10 books like There Was a Time

By Alan Leeds,

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

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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…


How Sweet It Is

By Lamont Dozier, Scott B. Bomar,

Book cover of How Sweet It Is: A Songwriter's Reflections on Music, Motown and the Mystery of the Muse

If you know the music of the 1960s, you know that Lamont Dozier was at the heart of the hit-producing machine that was Motown Records. He was one-third of the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team that came up with hit after hit for an amazing number of celebrated artists. Later, after leaving Motown, Dozier continued to be a creative musical force (and still is today). He contributed his song-writing talents to over 100 Top 10 singles and was inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This book is a window into Dozier’s musical world—in the 1960s and beyond. Dozier recalls what it was like to grow up in Detroit when he did and then reveals his experiences collaborating with some of the greatest musical talents of the era.

How Sweet It Is

By Lamont Dozier, Scott B. Bomar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Sweet It Is as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As part of Motown’s legendary songwriting and production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Lamont Dozier is responsible for such classics as “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Heat Wave,” “Baby Love,” “It’s the Same Old Song,” “Nowhere to Run,” “You Keep Me Hanging On,” “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You),” and many more. After leaving Motown, he continued to make his mark as an influential songwriter, artist, and producer with hits such as “Give Me Just 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…


Becoming Belafonte

By Judith E. Smith,

Book cover of Becoming Belafonte: Black Artist, Public Radical

As I was writing my book, I delved more into the professional singing career of Harry Belafonte. I knew him as the singer of familiar, toe-tapping, globally-inspired hits (i.e. “The Banana Boat Song,” “Jump In the Line,” “Matilda”). I didn’t know about the depth and breadth of his commitment to racial justice. Nor did I realize, more importantly, how his Civil Rights activism informed and shaped his artistic career as an actor and a musician. An eye-opening read about a cultural icon.

Becoming Belafonte

By Judith E. Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A son of poor Jamaican immigrants who grew up in Depression-era Harlem, Harry Belafonte became the first black performer to gain artistic control over the representation of African Americans in commercial television and film. Forging connections with an astonishing array of consequential players on the American scene in the decades following World War II-from Paul Robeson to Ed Sullivan, John Kennedy to Stokely Carmichael-Belafonte established his place in American culture as a hugely popular singer, matinee idol, internationalist, and champion of civil rights, black pride, and black power.

In Becoming Belafonte, Judith E. Smith presents the first full-length interpretive study…


Fortune's Fool

By Fred Goodman,

Book cover of Fortune's Fool: Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Warner Music, and an Industry in Crisis

The story of how Warner Bros Records, perhaps the best, most profitable yet artist-friendly record label in the 1970s and 1980s became heavily damaged when it was bought out in the 1990s and put under corporate auspices and expectations. Goodman communicates the financial details in a clear and accessible way, as well as the music executives’ singular personalities. Also offers a close-up view of how the corporate execs, especially with their short-term focus on quarterly results, failed to deal with the challenges of Napster and downloads at the turn of the century. An insightful view of the changing components of the music business in our time.

Fortune's Fool

By Fred Goodman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fortune's Fool as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1999, when Napster made music available free online, the music industry found itself in a fight for its life. A decade later, the most important and misunderstood story-and the one with the greatest implications for both music lovers and media companies-is how the music industry has failed to remake itself. In Fortune's Fool, Fred Goodman, the author of The Mansion on the Hill, shows how this happened by presenting the singular history of Edgar M. Bronfman Jr., the controversial heir to Seagram's, who, after dismantling his family's empire and fortune, made a high-stakes gamble to remake both the music…


Selling Sounds

By David Suisman,

Book cover of Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music

Why do certain tunes become popular and others fail? What is music that sells? In Selling Sounds, Suisman explains how the music industry has shaped the culture of listening to music and how they capitalized on it, creating an entirely new music culture in the early-twentieth-century United States. This emergence of the music industry and culture involved not just the creation of novel sounds by a genius musician, but rather commercial, technological, and cultural changes, which are still with us today. 

Selling Sounds

By David Suisman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Tin Pan Alley to grand opera, player-pianos to phonograph records, David Suisman's "Selling Sounds" explores the rise of music as big business and the creation of a radically new musical culture. Around the turn of the twentieth century, music entrepreneurs laid the foundation for today's vast industry, with new products, technologies, and commercial strategies to incorporate music into the daily rhythm of modern life. Popular songs filled the air with a new kind of musical pleasure, phonographs brought opera into the parlor, and celebrity performers like Enrico Caruso captivated the imagination of consumers from coast to coast. "Selling Sounds"…


Year of Wonder

By Clemency Burton-Hill,

Book cover of Year of Wonder: Classical Music to Enjoy Day by Day

Whether you are a seasoned classical music lover or someone wanting to explore the world of classical music, you will love this book which offers a carefully selected piece for every day of the year. Whether you choose to listen to one piece each day, or as I did, in large batches, you will discover a true treasure trove of gems, some well-known, some rather hidden from sight. The author’s gentle, unpatronizing, and always imaginative commentary will enhance your understanding and your delight. Some of my favourite pieces are missing from the list (how could they not?) but every major composer from Thomas Ades to Frank Zappa is represented here, with titans like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, and Schubert featuring more than once. 

Year of Wonder

By Clemency Burton-Hill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A magnificent treasury . . . a fascinating tour de force.' Observer

'Year of Wonder is an absolute treat - the most enlightening way to be guided through the year.' Eddie Redmayne

Classical music for everyone - an inspirational piece of music for every day of the year, celebrating composers from the medieval era to the present day, written by award-winning violinist and BBC Radio 3 presenter Clemency Burton-Hill.

Have you ever heard a piece of music so beautiful it stops you in your tracks? Or wanted to discover more about classical music but had no idea where to begin?…


The Rest Is Noise

By Alex Ross,

Book cover of The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century

This is a history of classical music from 1900 onwards. I’ve always been interested in early twentieth-century western art. It seems to have veered off in radically new directions and expressed a different consciousness than what preceded it. Perhaps it was fomented by the dissolution of the relatively stable European order of the nineteenth century, shattered by the First World War. 

Alex Ross discusses the music of these times and the lives of the people who composed it. He is eminently capable, being musically trained, and finds the perfect balance between the technical and the personal. I was fascinated to learn that Shostakovich was a man who lived in constant fear of being purged. He always expected to be imprisoned. 

I also learned about Harry Partch, the American composer, who devised his own tuning systems and built an orchestra of strange instruments to play his music.

The Rest is Noise…

The Rest Is Noise

By Alex Ross,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alex Ross's sweeping history of twentieth-century classical music, winner of the Guardian First Book Award, is a gripping account of a musical revolution.

The landscape of twentieth-century classical music is a wild one: this was a period in which music fragmented into apparently divergent strands, each influenced by its own composers, performers and musical innovations. In this comprehensive tour, Alex Ross, music critic for the 'New Yorker', explores the people and places that shaped musical development: Adams to Zweig, Brahms to Bjoerk, pre-First World War Vienna to 'Nixon in China'.

Above all, this unique portrait of an exceptional era weaves…


Tearing Down the Wall of Sound

By Mick Brown,

Book cover of Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector

I knew that Phil Spector had a reputation for being mercurial (and that he was in prison for murder), but I never realized how off the rails he really was. I also never realized how many people he’d worked with—both as a producer and just as a guy who was trying to network his way into the business. I knew about his “girl groups,” about his work with the Beatles and some of their solo projects, and about his work with the Ramones, but I didn’t realize that he was very good friends with Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records and that he saw Berry Gordy of Motown as one of his biggest competitors. Overall, a bizarre, tragic life, but an interesting read with a lot of information about some of the big names in rock history that Spector encountered. 

Tearing Down the Wall of Sound

By Mick Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tearing Down the Wall of Sound as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A stunning biography of "pure self-interest and cruelty, tempered only slightly by the great musical achievements of Mr. Spector's golden age in the early 1960s" (The New York Times).

He had a number one hit at eighteen. He was a millionaire with his own record label at twenty-two. He was, according to Tom Wolfe, “the first tycoon of teen.” Phil Spector owned pop music. From the Crystals, the Ronettes (whose lead singer, Ronnie, would become his second wife), and the Righteous Brothers to the Beatles (together and singly) and finally the seventies punk icons The Ramones, Spector produced hit after…


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