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Elvis Costello's Hardcover Rock: Why Music Memoirs Matter

THIS Christmas, booksellers are featuring several memoirs by rock musicians in their product queues. The authors are not all household names, yet new volumes by Elvis Costello (an English singer-songwriter, pictured), Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders), Patti Smith (a New York musician), Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney) and others have already made it onto the year’s bestsellers lists.

If rock ‘n’ roll has waned on the pop charts for more than a decade, why would the personal histories of artists who hail from the heydays of terrestrial FM radio and MTV matter to readers in 2015? One answer lies in the book-tour trend, in which such authors trek across America and Europe signing copies of their hardbacks, narrating slideshows about their childhoods and performing acoustic songs in front of sold-out crowds. The release of so many memoirs is more than an attempt to cash in on nostalgia. Songwriters are storytellers, and each in their way, these memoirists seem to enjoy prose as much as music and lyrics. Readers respond with an eagerness for more words from those whose melodies have defined memorable moments in their lives…


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