Please share your favorite biographies of composers, singers, performers, songwriters, etc.

I am on page 111 of Thayer's life of Beethoven. 

(And a book on Evangelical Theology.)

I am currently reading Sandra B. Tooze's biography of Levon Helm. Fan-freaking-tastic! She had previously written Muddy Waters: The Mojo Man, which I guess will be next.

Robbie Robertson's Testimony is excellent, much better than I had anticipated. It's the most complete accounting of The Band I've read. Another very good book on them is The Story Of The Band by Harvey Kubernik.

Outlaw Blues by Paul Williams is a compilation of the essays the author wrote for Crawdaddy magazine in the late-60's. Two chapters provide the best behind-the-scene reporting on the recording of Smile, the aborted concept album undertaken by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks in 1966-7, published as the recordings were taking place. Essential reading imo. 

2 coffee table book R&R suggestions

Jimi Hendrix-Keith Shadwick
According to the Rolling Stones-by the boys

A sad event in Beethoven life is him not knowing how amazing his performance of the 9th was.

"Beethoven’s deafness created one of the most touching stories in music. When the symphony was completed, he remained facing the orchestra and could not hear the thunderous applause of the audience for his new symphony. Caroline Unger, the mezzo-soprano soloist, had to tap the deaf composer’s arm and have him turn around so that he could see how the crowd’s response. Many of those in attendance, including Miss Unger, had tears in their eyes when they realized the extent of Beethoven’s deafness."


Robert Gutman's biography of Richard Wagner is one of most entertaining biographies of anyone, musician or not, that I've ever read.  

Gutman obviously despises Wagner -- as several Amazon reviewers have noted -- and that brings out the best in Gutman.  If you had never heard Wagner's music, you'd despise him too, based on this book.  Fortunately, we have the man's transcendent work, which redeems him (except in Gutman's eyes).  By contrast, Gutman's biography of Mozart, whom he loves, is curiously flat, unless you're intensely curious about what Mozart had for lunch on certain dates.

Though it's not exactly a biography, The Tristan Chord, by Bryan Magee, is a useful corrective to the entertainingly vicious Gutman, and well worth it on its own.
*The Concise Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians* by Nicolas Slonimsky.  Of course it's not limited to a single composer, but at almost 1,400 pages it is packed with a lot of good information.  And the author's style is very charming.

There is a copy now of eBay for less than 10 bucks with shipping.

Highly recommended.
Ervin Nyiregyhazi Lost genius by Kevin Bazzana

Married to 10 wives, described by Shoenberg in a letter to Klemperer to be out of any comparison...

Nobody play like him and no one will in the future someone said and it is true....Never practice because too poor to own a piano most of his life.... Quit his career of concertist after 35 years old (he hated concert because his mother exhibit him up to sixteen years like Liszt reincarnated and indeed he was)....Lived with poverty composing only in his head hundred of compositions (unknown to me)... Became famous another time after 74 years old reluctantly trying a concert to save his tenth wife from cancer...

Listen to him playing Liszt....Even the greatest sound only like students compared to him....Take the Vallee of Obermann and compare it with Richter version or Horowitz....They sound like applied children searching appraisal beside a god descent in an abyss....

My favorite pianist with Vladimir Sofronisky playing Scriabin in particular and Ivan Moravec playing anything ...
Agree on Solomon's Late Beethoven.  What is nice about it is that it opened up to me various works I did not know about beyond the late Quartets and late piano sonatas.  

Another I enjoyed reading is Mahler by Michael Kennedy.

There is a very nice video biography of Bill Evans called, Time Remembered, which I think was on Netflix earlier in 2020 but is now on IMDB TV. I cannot remember which app I saw it on in early 2020.