This page is a developing list of some of my favorite sources for songwriting tools and inspiration. Note that as I’m an academic, some of the books tend toward the theoretical, but because I am also a pop culture junkie, not all of them do. I’m particularly interested in the ways in which people use songs to represent themselves. I love recommendations. If you have one, please leave it in the comments.
Books about songs and songwriting
- 33-1/3 series
- Bob Bollen: Your Song Changed My Life: From Jimmy Page to St. Vincent, Smokey Robinson to Hozier, Thirty-Five Beloved Artists on Their Journey and the Music That Inspired It. Holy cow, I feel like I’ve already read a book after getting through that title. (TO READ)
- Bruce Chatwin: The Songlines (TO READ)
- Stephen Feld: Sound and Sentiment. Not sure I can sum up this ethnomusicological classic succinctly, but for the purposes of this blog, it deals with the way music affects and is affected by its environment (physical and cultural).
- Nick Hornby: Songbook. A memoir in songs with a CD. I love the general approach, but find the narrative voice irritating.
- Dana Jennings: Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music (TO READ)
- Mark Myers: Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hitts That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop. (TO READ)
- Ben Ratliff: Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty (TO READ)
- Josh Rosenthal: The Record Store of the Mind (TO READ)
- Christopher Small: Musicking: the Meanings of Performing and Listening (TO READ)
Blogs and podcasts about songs and songwriting
- Measure for Measure (New York Times). Now defunct, this was a great series of posts by singer/songwriters published as part of the broader Opinionator blog from 2008-2014. You can see the archived posts here.
- Song Exploder. This podcast describes itself more succinctly than I could as “a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.”
- Songwriters Marketplace. Interviews with songwriters on the art and business of songwriting.
- Hilary Beckles McD. Beckles and Heather D. Russell, eds.: Rihanna: Barbados World Gurl in Global Popular (U. of the West Indies Press, 2015).
- Carrie Brownstein: Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl (Penguin, 2015).
- Kim Gordon: Girl in a Band (HarperCollins, 2015).
- Moby: Porcelain, A Memoir (Penguin, 2016). I read musician bios on airplanes. And I read this one because I went to high school with Moby. Not sure it was useful for this project per se, but it is kind of fascinating reading about people and places you know well but from a completely different point of view.
- Tamara Saviano: Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark (Texas A&M, 2016)
- www.ultimate-guitar.com. A community-based site for sharing tabs. Mostly guitar, but some bass and uke. The largest bank of guitar tabs I’ve found.
- www.cowboylyrics.com. Chords and lyrics for country, folk and bluegrass. An eclectic collection, but includes tunes not found on ultimate guitar.