It’s no surprise that musicians often make great authors too.
Writing lyrics is similar to constructing a poem or short story, so it makes complete sense many successful artists would dip their toes in the waters of published writing. Whether it’s memoirs, collections of poems, or fully-fledged novels, here are five of our favourite musicians who are also successful authors.
Australia’s Prince Of Darkness is not just one of our greatest performers and lyricists, but an accomplished author who’s written poems, novels and screenplays. Similar to his lyrical content that deals with death, grief, love and violence, Cave’s books contain similar heavy themes mixed with the troubadour’s unique prose and take on the world. His debut novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, takes inspiration from his early recordings, while follow-up The Death Of Bunny Munro is a wild read concerning a sex-addicted salesman who takes his son on the road with him. He’s also dived into the world of film, with his adapted screenplays ranging from impactful (Ghosts… Of The Civil Dead) to Oscar-worthy (The Proposition) and just plain average (Lawless).
Must read: The Death Of Bunny Munro
A pioneer of the New York punk movement, Patti Smith is widely known for co-writing ‘Because The Night’ with Bruce Springsteen and inspiring a host modern day artists. What many might not know, however, is Smith is a proficient writer and winner of the National Book Award who’s released over 20 books, with the majority of her published work being poetry collections. It’s hard to know where to start with her work, but Babel gives a great overview of Smith’s poetry and drawings from the late 70s, while last year’s Year Of The Monkey blends Smith’s recent tour of the States with mystic fiction and was described by The Guardian as ‘magical.’
Must read: Just Kids
Ask anyone under 30 who Henry Rollins is and they’ll most likely tell you he’s the old guy with the thick neck who tours the world as a speaker sharing his thoughts on politics, society and life in general. Before all that, he was the lead singer of Black Flag and a terrific writer whose intellectual take on the world has the power to captivate you from the first sentence. His memoir about life on the road with Black Flag, Get In The Van, is a blood-soaked entry into the world of punk in the 80s that led to books such as Roomanitarian, a three part story made up of poems, short prose and letters, and Black Coffee Blues, a collection of musings on the world by Rollins. Over the past decade Rollins has also written columns for Vanity Fair, LA Weekly and Huffington Post, showcasing his witty take on the world in a variety of formats.
Must read: The First Five
Leonard Cohen is one of the few musicians who began life as a writer before his musical career took off. Cohen initially wanted to be a poet and a writer, spending the 50s and 60s releasing a number of poetry collections to critical acclaim before focusing on making it as a singer-songwriter. This proved a masterstroke, as Cohen’s gravelly, lounge bar style croon was the perfect fit for his folk-inspired compositions, with the Canadian quickly finding fame and fortune with his spoken-word music. Despite his success as a singer, he continued to write and release poetry up until his death in 2016, with his final collection, The Flame, a valuable insight into Cohen’s final days on earth.
Must read: Book Of Longing
The majority of musicians who branch out into the world of literature publish highbrow novels or churn out multiple volumes of poetry. This isn’t the case for The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy. The vocalist and multi-instrumentalist of the Portland indie folk act is using his creative writing degree to write children’s books. He’s written a trilogy of fantasy novels under the Wildwood header that contain illustrations from his wife, along with two standalone children’s books and a picture book aimed at kids about the great Pete Seeger. A true renaissance man.
Must read: The Golden Thread: A Song For Pete Seeger