10 books like How Sweet It Is

By Lamont Dozier, Scott B. Bomar,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like How Sweet It Is. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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There Was a Time

By Alan Leeds,

Book cover of There Was a Time: James Brown, the Chitlin' Circuit, and Me

Alan Leeds does a wonderful job presenting his eyewitness experiences as part of the James Brown entourage in the 1960s and beyond. The reader can’t wait to find out what happens next in the riveting story he presents of Soul Brother No. 1, the “hardest working man in show business.” It’s a fascinating tale, which presents Brown as an innovative musical force, determined artist, forceful businessman, and unpredictable personality. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the Chitlin’ Circuit when soul music was taking off as a dynamic new genre—as recalled by a young, Jewish kid from Queens who joined James Brown’s team and learned the music business at the hand of the performer who mastered it.

There Was a Time

By Alan Leeds,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked There Was a Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As seen in the Wall Street Journal!

“Alan Leeds was a protegé of James Brown and a true historian of the world that nurtured the great entertainer. Alan was a witness to the vibrant black music scene of the ’60s and ’70s—whose book is both a memoir and a document of a lost world of sound.”—Nelson George, an American author, columnist, music and culture critic, journalist, and filmmaker

A behind-the-scenes look at the Chitlin’ Circuit during American’s most vital period of soul music—from the eyes and ears of a young, Jewish kid from Queens who joined the team of the…


Dreams to Remember

By Mark Ribowsky,

Book cover of Dreams to Remember: Otis Redding, Stax Records, and the Transformation of Southern Soul

This is an in-depth look at the life and career of the magnetic Otis Redding Jr., soul singer extraordinaire. We learn tons about Redding’s family background and his hometown of Macon, Georgia (also the hometown of Little Richard). Redding died at 26 in a 1967 plane crash just as he was starting to climb to the heights of the music industry. Even so, he left behind a much-admired body of work though his time was cut so tragically short. The author did an enormous amount of research for the book, then crafted an energetic and easy-reading story that captures the remarkable journey that was Otis Redding’s—from preacher’s son to charismatic soul singer who touched millions.

Dreams to Remember

By Mark Ribowsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When he died suddenly at the age of twenty-six, Otis Redding (1941-1967) was the conscience of a new kind of soul music. Berry Gordy built the first black-owned music empire at Motown but Redding was doing something as historic: mainstreaming black music within the whitest bastions of the post-Confederate south. As a result, the Redding story-still largely untold-is one of great conquest but grand tragedy. Now, in this transformative work, Mark Ribowsky contextualises Redding's life within the larger cultural movements of his era. What emerges in Dreams to Remember is not only a triumph of music history but also a…


Reckless Daughter

By David Yaffe,

Book cover of Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell’s career extended long after the 1960s, but that was the decade when she burst on the scene with her distinctive voice and incredible song-writing and musical abilities. This book provides in-depth details of how she went from being an unknown blonde girl from Saskatchewan to an undisputed folk music superstar with songs like no one else. As Leonard Cohen put it: “She was like a storm.” To present Joni’s story, the author conducted interviews with Mitchell and her childhood friends, and with the many others who played important roles in her life—including Cohen, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and David Crosby. Along the way, David Yaffe reveals the backstory behind all of Joni’s songs. It’s a fascinating book.

Reckless Daughter

By David Yaffe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"She was like a storm." ―Leonard Cohen

Reckless Daughter is the story of an artist and an era that have left an indelible mark on American music.

Joni Mitchell may be the most influential female recording artist and composer of the late twentieth century. In Reckless Daughter, the music critic David Yaffe tells the remarkable, heart-wrenching story of how the blond girl with the guitar became a superstar of folk music in the 1960s, a key figure in the Laurel Canyon music scene of the 1970s, and the songwriter who spoke resonantly to, and for, audiences across the country.

A…


The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs

By Greil Marcus,

Book cover of The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs

The title of this book might suggest that it will be a book of lists. It is not, not even close. Instead, Greil Marcus offers something closer to a philosophical meditation on what rock ‘n’ roll is. Or aspires to be when played and sung as a heartfelt, life-altering, reckless abandon musical genre. It’s largely about attitude and feeling. The book is a fascinating read as one travels along with the author while he ruminates on different artists and their work and how some songs have resonated deeply with (and influenced) later musicians across the span of time. 

The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs

By Greil Marcus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of our finest critics gives us an altogether original history of rock 'n' roll

Unlike all previous versions of rock 'n' roll history, this book omits almost every iconic performer and ignores the storied events and turning points that everyone knows. Instead, in a daring stroke, Greil Marcus selects ten songs recorded between 1956 and 2008, then proceeds to dramatize how each embodies rock 'n' roll as a thing in itself, in the story it tells, inhabits, and acts out-a new language, something new under the sun.

"Transmission" by Joy Division. "All I Could Do Was Cry" by Etta…


Memphis 68

By Stuart Cosgrove,

Book cover of Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul

Scottish author Cosgrove wrote probably the ultimate trilogy of books covering the 1967-69 period of soul music, of which the ‘68’ tome dealing with the Memphis sound and southern soul is one. Cosgrove is another author that looks at all the cultural and social aspects of music with an easy and understandable writing style that keeps you turning the pages with ease.

Memphis 68

By Stuart Cosgrove,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memphis 68 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PENDERYN MUSIC BOOK PRIZE 2018

In the 1950s and 1960s, Memphis, Tennessee, was the launch pad of musical pioneers such as Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Al Green and Isaac Hayes, and by 1968 was a city synonymous with soul music. It was a deeply segregated city, ill at ease with the modern world and yet to adjust to the era of civil rights and racial integration. Stax Records offered an escape from the turmoil of the real world for many soul and blues musicians, with much of the music created there becoming the soundtrack to…


Goodbye Without Leaving

By Laurie Colwin,

Book cover of Goodbye Without Leaving

Moving away from children's and YA literature, Laurie Colwin's Goodbye Without Leaving nonetheless feels like a transitional book to me. When I first discovered Colwin's work, I was in my early twenties and even though most of her books had been written several years before "my time," I felt like she got me like few writers did. The anguish, desires and self-awareness plaguing her characters always felt true and achingly relatable. In Goodbye Without Leaving, Colwin tells the story of Geraldine, who gets hired as a backup singer for a touring band and is led to reflect on what it means to be young—and what it costs to be free. 

Goodbye Without Leaving

By Laurie Colwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Goodbye Without Leaving as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most beloved novels from the critically acclaimed novelist Laurie Colwin, Goodbye Without Leaving explores a woman’s attempts to reconcile her rock-and-roll past with her significantly more sedate family life as a wife and mother.

As a bored graduate student, Geraldine Colshares is plucked from her too-tame existence when she is invited to tour as the only White backup singer for Vernon and Ruby Shakely and the Shakettes. The exciting years she spends as a Shakette are a mixed blessing, however, because when she ultimately submits to a conventional life of marriage and children, she finds herself stuck…


The Commitments

By Roddy Doyle,

Book cover of The Commitments

In my opinion, few writers have expressed in words the sensation of what it's like to make and listen to music quite like Roddy Doyle has in The Commitments. The book abounds with youthful energy and humor. His nearly complete reliance on dialogue rather than description creates an immediacy that I've rarely experienced elsewhere. He eschews tired cliches in favor of presenting music-making as a craft that requires prodigious amounts of labor and a high tolerance for BS. This also happens to be the source material for one of the best band movies ever made.

The Commitments

By Roddy Doyle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

First published in 1988, THE COMMITMENTS follows a small band of musicians from the Barrytown area of Dublin as they try to make the big time. From the author of THE SNAPPER, THE VAN and PADDY CLARKE HA HA HA.


Shine Bright

By Danyel Smith,

Book cover of Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop

I have known the amazing author Danyel Smith for over 15 years. At first, I only knew her through her incredible writing, but I grew to know her personally when she hired me as a Managing Editor at Vibe magazine when she was the Editor-in-Chief. During that time, I was able to personally witness her knowledge of music and the entertainment industry, as well as her unwavering passion for storytelling behind the music. 

Her new book, Shine Bright, which she has been writing for more than five years, seems so fitting as part of her journey. Described as “a weave of biography, criticism, and memoir” it’s a history of Black women’s music as the foundational story of American pop.

Shine Bright

By Danyel Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

American pop music is arguably this country’s greatest cultural contribution to the world, and its singular voice and virtuosity were created by a shining thread of Black women geniuses stretching back to the country’s founding. This is their surprising, heartbreaking, soaring story—from “one of the generation’s greatest, most insightful, most nuanced writers in pop culture” (Shea Serrano)

“Sparkling . . . the overdue singing of a Black girl’s song, with perfect pitch . . . delicious to read.”—Oprah Daily

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: NPR, Esquire, Publishers Weekly

LONGLISTED FOR THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD

A weave…


Honkers and Shouters

By Arnold Shaw,

Book cover of Honkers and Shouters: The Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues

Completing a trifecta with Deep Blues and Sound of the City, Honkers and Shouters is a definitive examination of the evolution of rural blues into urban rhythm-and-blues, the “big beat” that made African-American-based popular music into one of America’s greatest, and most lucrative, cultural exports. 

Shaw, a former music executive, focuses on how the music found its way from the artists to the ears and wallets of the consumers. It was a tough, exploitative business that provided a way for entrepreneurs excluded from more traditional careers by race or ethnicity to find their fortune, if often at the expense of the artists themselves. The rough saga of lives in the music business makes us appreciate the magical results even more. Listen while you read.

Honkers and Shouters

By Arnold Shaw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

[From front flap] What did rhythm and blues have that gave it its impact and appeal? Who were the people who made it happen - the artists, producers, and audience - black and white alike - who dug its earthy realism and driving, dynamic sound? Here, for the first time, is the spectacular, foot-tapping, hand-clapping story...


Rage to Survive

By Etta James, David Ritz,

Book cover of Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story

One of my favorite memoirs, Rage to Survive is a no-holds-barred dive into the life and times of powerful singer who traversed the genres of rock and roll, blues, and R&B during her decades-long career. James tells compelling stories about her tough upbringing on the west coast and her teenage immersion into sex, drugs, and early rock and roll (check out her 1955 hit “The Wallflower”); shares her experiences touring in the segregated south during the 1950s; offers gossip about well-known musical figures; and reflects on her development as an artist navigating the recording industry in the fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties. Throughout she offers insights about love, loss, motherhood, hard knocks, bad choices, addiction, and personal and professional triumphs. James speaks with passion, humor, and honesty. 

Rage to Survive

By Etta James, David Ritz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the great women of American music, equally at home singing blues and jazz, Etta regales us with tales of her chaotic childhood, the stars she has known, and her troubled trip to stardom in this mesmerizing autobiography.


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