100 books like There Was a Time

By Alan Leeds,

Here are 100 books that There Was a Time fans have personally recommended if you like There Was a Time. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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

A.J.B. Johnston Author Of Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns

From my list on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s.

Who am I?

I grew up with the music of the 1960s. Going to packed, pheromone-heavy dances featuring The Lincolns—Nova Scotia’s most popular and most soulful band—were a huge part of my teenage years. Those experiences implanted a deep love of R&B, and somehow or other pointed me in the direction of becoming a writer. It’s a bit of a mystery how it all works. In any case, of all my books, none was as much fun to work on as Kings of Friday Night. It has received lots of love, including from readers who grew up far from the time and place I write about. Long live local bands! And live music everywhere!

A.J.B.'s book list on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s

A.J.B. Johnston Why did A.J.B. love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell

A.J.B. Johnston Author Of Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns

From my list on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s.

Who am I?

I grew up with the music of the 1960s. Going to packed, pheromone-heavy dances featuring The Lincolns—Nova Scotia’s most popular and most soulful band—were a huge part of my teenage years. Those experiences implanted a deep love of R&B, and somehow or other pointed me in the direction of becoming a writer. It’s a bit of a mystery how it all works. In any case, of all my books, none was as much fun to work on as Kings of Friday Night. It has received lots of love, including from readers who grew up far from the time and place I write about. Long live local bands! And live music everywhere!

A.J.B.'s book list on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s

A.J.B. Johnston Why did A.J.B. love this book?

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.

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…


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

A.J.B. Johnston Author Of Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns

From my list on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s.

Who am I?

I grew up with the music of the 1960s. Going to packed, pheromone-heavy dances featuring The Lincolns—Nova Scotia’s most popular and most soulful band—were a huge part of my teenage years. Those experiences implanted a deep love of R&B, and somehow or other pointed me in the direction of becoming a writer. It’s a bit of a mystery how it all works. In any case, of all my books, none was as much fun to work on as Kings of Friday Night. It has received lots of love, including from readers who grew up far from the time and place I write about. Long live local bands! And live music everywhere!

A.J.B.'s book list on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s

A.J.B. Johnston Why did A.J.B. love this book?

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.

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…


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

A.J.B. Johnston Author Of Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns

From my list on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s.

Who am I?

I grew up with the music of the 1960s. Going to packed, pheromone-heavy dances featuring The Lincolns—Nova Scotia’s most popular and most soulful band—were a huge part of my teenage years. Those experiences implanted a deep love of R&B, and somehow or other pointed me in the direction of becoming a writer. It’s a bit of a mystery how it all works. In any case, of all my books, none was as much fun to work on as Kings of Friday Night. It has received lots of love, including from readers who grew up far from the time and place I write about. Long live local bands! And live music everywhere!

A.J.B.'s book list on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s

A.J.B. Johnston Why did A.J.B. love this book?

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. 

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…


Book cover of Becoming Belafonte: Black Artist, Public Radical

Jonathan Shandell Author Of The American Negro Theatre and the Long Civil Rights Era

From my list on Black culture and history in the Civil Rights era.

Who am I?

I am a theater historian whose research focuses on African American theater of 1940s-50s. While other periods and movements—the Harlem Renaissance (1920s), the Federal Theatre Project (1930s), the Black Arts Movement (1960s), and contemporary theater—have been well studied and documented, I saw a gap of scholarship around the 1940s-50s; I wondered why those years had been largely overlooked. As I dived deeper, I saw how African American performance culture (ie. theater, film, television, music) of the later-20th Century had its roots in the history of those somewhat overlooked decades. I’m still investigating that story, and these books have helped me do it.

Jonathan's book list on Black culture and history in the Civil Rights era

Jonathan Shandell Why did Jonathan love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of The Infinite Harmony: Musical Structures in Science and Theology

Sarita Armstrong Author Of The Magic of Tao in The Tarot

From my list on tarot archetypes and the I Ching.

Who am I?

I have always seen my life as a journey, with lessons to be learnt along the way. Adventures on land and sea have drawn me into contact with many races and traditions and brought me close to nature in its many moods. When a physical journey ends, an inner journey takes me in directions I had never looked at before. Early spiritual questioning led me to eastern philosophies and made me aware of the underlying links between all cultures. In relying on my own experiences rather than what others have written, I believe my writing brings a freshness and individuality to the age-old questions of who we are and where we are going.

Sarita's book list on tarot archetypes and the I Ching

Sarita Armstrong Why did Sarita love this book?

The innovative thinking in this book inspired me to put my original ideas into writing. Here was someone else who was looking into the profound origins of humanity and how the world is made up. It reassured me I was on the right track in associating the Major Arcana of the Tarot with the I-Ching. Michael Hayes goes further in detecting a numerical and musical synthesis between ancient doctrines and current scientific discoveries. It is not a quick read, but a real eye-opener. Whilst not agreeing with all of it, there was so much fascinating information; I had to read it through twice straight off.

By Michael Hayes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a numerical study proving that religion and science share a common underlying structure, which is very similar to music theory. This study proposes that all the world's major religious and esoteric doctrines share a common scientific origin. Further that this hidden science is none other than musical theory: music being the true common denominator of both religious and scientific traditions. From the mysterious cults of ancient Egypt, China and India and Greece right through to the latest findings in molecular biology and particle physics, there is a law of proportions that corresponds to the rules of music.


Book cover of The Music of the Spheres; Music, Science, and the Natural Order of the Universe

J. Anthony Allen Author Of Music Theory for Electronic Music Producers: The producer's guide to harmony, chord progressions, and song structure in the MIDI grid.

From my list on falling in love with music all over again.

Who am I?

When you get a PhD in music, you end up with a lot of music books. Like, hundreds of them. At the end of every semester I could never bring myself to sell my textbooks because I just love books. Over the years I’ve continued to collect books about music, and books about everything. I’m happy that now a few have my name on the spine. 

J.'s book list on falling in love with music all over again

J. Anthony Allen Why did J. love this book?

This book is a nonfiction history of the concept of Spherics – the idea that music and astronomy are intimately connected. It starts by talking about Pathagorous and works our way chronologically up to Einstein. There are a lot of books on the topic of Music of the Spheres (and a Coldplay album), but this is the best book I’ve found to fully understand the concept. 

By Jamie James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Music of the Spheres; Music, Science, and the Natural Order of the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For centuries, scientists and philosophers believed that the universe was a stately, ordered mechanism, both mathematical and musical. The perceived distances between objects in the sky mirrored (and were mirrored by) the spaces between notes forming chords and scales. The smooth operation of the cosmos created a divine harmony that composers sought to capture and express. Jamie James allows readers to see how this scientific philosophy emerged, how it was shattered by changing views of the universe and the rise of Romanticism, and to what extent it survives today - if at all. From Pythagoras to Newton, Bach to Beethoven,…


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

Harvey G. Cohen Author Of Duke Ellington's America

From my list on American popular music history.

Who am I?

As an author and educator, my work centers on the history, business, and art of the music industry and film industry. I don’t think my fellow historians use musical evidence enough as a primary document that reveals much about the society and time period one is writing aboutjust as much as the usual primary and secondary documents historians use.  I try to ensure my books are entertaining as well as rigorously researched. I’m also a songwriter, with many years in the music biz, and have done much work in radio, especially crafting music shows. I’m always discovering amazing stuff from various eras, and it’s not much fun if you don’t share it, which is part of why I’m on Twitter.

Harvey's book list on American popular music history

Harvey G. Cohen Why did Harvey love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

David Menconi Author Of Oh, Didn't They Ramble: Rounder Records and the Transformation of American Roots Music

From my list on non-fiction about the music industry.

Who am I?

I spent 34 years writing for daily papers, most of them at the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’ve also freelanced for numerous magazines, primarily about music, while hosting a podcast and writing the occasional book. Through it all I’ve had a particular fascination for the music business and its peculiar ways, especially record companies. The industry’s darker side was the subject of my first book way back in 2000, the novel Off The Record, which was a notebook dump of thinly fictionalized war stories I’d accumulated over the years. The record business is the subject of my latest book, too, although it’s a much more positive story.

David's book list on non-fiction about the music industry

David Menconi Why did David love this book?

A century ago, the record industry sent representatives all over the country to do field recordings of vernacular artists playing folk, blues, and early country for “hillbilly” and “race” records (the sort that Rounder would start putting out in the 1970s).

One of these scouts was Ralph Peer from the Victor Talking Machine Company, for which he oversaw 1927’s legendary “Bristol Sessions.” It was the first time that Hall of Fame titans the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers recorded, generally cited as the beginning of the country music industry.

As explained in Barry Mazor’s excellent biography, Peer went on to become one of the giants of the recording and publishing industry, laying the groundwork that pretty much every record label including Rounder has followed since.

By Barry Mazor,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2015 Belmont Book Award Winner

This is the first biography of Ralph Peer, the revolutionary A&R man and music publisher who pioneered the recording, marketing, and publishing of blues, jazz, country, gospel, and Latin music, and this book book tracks his role in such breakthrough events as the recording of Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues,” the first country recording sessions with Fiddlin’ John Carson, his discovery of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, the popularizing of Latin American music during World War II, and the postwar transformation of music on the airwaves that set the stage for the dominance of R&B,…


Book cover of Zen Guitar

Tobias Hurwitz Author Of The Total Rock Guitarist: A Fun and Comprehensive Overview of Rock Guitar Playing, Book & CD

From my list on for rock guitar philosophers.

Who am I?

I’ve been immersed in playing and teaching guitar and in rock culture all my life. Since graduating from The Guitar Institute of Technology in 1987, I’ve been a full-time guitar professional. So, I’m known in my hometown of Baltimore as the go to guy for rock guitar chores of all kinds. I play for companies like Johns Hopkins, Center Stage and The Baltimore Ravens. I taught Guitar at The Gilman School for thirteen years. I’ve played every venue from the biggest stadiums to the smallest clubs. My publications include fifteen guitar books internationally distributed by Alfred Publications and features in most major trade journals. Endorsements: Paul Reed Smith Guitars, Ernie Ball Strings and Fractal Audio.

Tobias' book list on for rock guitar philosophers

Tobias Hurwitz Why did Tobias love this book?

This book hit me hard and fast. It validated what I previously thought were my private ideas. I’d never met the author, but it seemed to be written about me… for me… or was it written for and about the other 100k plus readers who must have felt the same? I don’t know. Maybe you’re next.

By Philip Toshio Sudo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Each of us carries a song inside us, the song that makes us human. ZEN GUITAR provides the key to unlocking this song - a series of life lessons presented through the metaphor of music. Philip Sudo offers his own experiences with music to enable us to rediscover the harmony in each of our lives and open ourselves to Zen awareness uniquely suited to the Western Mind. Through fifty-eight lessons that provide focus and a guide, the reader is led through to Zen awareness. This harmony is further illuminated through quotes from sources ranging from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in music, Leeds, and the Civil Rights Movement?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about music, Leeds, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Music Explore 611 books about music
Leeds Explore 8 books about Leeds
The Civil Rights Movement Explore 96 books about the Civil Rights Movement