We recently spoke with Earl Douglas, Jr., the Executive Director for the New York chapter of The Black Rock Coalition, who are currently celebrating their 30th anniversary. He is also the author and photographer of the book Black Rock Volume 1. We asked if he had any favorite music biographies or books that he’d like to recommend and here’s what Earl had to say:
Le Freak: An Upside Down Story Of Family, Disco And Destiny by Nile Rodgers
"Before you even get to how Nile became one of the greatest producers of the last 40 years, you get these incredible stories of growing up with two drug addicted parents, riding cross country alone, jamming with Jimi THEN being in the center of a New York City music scene that flipped the world on its head more than once. It's as gripping and engaging as any novel you'll ever read, until you realize that the stories are all true. Nile was always THE man but after reading this, you realize he's THAT dude..."
A Woman Like Me: A Memoirby Bettye LaVette & David Ritz
"It took Bettye LaVette nearly 40 years to become an overnight sensation and in this pull no punches memoir, she tells the roads she had to take to get there. When the opening sentence begins with 'A vicious pimp was precariously holding on to my right foot as he dangled me from the top of a twenty-story apartment building at Amsterdam and Seventy-eighth street', you're hooked. She also tells, without apology, stories of watching contemporaries, friends and rivals such as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, David Ruffin, and Diana Ross become international successes, while her run of 'buzzard's luck' routinely denied her a chance to stand alongside them. It's also a rare insight of the almost 'Game Of Thrones' atmosphere that was rampant in the music business throughout the 60s and 70s. Bettye had the last laugh though: She's had best selling albums, sung for the President and maintains a consistent performing schedule at a time whenmost performers her age are slowing down. Inspiring as much as it is uplifting.
The Last Holiday by Gil Scott-Heron
"Published after he passed away in 2011, this moving and powerful memoir has one of our greatest storytellers connects crucial phases of his early life - growing up in Tennessee and New York City; how his mother and grandmother shaped his outlook on life; his move into poetry and recording seminal albums such as Winter In America - alongside his historic tour with Stevie Wonder campaigning to have Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday declared a national holiday. Written with depth, warmth, insight and humor, Gil Scott-Heron's final work is as moving and probing as any of his best songs. A fitting epitaph to an extraordinary career."
"The first book that focused strictly on the Black Rock Coalition, Maureen found a way to separate herself from the organization - for which she was a member - and write a clinical yet passionate look at how the BRC was able to make the connections between race and music, the fake and the real, and how rock music has and always will have Black DNA. Maureen fires on all of the right cylinders with this book."
Black Rock Volume 1 by Earl Douglas, Jr.
"Yes, I'm including my own book in here because it was directly inspired by Maureen Mahon's book and its in own way, picks up where her book leaves off. As Executive Director for the BRC, I was able to have unique and direct access to many of the movers and shakers that make up what is truly the last true alternative music scene. With camera on the ready, I was able to capture a lot of images, tell some quick stories behind the artists and the photos and include a brief discography of some of their seminal recordings. It's both a celebration and an introduction to the artists who are proudly carrying the Black Rock banner."
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