Today marks Rolling Stone’s 45th anniversary. The iconic magazine debuted in 1967 with John Lennon on the cover of the first issue. In the decades since, that cover has held the faces of the music industry’s biggest talents, from the likes of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix to more recent breakouts such as Adele and Justin Bieber. We’re saying happy birthday to Rolling Stone with these rock bios from musicians who’ve gotten plenty of play in the magazine’s pages.
Old Man Takes a Look at His Life: Neil Young
The rambling nature of Neil Young‘s memoir, “Waging Heavy Peace,” owes much to the protean’s career. As Bob Ruggiero notes in the Houston Chronicle, “Sure, he’s released plenty of rock music. But he also has put out albums of country, blues, rockabilly, grunge, folk, American standards, synth-based new wave, drunken ramblings, political protests and one disc featuring nothing but guitar feedback.”
Ramblin’ Man: Greg Allman
Founded in 1969, the Allman Brothers Band exploded onto the scene in 1971 with the release of “At the Fillmore East,” a live recording of their blues-influenced southern rock that had Rolling Stone extolling them as “the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the last five years.” The high didn’t last long: Months later, founding member and lead guitarist Duane Allman died in a motorcycle crash. The band managed to survive that and other lows and highs over the next 40 years, as Duane’s younger brother Gregg Allman recounts in his memoir, “My Cross to Bear.”
Into Something Good: Carole King
Carole King had a remarkable career as a songwriter for other artists in the ’60s. With her husband, the lyricist Gerry Goffin, she wrote “A Natural Woman” for Aretha Franklin, “Just Once in My Life” for the Righteous Brothers, “Up on the Roof” for The Drifters and more. All of this was before she released her own album in 1971, “Tapestry,” which stayed on the Billboard charts for the next six years. King recounts her very full life in her memoir, “A Natural Woman.”
The Bitch is Back: Elton John
Elton John has had the sort of success that produces a lot of statistics: He’s got four decades of songwriting experience, more than 250 million records sold, 56 top-40 singles and seven consecutive number-one albums, and among living recording artists, he’s behind only Madonna in terms of total records sold. Now he’s using his lofty status to reduce another statistic: the number of people who die of AIDS each year. After losing friends like Freddie Mercury to the disease in the ’80s, Elton John has made it his mission to help spread awareness and reduce the spread of the disease, and discusses the endeavor in great detail in his memoir, “Love is the Cure.”
Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues: Buddy Guy
Growing up poor in Louisiana, Buddy Guy strung his first homemade guitar with window-screen wire and saved until he could afford a real instrument. When he left home, Guy brought his home-brewed blues North and became a key figure in the new sound of the Chicago blues. Legendary guitarists including Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan all learned and borrowed from Guy’s blues style. Asked in a recent interview how he felt about white rock stars appropriating the sounds he’d spent his life honing–and making millions doing so–Guy said that it was a good thing, since “a lot of white people weren’t listening to no blues 50 years ago.” At 75 Guy is still going strong: His memoir, “When I Left Home,” hit stores this summer, and he recently performed at a White House event with Barack and Michelle Obama in attendance.
In Memoriam: Johnny Ramone
A family album of the man and the band, Johnny Ramone’s posthumously published memoir, “Commando,” is full of pictures and stories of the legendary group that dominated the 1970s New York City punk scene. The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and Johnny died of cancer two years later. “Commando” is full of characteristic Ramones bravado: “I was the king of the hill when I was onstage. The Ramones toppled the mountain.”