Joel Selvin Why did I love this book?

This classic work vividly captures the language and color of the Thirties jazz scene straight from the horse’s mouth; loquacious and colorful pioneer saxophonist Mezzrow, who was best known among his crowd as their pot dealer. Director Phil Kaufman expressed some interest in the property years ago, but it remains a movie waiting to be made—an utterly evocative portrait of a time and place (and mentality) of a unique and distinctive moment in American history. Mezzrow was right in the center of the whole scene and he knew everybody. “I guess I must be the sociable type,” he writes, “My list of associates was beginning to look like a Barbary Coast police blotter on a Saturday night.”

By Mezz Mezzrow, Bernard Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Really the Blues as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Really the Blues (90) by Mezzrow, Mezz - Wolfe, Bernard [Paperback (2001)]


Book cover of Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album

Joel Selvin Why did I love this book?

Engineer Ken Caillat’s richly detailed account of the arduous and complicated creation of the classic Fleetwood Mac album reads like a novel. He winds together the personal and creative narratives that were tangled up in the months-long creation of this epic work, while the two couples in the band came apart and personal relations suffused the process. Calliat himself was conducting an affair with the studio manager. It was all sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

By Ken Caillat, Steve Stiefel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Rumours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inside the making of one of the biggest-selling albums of all time: Fleetwood Mac's Rumours

Fleetwood Mac's classic 1977 Rumours album topped the Billboard 200 for thirty-one weeks and won the Album of the Year Grammy. More recently, Rolling Stone named it the twenty-fifth greatest album of all time and the hit TV series Glee devoted an entire episode to songs from Rumours, introducing it to a new generation. Now, for the first time, Ken Caillat, the album's co-producer, tells the full story of what really went into making Rumours—from the endless partying and relationship dramas to the creative struggles…


Book cover of Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend

Joel Selvin Why did I love this book?

The epic life of French jazz guitarist Django Reinhart deserves a Spielbergian biopic treatment. After the cart fire where he damaged his hand and the personal epiphany of hearing a Louis Armstrong record, the Gypsy guitarist would bring jazz to Europe with his near magical musical improvisations. He lived a wild, carefree life, full of big cars, large dreams, and sensual pleasures. When the Nazis took over Paris, he returned to his homeland, opened one of the city’s most dazzling nightclubs, and made hit records that flooded the French airwaves during the Occupation. When the war was over, his career went out like a light switch and Django repaired to a quiet life in a remote riverfront village, spending his time fishing and painting nudes. 

By Michael Dregni,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Django as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Django Reinhardt was arguably the greatest guitarist who ever lived, an important influence on Les Paul, Charlie Christian, B.B. King, Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins, and many others. Yet there is no major biography of Reinhardt.
Now, in Django, Michael Dregni offers a definitive portrait of this great guitarist. Handsome, charismatic, childlike, and unpredictable, Reinhardt was a character out of a picaresque novel. Born in a gypsy caravan at a crossroads in Belgium, he was almost killed in a freak fire that burned half of his body and left his left hand twisted into a claw. But with this maimed left…


Book cover of Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music

Joel Selvin Why did I love this book?

Who knew the story of the first popular country music group would be wrapped around a heart-breaking romance? The poor, backwoods musicians from southern Virginia had sold more than a million records at the height of the Depression, but things were not well with the group. Sara Carter, the wife of stern, difficult A.P. Carter, leader of the group, had fallen in love with his young cousin. He was sent away to live in California and never mentioned again until one night many years later, when Sara dedicated a song to him on one of their late-night Mexican radio broadcasts. He heard it all the way out in California and contacted her. She completed her duties with the group and joined her love out west, where they spent the rest of their lives together, leaving her cousin Maybelle to carry on the family tradition with her daughters June, Helen, and Anita.

By Mark Zwonitzer, Charles Hirshberg,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first major biography of the Carter Family, the musical pioneers who almost single-handedly created the sounds and traditions that grew into modern folk, country, and bluegrass music.

Meticulously researched and lovingly written, it is a look at a world and a culture that, rather than passing, has continued to exist in the music that is the legacy of the Carters—songs that have shaped and influenced generations of artists who have followed them.

Brilliant in insight and execution, Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? is also an in-depth study of A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter, and their bittersweet story…


Book cover of The Restless Generation

Joel Selvin Why did I love this book?

We need a documentary made from this exquisite history of how rock and roll came to Great Britain by the redoubtable Pete Frame, best known for his intricately calligraphed and intensely researched Rock Family Trees. He walks readers through the rise of Tommy Steele and the 2I’s club in Soho, where Cliff Richards, England’s Elvis, and other nascent stars of the new sound were discovered. He skillfully entwines the strains of skiffle, trad jazz, and early British r&b into his narrative and brings to life early British rock and rollers such as Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Vince Taylor, and others who never made their way across the Atlantic, setting the stage for the emergence of the Beatles and nothing less than an explosion of British culture on a global scale after the many long, dark years following World War II. This brilliant book is stuffed full of original research and information unavailable elsewhere (RIP publisher Johnny Rogan). 

By Pete Frame,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Restless Generation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was our version of a Hollywood epic, shot in black and white over a ten year period, with no script and a cast of thousands who had to make it up as they went along. Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, Lonnie Donegan, Terry Dene, Marty Wilde, Mickie Most, Lionel Bart, Tony Sheridan, Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Wee Willie Harris, Adam Faith, John Barry, Larry Page, Vince Eager, Johnny Gentle, Jim Dale, Duffy Power, Dickie Pride, Georgie Fame and Johnny Kidd were just a few of those hoping to see their name in lights. From the widescreen perspective of one who…


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Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…


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