As I read Mo Meta Blues, I started to think about how much I learn whenever I read a biography or autobiography of a musician. One of the best ways to learn music, I believe is go to the source, the music itself. But second to the actual music, you can go to the musicians.
And not all of us are fortunate to be able to sit down with our musical heroes and pick their brains. (Although you'd be surprised, especially in the jazz world, performers are a lot more accesible than you might think. Buy them a drink at the bar after the show and you might have a new best friend.) But what about when we can't have a conversation with someone we want to admire? Well...why not check out a book? I always find autobiographies in particular fascinating because you can really get inside someone's head.
There's so much to learn from reading about musicians -- how they became who they are, what they practiced, mistakes they made, what they think about where music is going, what it means to be a musician.
One thing I love about autobiographies and biographies is the way that they take the mystery and the glamour out of success. As an audience member we only see the final product. We see an amazing performance, but don't realize the hours and hours (and hours) of practice that was involved. We don't see last night's performance when there was only three people in the room. When you read a biography or autobiography, you get the whole story, the behind the scenes. You learn that all of these great successful musicians had many trials and failures before they became that person you see on stage. To me that's inspiring. These musicians are not gods, they are not superhuman. They are plain old people just like you and me. But they are people are committed to their craft and don't give up on who they are.
It's summer, what better time to pick up a musician's autobiography for this summer and check it out! If you know who Questlove is or are interested in hip-hop, I highly recommend Mo' Meta Blues. But if not, there's plenty more out there. Two classic, not-to-be-missed autobiographies are Miles: The Autobiography (if you can hang with the profanity..and there's lots) and Louis Armstrong's Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans. In both accounts, you really feel like Miles and Louis are talking right to you. Another favorite biography of mine is Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter. What are some of your favorites? Hit me up and let me know!
I'll leave with you with a Bill Evans quote that I first read in a biography called How My Heart Sings that always stuck with me. (I later learned this quote was originally from a fascinating video interview that you all should watch called Bill Evans - The Creative Process and Self-Teaching) Here's Bill:
Amen to that.