A good book will never go out of style, especially when written by one of your favorite female musicians. Add a little melanin into the picture and you’ve got yourself the perfect night in with nothing but words from some wise women — Black women, at that!
We’ve put together a nice list of 10 music memoirs that tell the truth behind some of the soulful voices that’ve captivated us over the years. Spanning from the ’50s when Billie Holiday spoke candidly of her battles with personal demons and racism on the daily in the classic autobiography Lady Sings the Blues, all the way to the compelling true story of Mariah Carey that she spells out eloquently in her 2020 New York Times Best Seller The Meaning of Mariah Carey, we’re sure this list of music memoirs by strong Black women will keep you turning pages with enthusiasm for weeks.
Keep scrolling for a list of good reads by iconic soul sirens from the past and the dominating divas on the radio today, including Nina Simone, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Patti LaBelle, Grace Jones and more:
1. ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ (1956) – Billie Holiday (with William Dufty)Source:Getty
Beautifully damaged but shockingly candid, Billie Holiday left nothing unsaid with her classic autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues. The book has been considered a classic ever since its original 1956 release.
2. ‘I, Tina: My Life Story’ (1986) – Tina Turner (with Kurt Loder)Source:PR PHOTOS
This memoir actually inspired her iconic 1993 biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It, making us appreciate I, Tina even more for giving us that unforgettable performance by Angela Bassett. We definitely suggest checking out both the film and book!
3. ‘I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone’ (1992) – Nina Simone (with Stephen Cleary)Source:Getty
Even with all that Nina Simone had to endure in her life, it’s very therapeutic to see her put it all in her own words throughout I Put a Spell on You. The world will forever me mesmerized.
4. ‘Aretha: From These Roots’ (1999) – Aretha Franklin (with David Ritz)Source:Courtesy of NEON
The Queen of Soul will soon see her life displayed on the big screen in the upcoming Jennifer Hudson-starring biopic Respect, but you can get an early preview into her captivating life story in this page-turner. We promise you won’t regret the recommendation.
5. ‘Angel on My Shoulder: An Autobiography’ (2000) – Natalie Cole (with Digby Diehl)Source:Getty
Told through the notion that her legendary father Nat “King” Cole was her guardian angel, Angel on My Shoulder is a beautiful way to remember both dearly missed singers. We’re sure they’re having a heavenly duet somewhere.
6. ‘True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself’ (2011) – Janet Jackson (with David Ritz)Source:Getty
What’s particularly special about Janet’s True You is that it’s told more like a self-help book rather than a “this-is-my-life” type of memoir. Mixed in with the affirmations and healthy eating tidbits are stories of her own experiences with overcoming adversity and weight loss. The message coming from an icon like Miss Jackson is just icing on the cake — a low-fat cake though!
7. ‘I’ll Never Write My Memoirs’ (2015) – Grace Jones (with Paul Morley)Source:Courtesy Of Full Bloom Marketing
Sure, it’s mainly appealing for the images, but what else could you ask for from the Grace Jones?! From fashion to flawless skin, this is one book you’ll gawk at for days.
8. ‘Desserts LaBelle: Soulful Sweets to Sing About’ (2017) – Patti Labelle (with Laura Randolph Lancaster)Source:Getty
As iconic as she is a singer, R&B diva Patti LaBelle is just as good of a chef. That’s why reading her stories attached to finger-licking recipes is like frying two birds with one skillet. Or something like that.
9. ‘More Myself: A Journey’ (2020) – Alicia Keys (with Michelle Burford)Source:Keys Soulcare
As one of the current reigning divas in R&B music today, Alicia Keys certainly has a lot to write about. For a new age story of female empowerment from a chart-topping chanteuse, More Myself is the route to go.
10. ‘The Meaning of Mariah Carey’ – Mariah Carey (with Michaela Angela Davis)Source:Andy Cohen Books
What is there to be said about the Queen of Music that hasn’t already? Well, read her book and find out!
MC, we will always listen to whatever you have to sing, write or meme about.