Women in Music 2019

Five Artists Who Still Need to Write Their (Sure-to-Be-Amazing) Memoirs

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images For The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Stevie Nicks speaks onstage at the  2019 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center on March 29, 2019 in New York City.

I’ve never understood why rock star memoirs aren’t part of all high school English class curriculums. No offense to the fictional Hester Prynne and her scarlet letter in the 17th century, but if you want to analyze struggle and perseverance, then consider one Anthony Kiedis.

In his 2004 book Scar Tissue, we learned that Kiedis’ wayward father blew marijuana smoke in his face as a 4-year-old, gave him a joint before he reached his 13th birthday and then encouraged him to sneak money from drug transactions past airport security, and he still grew up to be the lyrical poet of Red Hot Chili Peppers. I take your dusty literary symbolism and raise it one emotionally resonant chapter in which Kiedis anguishes about his break-up with Ione Skye.

No matter that most memoirs encompass the same Dickensian tale. Our heroes are born to working-class parents that dismiss their musical aspirations. They hit it big anyway and get a taste of the high life, only to spectacularly crash and burn. Then they must crawl their way back to self-respectability. Familiar as it may be, that arc is exponentially more scandalous than anything that’s ever happened to most of the mere mortals turning the pages. We glean insight into the songs that continue to reverberate in our minds to boot. Chatty Hollywood actors and actresses can only dream of reaching us on such a visceral level. 

Veteran artists are well-aware that a memoir not only makes for titillating reading material (and a nice payday), it’s a golden opportunity to subjectively and publicly document a life well lived. That’s why every year we get a new crop of tell-alls. In the past few months alone, Debbie Harry, Andrew Ridgeley of Wham!, Elton John, Rick Ross and even Prince (with co-writer Dan Piepenbring) have delivered the goods. It’s amazing we went this long without knowing that Sylvester Stallone and Richard Gere fought over Princess Diana’s attention during a posh London dinner party in 1994. (Thank you for that, Sir Elton.) Coming soon: Mariah Carey and Cher.  

And yet, notable holdouts remain. Here are five artists that have stories galore, yet thus far refuse to share them in print. Here’s hoping they spill the tea while the glass is still full.

1. Eddie Van Halen

The last time the reclusive yet endlessly fascinating guitar god gave an in-depth interview was in the February 2019 issue of Golf magazine, in which he discussed hitting the links with comic George Lopez. This will not do. Van Halen -- who is reportedly undergoing throat cancer treatment -- needs to step up his loose-lips game big time.

Start with growing up under the same roof as drummer Alex and then quickly transition into meeting frontman David Lee Roth and forming Van Halen. Sprinkle in some crazy backstage adventures in the 1980s and include all the infighting (obviously). How did he really feel about the Sammy Hagar transition? How did Quincy Jones convince him to record the riff on “Beat It” free of charge? For inquiring minds, Van Halen can also offer his thoughts on his tumultuous marriage to actress Valerie Bertinelli and why he allowed the pair’s son, Wolfgang, to tour with the band when he was a teen.

Most of these characters have already shared their experiences in respective memoirs; it’s time for the man himself to give his perspective, immediately.
 
2.  Stevie Nicks

One of the many reasons why the incomparable, lace-and-grace Nicks has such a fervent fan base is because she’s always been so comfortable digging deep. In interviews, she’ll cop to all her messy love affairs and her rampant cocaine use and how she ended up addicted to prescription pills in the 1990s. She’s long admitted that she was hurt when the other members of Fleetwood Mac didn’t applaud her first solo album, Bella Donna.

But Nicks insists on keeping some secrets to herself. “The world is not ready for my memoir,” she told Billboard back in 2014. “All the men I hung out with are on their third wives by now, and the wives are all under 30. If I were to write what really happened between 1972 and now, a lot of people would be very angry with me.” And to that I say... let Lindsey Buckingham’s wife be angry! Your true supporters will never leave you. 

3. Sean “Diddy” Combs

Over the past quarter-century, Puff Daddy has thrived as a sample-happy East Coast rapper, a savvy producer, a Bad Boy business mogul and even a Hamptons party host. He was the man on Jennifer Lopez’s arm when she wore that barely-there green Versace dress at the 2000 Grammys -- and months later when they got arrested outside a nightclub. He was Biggie Smalls’ best friend and business partner, and probably hasn’t told us his full thoughts on the violence that claimed the lives of B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur in the mid-'90s. 

Yet he’d literally rather get sued than express himself. The back story: Back in 1998, Combs received a $300,000 advance from Random House to pen his memoirs (with contributor Mikal Gilmore). The manuscript was never delivered and the publisher took him to court. They settled in 2005. Come to think of it, this itself would make for a fascinating chapter in Combs' eventual opus. 

4. Sheryl Crow

Alas, Crow is taking a page from her mentor Nicks and blaming her reluctance on potential hurt feelings. “I would write a book, but everybody needs to be dead first,” she recently said. “For me to write about the real juicy stuff, I gotta be careful.”

That real juicy stuff must include her 1990s relationship with Eric Clapton -- the inspiration behind her 1998 hit “My Favorite Mistake” -- and her broken engagement with Lance Armstrong. Crow should go for it, anyway. Love affairs aside, the talented singer-songwriter could spin an inspirational saga of a Missouri school teacher turned big-haired backup dancer-and-singer for Michael Jackson during the Bad era turned Grammy-winning artist turned breast cancer survivor and single mom. I’m exhausted just writing that sentence; she experienced it all. Bottom line: A memoir would not be a mistake.  

5. Mick Jagger

Surely Jagger must have been smarting when Keith Richards’ rollicking memoir, Life, was met with raves (and huge sales) upon its 2010 release -- and not just because he described his longtime Rolling Stones chum as “unbearable” with a “tiny todger.” Surely it was only a matter of time before he inserted the last word of the pair’s history -- and surely it would be an instant-best seller.

Turns out that Jagger already delivered a 75,000 word manuscript... way back in 1980. London publisher John Blake revealed in 2017 that he owns a copy of the secret memoir, which chronicles the legend’s early years in rock 'n' roll. Jagger personally confirmed its authenticity, though he claimed he had no memory of writing it, and refuses to give Blake permission to print it. Our only hope is that Jagger starts anew (or decides to write a hell of an update). If he can strut on a stadium stage just three months after undergoing a heart procedure, then he can shake loose his memories.   


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.