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On This Day In Music: The Beatles Debut On "The Ed Sullivan Show," A Big Bang Event For Rock History
The Beatles with Ed Sullivan during the taping of their New York Debut show

Photo: Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

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On This Day In Music: The Beatles Debut On "The Ed Sullivan Show," A Big Bang Event For Rock History

Fifty-eight years ago today, a Chesterfield-suited Fab Four made their American TV debut before a battalion of hysterical girls — and a whole generation of future rockers. Nothing would ever be the same.

GRAMMYs/Feb 9, 2022 - 07:06 pm

The Beatles' debut U.S. performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" may be permanently burned into the public consciousness, but what happened around it is almost forgotten.

First, the crustaceous Sullivan reports of a wire from Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker "wishing them a tremendous success in our country," which is enough to induce chills — it's the passing of the torch! Then, the wet blanket: to the audible chagrin of the girls in the audience, they've got to run an ad for Aero Shave shaving cream. 

"It keeps drenching your beard while others dry out!" a chipper voiceover reports, oblivious to the Big Bang that's about to transpire. "New shoes? No! New shoe polish!" crows an ad man for Griffin Liquid Wax. Even today, the tension is almost unbearable. And then, with that indelible shout of "Ladies and gentlemen — the Beatles!" — instantly drowned out by shrieks, natch — "All My Loving" comes burbling forth like a freshwater stream.

Fifty-eight years after that debut appearance on Feb. 9, 1964, it's difficult to quantify (especially if you weren't born yet) how consequential this moment was. We've all heard the clichés about the hair, the suits, the bows, the "Sorry Girls, He's Married" caption above John Lennon's head. We're familiar with the refrain that the Beatles’ performance healed the nation after JFK’s assassination, and read the opening pages of a million rock bios comparing it to a lightning storm, a hurricane, an earthquake.

But watching the clip today, one notices the little details. A squinting Lennon, blind as a bat without his glasses, letting loose an approving "Yeah!"; Paul McCartney lapping up the female attention; Ringo Starr in his goofy, loveable glory; George Harrison, the youngest, looking a touch removed. Their individual personalities are immediately apparent — as magnetic as Buddy Holly was on "Ed Sullivan" back in 1957, few were compelled to ponder the inner lives of the Crickets. 

No, each Beatle was as memorable as any other, telegraphing the role they'd play in our lives forevermore. Paul fully inhabits Meredith Wilson's The Music Man show tune "'Til There Was You," which both foreshadows his music-hall-style gems from "When I'm Sixty-Four" to "Your Mother Should Know" and Lennon's future, withering putdowns of McCartney's "granny-music s***."

"She Loves You" follows. If you're among those who never need to hear that song again, consider how its all-hook barrage invented entire power-pop, indie rock and boy band lineages — including everyone from the Hollies to Teenage Fanclub and BTS

And then — good God — imagine being magician Fred Kaps, who had to follow that act with playing card and salt shaker tricks. This isn't the forum to roast him (after all, his performance was pre-taped) but the juxtaposition between the two acts — and the world of kids and adults — is almost unbearable to watch.

The cast of Oliver then arrives to gallivant around and sing "As Long As He Needs Me." Bowtied impressionist Frank Gorshin shows up with over-the-top impersonations of Dean Martin and Anthony Quinn. A feather-boaed Tessie O'Shea tickles banjo strings and chirps a selection from the musical The Girl Who Came to Supper. Mitski McCall and Charli Brill chew the scenery in a dorky comedy skit.

The magic barrels back into the last half of the show, as the Fabs bang out "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Despite the shoddy video quality — how did this look like it was taped on the moon a mere five years before the events of Get Back? — the lads leap out of your YouTube browser.

"You've been a fine audience," Sullivan says testily at the show's end. "Despite severe provocation." Fifty-eight years later, we are all that audience — and so will our kids, and our kids' kids, and so on. 

Whether or not you're a Beatles fan, take their debut Ed Sullivan appearance out of the closet of history and really sit with it — in all its characterizations and juxtapositions and moments of bliss and awkwardness. Try to envisage a world where it never happened. Spoiler alert: it'd be as dull as salt. This Beatles performance kicked off everything.

There's Not Much Left To Reveal About The Beatles' End. Let's Use The Get Back Doc As A Manual For Moving Forward.

Em Cooper's GRAMMY-Nominated Beatles Video Is A "Protest" Against Time
Em Cooper

Photo: John Ford

interview

Em Cooper's GRAMMY-Nominated Beatles Video Is A "Protest" Against Time

British animator and film director Em Cooper's immersive video for the Beatles' 'Revolver' track "I'm Only Sleeping" is the product of some 1,300 hand-painted frames. Here's how the 2024 GRAMMY nominee for Best Music Video came to be.

GRAMMYs/Feb 1, 2024 - 03:32 pm

The Beatles' discography can be heard as a long conversation between four brothers, and the songs on 1966's Revolver certainly talk to each other.

On "Love You To," George Harrison muses, "Each day just goes so fast/ I turn around, it's passed." On "Got to Get You Into My Life," Paul McCartney tunes in and drops out: "I was alone, I took a ride/ I didn't know what I would find there." And in every line of the somnambulant, gently roiling "I'm Only Sleeping," John Lennon declares war on awakeness itself.

Clearly, a shared energy flowed from each of their pens: an askance look at linear time, and how it pertains to modern society. And while painstakingly painting more than a thousand frames for "I'm Only Sleeping," oil painter and animator Em Cooper picked up exactly what Lennon was transmitting.

"I really love the fact that this is some major call towards rest and sleep and dreaming and allowing your mind to wander," the effervescent Cooper tells GRAMMY.com over Zoom. Productivity, efficiency, investment, return: as Lennon seemed to sing, they're for the birds.

As the lore goes, McCartney in 1966 was a man about town, soaking up Stockhausen and Albert Ayler and the avant-garde, while a suburbia-bound Lennon opted to drop acid and, well, lay in bed.

This is reflected in their contributions to Revolver, which got a 2022 remix and expansion: McCartney's tunes, like "Here, There and Everywhere" are borderline classical, while Lennon sometimes couldn't be bothered to add a third chord. But Lennon being Lennon, he made inertia into a transcendent force.

"It feels as though it's a bit of a protest against the calculus view of time and the idea that our time is for sale, we can just slice up our hours and sell it off by the chunk," Cooper says. "I feel like in John's desire for just letting himself sleep and rest, he's saying to the world, 'Let's allow ourselves our own time, our own lives.'"

But the experience of making the "I'm Only Sleeping" clip — which involved painstakingly painting each frame by hand — was anything but tranquil: at times, Cooper even found it painful. This labor of love paid off, though: it's nominated for Best Music Video at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Cooper details the development of  "I'm Only Sleeping" video, her methodology for mapping the visuals to the music, and, after numberless listens, whether she's sick of this Revolver favorite.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

The Beatles' story is filled with unforgettable sights, and with the "I'm Only Sleeping" video, you added to their visual language. Was that a daunting responsibility?

Absolutely. It really was. And, I think maybe if I had really stopped to think about it too much, it would've really tightened me up. In a way, weirdly, I was quite lucky it was on a tight schedule. That took precedence. I was just in the flow, trying to just focus on each task ahead of me and get it done.

Sophie Hilton, who's the Creative Studio Director at Universal Music, commissioned the film with Jonathan Clyde from Apple Corps. They were very good at guiding the project in a very natural way, so that it made a very natural fit into where they needed it to fit, as it were, in that big, big legacy. So, the fact that I'm an oil paint animator and I work with archive footage — it's got that timeless quality a little bit to it anyway, as does the song.

I worked with the Beatles' archivist, Adrian Winter, who helped me find footage; managing to place it within the history of the Beatles was really important. I didn't get too worried until finally when it came out. 

And then, literally, that was the first moment it really hit me about the legacy — of what I suddenly realized I'd just done.

Em Cooper

*Photo courtesy of Em Cooper.*

Like the experience of sleep itself, "I'm Only Sleeping" is flowing, undulating. It looks like you picked up on that, with this impressionistic continuum of visuals.

Yeah, absolutely. I was inspired by the song itself, because the song has just that continuous rocking motion to the melody. It was as though it was a synesthetic reaction to the song. It felt almost like it just drew itself out in my mind — the movement all kind of choreographed itself around those moments where it's like [sings lyric in dramatic swoop]  "Yawning," and then it felt like it goes over the top.

But, I don't know whether everybody else hears that when they hear that lyric, but that's certainly what I heard, and I could just produce that movement to match. All I really felt I had to do was just stay incredibly true to the song and the movement that was already there, and it just flowed.

How did you do this under such a tight schedule? One thousand, three hundred oil paintings?!

Yeah, I'm not going to lie. It was painful. It was a very tight schedule to produce an entirely hand-painted oil paint animation in. I literally painted every frame on a cel; sometimes, I painted and wiped and repainted.

It's hard work, but I just love oil painting. Now that I've had enough projects that it flows out of me, I find I'm reasonably quick. Some parts were easier than others; doing the faces was particularly difficult. Trying to get John Lennon's likeness over and over again was a real challenge, but other parts of it were much easier.

Obviously, lots of people these days are working digitally to do drawings and things, but I just work in actual oil painting. I find that I'm definitely not quicker at doing something digitally than I am just manually.

I suppose I want to promote the real artforms, because actually there isn't anything that much quicker or different about dipping a brush in some red paint and doing a stroke than doing a digital stroke. If you just gain confidence, it's fine.

How did you collaborate with Apple Corps on this, whether they offered artistic direction or just moral support?

Jonathan Clyde really helped direct all of that. I put all my ideas together into a document, and there was lots of consultations with them and honing those ideas and making sure that they fit with everybody's vision and what everybody was thinking.

And then, carrying on honing and honing, so that by the time I got to actually going, Yeah. We're going for it. We're going to start making this, it was all very clear.

I did a pencil-drawn animatic, which was about, I think two frames a second, which is quite a lot for an animatic, so as to really show the flow of imagery, so that there were no questions. I think there were a couple of changes after that, but very, very few.

So, it was quite clear, and everybody agreed on all the imagery and everything. But, I came up with most of it andwould maybe put some suggestions.

And, we came up collectively with this idea of  the backwards guitar sequence going backwards through Beatles' history from that moment, from 1966 backwards as it were, so as to the feeling from Revolver back to the beginning of the Beatles.

And, I was trying to meld that all together with the magnetic tape in the magnetic tape recorders going in and out of that. It was group calls, so I would take one and spark off and think, Oh, yeah. I remember Adrian Winter, the archivist, mentioning how John Lennon often had a notebook with him because he was always just thinking of ideas; he suggested that. And so, I put the notebook next to his pillow and things like that.

Em Cooper

*Photo courtesy of Em Cooper.*

When Giles Martin's remix of Revolver came out, it was striking how modern it sounded. How did this project enhance your appreciation for this song, album and band?

I watched it again just before jumping on this call with you, and I love the song. I was listening to little individual parts of it over and over again, whilst I was working on it, getting really into the detail of tiny bits of each line. And, it holds up, it's so good. I do not get bored of it. I love it.

I just could carry on listening to it over and over, which really, to be honest, says a lot, because when you work very hard on something, you do tend to find yourself a little bit bored by it by the end. But, absolutely not the case with this.

And, actually, after it was all finished, we went to Abbey Road together as a treat to listen to the [remixed and] remastered version of Revolver that was being re-released, and wow! To listen in Abbey Road Studios with the surround sound, it was just mind-blowing.

I already had an incredible respect for the Beatles, and that has only grown.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

'Meet The Beatles!' Turns 60: Inside The Album That Launched Beatlemania In America
The Beatles in 1964

Photo: Mark and Colleen Hayward / Redferns / Getty Images 

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'Meet The Beatles!' Turns 60: Inside The Album That Launched Beatlemania In America

A month before the Beatles played "The Ed Sullivan Show," they released their second American studio album — the one most people heard first. Here's a track-by-track breakdown of this magnitudinous slab of wax by the Fab Four.

GRAMMYs/Jan 19, 2024 - 06:48 pm

For many in America, Meet the Beatles! marked their first introduction to the legendary Fab Four — and their lives would be forever altered.

Released on Jan. 20, 1964 by Capitol Records, the Beatles' second American studio album topped the Billboard 200 within a month and stayed there for 11 weeks — only to be ousted by their next U.S. album release, The Beatles' Second Album.

It's almost impossible to put into words the impact of Meet
the Beatles! on an entire generation of the listening public. But Billy Corgan, of the Smashing Pumpkins, gave it a shot as an early fan of the Beatles in a series of LiveJournal remembrances — in this case, of himself at five years old, in 1972.

"I am totally overwhelmed by the collective sound of the greatest band ever blasting in mono thru a tin needle into a tiny speaker," he wrote. "I associate this sound forever with electricity, for it sends bolts thru my body and leaves me breathless. I can not stand still as I listen, so I must spin… I spin until I am ready to pass out, and then I spin some more."

So many other artists remember that eureka moment. "They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid," Bob Dylan said of the opening track, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." "I knew they were pointing the direction of where music had to go." Everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Sting and Questlove agreed.

From Meet the Beatles!, the Fabs would have the most astonishing five-or-six-year run in music. And so much of their songwriting and production innovation can be found within its grooves; truly, the world had no idea what it was in for. In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Meet the Beatles!, here's a quick track-by-track breakdown.

"I Want to Hold Your Hand"

The Fabs' first American No. 1 hit may have been about the chastest of romantic gestures. Still, there's nothing heavier than "I Want to Hold Your Hand," because it's clamor and fraternity. That seemingly saccharine package also contained everything they'd ever do in concentrate — hints of the foreboding of "Ticket to Ride," the galactic final chord of "A Day in the Life," and beyond.

"I Saw Her Standing There"

A few too many awards show tributes have threatened to do in "I Saw Her Standing There," but they've failed. As the opening shot of their first UK album, Please Please Me, it's perfect, but as the second track on Meet the Beatles!, it just adds to the magnitude. What a one-two punch.

"This Boy"

Songwriting-wise, "This Boy" drags a little; it becomes a little hazy who "this boy" or "that boy"  are. But it's not only a killer Smokey Robinson rip; John Lennon's double-tracked vocal solo still punches straight through your chest. (Where applicable, go for the 2020s Giles Martin remix, which carries maximum clarity, definition and punch — said solo is incredible in this context.)

"It Won't Be Long"


Half a dozen other songs here have overshadowed "It Won't Be Long," but it's still one of the early Beatles' most ruthless kamikaze missions, an assault of flying "yeahs" that knocks you sideways.

"All I've Got to Do"

Lennon shrugged off "All I've Got to Do" as "trying to do Smokey Robinson again," and that's more or less what it is. One interesting detail is the conceit of calling a girlfriend on the phone, which was firmly alien to British youth: "I have never called a girl on the 'phone in my life!"he said later in an interview. "Because 'phones weren't part of the English child's life."

"All My Loving"

"All My Loving" was the first song the Beatles played on the American airwaves: when Lennon was pronounced dead, eyewitnesses attest the song came over the speakers. It's a grim trajectory for this most inventive and charismatic of early Beatles singles, with Lennon's tumbling rhythm guitar spilling the composition forth. (About that unorthodox strumming pattern: it seems easy until you try it. And Lennon did it effortlessly.)

"Don't Bother Me"

As Dreaming the Beatles author Rob Sheffield put it, "'Don't Bother Me,' his first real song, began the 'George is in a bad mood' phase of his songwriting, which never ended." Harrison wouldn't pick up the sitar for another year or two, but the song still carries a vaguely dreamy, exotic air.

"Little Child"

"I'm so sad and lonely/ Baby, take a chance with me." For a tortured, creative kid like Corgan, from a rough background — and, likely, a million similar young folks — Lennon's childlike plea must have sounded like salvation.

"Till There Was You"

McCartney's infatuation with the postwar sounds of his youth never ended, and it arguably began on record with this Music Man tune. As usual, McCartney dances right on the edge of overly chipper and apple-cheeked. But here, George Martin's immersive, soft-focused arrangement makes it all work.

"Hold Me Tight"

Like "Little Child," "Hold Me Tight" is a tad Fabs-by-numbers, showing how they occasionally painted themselves into a corner as per their formula. Their rapid evolution from here would leave trifles like "Hold Me Tight" in the rearview.

"I Wanna Be Your Man"

Tellingly, Lennon and McCartney tossed this half-written composition to the Stones — and to Ringo Starr. Mick Jagger's typically lusty performance works, but Starr's is even better — the funny-nosed drummer throws his whole chest into this vocal workout.

"Not A Second Time"

Meet the Beatles! concludes with this likable Lennon tune about heartbreak — maybe C-tier by his standards, but it slouches toward his evolutionary step that would be A Hard Day's Night

Soon, these puppy-dog emotions ("And now you've changed your mind/ I see no reason to change mine/ I cry") would curdle and ferment in astonishing ways — in "Ticket to Ride," in "Girl," in "Strawberry Fields Forever." And it all began with Meet the Beatles! — a shot heard around the world.

1962 Was The Final Year We Didn't Know The Beatles. What Kind Of World Did They Land In?

New Year's Songs: 16 Tracks To Give You A Fresh Start In 2024, From The Beatles To Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift performs during night one of the Eras Tour in Kansas City in July 2023.

Photo: John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

list

New Year's Songs: 16 Tracks To Give You A Fresh Start In 2024, From The Beatles To Taylor Swift

Whether you're looking to vibe with J Balvin or roar with Katy Perry, let these tracks welcome you to a prosperous and hopeful new year.

GRAMMYs/Dec 31, 2023 - 05:50 pm

The beginning of a new year often results in moments of reflection as well as anticipation about what lies ahead. And with the myriad of feelings that ensue upon New Year's Eve, music serves as a powerful source for both introspection and inspiration.

There are countless songs that give listeners a chance to reflect and resonate with the possibilities of what's yet to come. Whether it's the pulsingly hopeful beat of Jamie xx's "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)," the inspiring narrative of The Notorious B.I.G's "Juicy," or Elton John's pumped-up "I'm Still Standing," a good soundtrack is the perfect catalyst for starting a new year on the right note.

As you envision what the coming year has in store, enjoy this playlist from GRAMMY.com — curated not just to celebrate the moment the clock strikes 12, but to infuse the coming year with inspiration and cheer.

79.5 — "B.D.F.Q"

Inspired by singer Kate Mattison's experiences in Detroit, 79,5's "B.D.F.Q." is about perseverance in the face of a music industry marred by misogyny. Short for "B—, Don't F—ing Quit," "B.D.F.Q." amplifies a mood of independence and strength with the declaration, "They! Don't mean a thing/ Don't mean a thing, just do your thing!" While the message is timeless, "B.D.F.Q." will certainly amp you up for any challenges the new year presents.

The Beatles — "Here Comes The Sun"

Whether you spin the 1969 original or the reinvigorated 2019 mix, the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun,"  remains a classic symbol of continuation and hope. A track from the Fab Four's iconic Abbey Road album, this George Harrison composition is celebrated for its uplifting melody and serene lyrics that playfully describe a new dawn and brighter days ahead.

Elton John — "I'm Still Standing"

Elton John delivered an upbeat ode to durability and the ability to bounce back with "I'm Still Standing," a 1983 track that resonates 40 years on. Between its catchy melody and John's energetic performance (particularly in the beach-set music video), the song conveys a triumphant message about overcoming challenges and emerging stronger.

"Hamilton" — "My Shot"

Of the many dynamic numbers in Lin-Manuel Miranda's renowned musical "Hamilton," "My Shot" is arguably the most inspirational and universal. A powerfully charged manifesto that embodies ambition and determination — delivered with an electrifying blend of hip-hop and theatrical flair — "My Shot" celebrates seizing opportunities and making a mark. It's a welcome New Year's song choice for those compelled to channel their inner strength and embrace new challenges in the year ahead.

J Balvin — "6 AM" feat. Farruko

This vibrant reggaeton track from J Balvin's 2013 album La Familia encapsulates the spirit of spontaneity. Its infectious beat and catchy lyrics manifest as a celebration of lively nights and the adventures that unfold in the early after hours — hence, the 6 a.m. title. This one's for the night owls, who may see the sun rise at the turn of the new year.

Jamie xx — "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" feat. Young Thug, Popcaan

"I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" by Jamie xx is as upbeat and optimistic as hip-hop tracks come. Featuring Young Thug and Popcaan, the 2015 track melds elements of dance and reggae for an infectious ode to good times ahead — an enduring NYE sentiment.

Jimmy Chamberlin Complex — "Life Begins Again"

The title track of their 2005 album, "Life Begins Again"  is an intricate and evocative composition that blends elements of jazz and rock with a bit of emo sentiment. The track showcases Jimmy Chamberlin's exceptional drumming prowess while promising that life is cyclical — every day can be the first of your life with the right attitude.

John Lennon — "Just Like Starting Over"

With themes of rekindling love and starting anew, John Lennon's "[Just Like] Starting Over" is a fitting tribute to fresh starts and the enduring power of renewal in all aspects of life. And as the final single released while he was alive, it's a bittersweet testament to Lennon's enduring legacy.

Katy Perry — "Roar"

Katy Perry's "Roar," from her 2013 album Prism, is a proud declaration of self-empowerment and finding one's voice. An electrifying track with a booming chorus and spirited lyrics, it embodies the journey from silence to strength. Its message of embracing one's true self and speaking out makes it an inspiring celebration of new beginnings.

Lisa LeBlanc — "Pourquoi faire aujourd'hui"

For those looking to give themselves a little break as the new year begins, Lisa LeBlanc's "Pourquoi faire aujourd'hui" may be the song for you. A single from her 2021 album Chiac Disco, the energetic, disco-inspired French language track features playful lyrics about procrastination, with its titular line asking, "Why do today what you could do tomorrow?" — starting the year off in laid-back fashion. If tu ne parles pas Français, LeBlanc's catchy dance beats are fuel for a joyful New Year's Eve atmosphere.

Lizzo — "Good As Hell"

Like many of Lizzo's songs, "Good as Hell" captures a vibrant, empowering spirit. It celebrates self-care and resilience in the face of adversity, blending a lively rhythm with Lizzo's dynamic vocals. Its uplifting lyrics and infectious energy encourage a sense of confidence and self-appreciation — a powerful anthem of positivity any time of the year.

Nina Simone — "Feeling Good"

A timeless classic first made famous by Nina Simone, "Feeling Good" is a powerful anthem of rejuvenation and hope. Simone's jazz-infused rendition was released in 1965; its resolute delivery captures a spirit of personal transformation and empowerment, offering an enduring sentiment going into the new year: "It's a new dawn/ It's a new day/ It's a new life for me, ooh/ And I'm feeling good."

Notorious B.I.G. — "Juicy"

Although The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy" is a personal account of the late rapper's rise to the top, the song encapsulates a spirit of triumph that can inspire anyone with a dream. From its bouncy beat to the iconic "If you don't know, now you know" hook, "Juicy" will have you reaching for the stars.

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas — "New Year's Resolution"

Memphis legends Otis Redding and Carla Thomas' aptly titled 1967 album King & Queen is notable for being the final studio release before Redding passed away that December. The album also spawned a NYE classic: "New Year's Resolution." With lyrics that explore the concept of ​​making resolutions and embracing change in the new year. While the song lacks Redding's trademark soulful wail, "New Year's Resolution" is temperate and contemplative — a reprieve from the let-it-all-out powerful Stax sound to ease your way into the new year.

Peter Cat Recording Co. — "Portrait of a Time"

Both modern and nostalgic, Peter Cat Recording Co.'s "Portrait of a Time" blends jazz, and indie rock for an eclectic and nostalgic, introspective jam. The song carries a reflective mood of contemplation and transition, with lyrics that encourage leaving "confusion and darkening clouds" in the past and hopping in the Lamborghini of life for a new wild ride.

Taylor Swift — "New Year's Day"

After all of the bold, empowered statements on Taylor Swift's 2017 album reputation, she closes the LP with a tender, piano-driven ballad that captures the quiet intimacy and hopeful sentiments of a new year. Aptly titled "New Year's Day," the song's reflective and heartfelt lyrics contemplate love and loyalty found in life's fleeting moments. Swift's delicate vocal delivery and the track's gentle melody evoke a sense of warmth and enduring connection, making it a poignant choice to embrace the new year with a sense of closeness.

TikTok's Musical Class Of 2023: 8 Artists Who Transformed Virality Into Stardom, From Tyla to FIFTY FIFTY

8 Music Books To Read This Fall/Winter: Britney Spears' Memoir, Paul McCartney's Lyrics & More
Britney Spears - ' The Woman In Me,' Jeff Tweedy - 'World Within A Song' and 'Tupac Shakur The Authorized Biography' by Staci Robinson

list

8 Music Books To Read This Fall/Winter: Britney Spears' Memoir, Paul McCartney's Lyrics & More

As 2023 nears its end and the holidays approach, add these books to your reading list. Memoirs from Dolly Parton and Sly Stone, as well as histories of titans such as Ella Fitzgerald are sure to add music to the latter half of the year.

GRAMMYs/Nov 24, 2023 - 03:58 pm

If you’re a music fan looking to restock your library with some new reads, you’re in luck. With the second half of the year comes a dearth of new music books recounting the life and times of some of the most celebrated artists in the history of the artform are hitting shelves. 

From Britney Spears' much talked-about memoir that tackles the tabloid tumult of her life and Barbra Streisand’s highly anticipated autobiography (which clocks in at nearly 1,000 pages), to tomes that recount the lives of Tupac Shakur and Dolly Parton, it’s time to get reading. Read on for some of the best music-related new and upcoming books to add to your collection. 

The Woman In Me

By Britney Spears

One of the most highly anticipated books of the year, Spears' memoir has been a blockbuster in the weeks since its release. When it was announced that the singer was writing a book, fans and observers braced themselves for what she would reveal when it comes to her tumultuous life and career. The result is a no-holds-barred look at how an innocent girl from Louisiana became swept up in the tsunami of fame, as well as the resulting wake. 

The Woman in Me details Spears' halcyon younger years as part of the "New Mickey Mouse Club," her explosive career, the blossoming and collapse of her relationship with Justin Timberlake, and the punishing conservatorship concocted by her father. Spears doesn’t hold back, but also shouts out the figures who provided solace and kindness: Madonna, Elton John, Mariah Carey, and former Jive Records president Clive Calder. The Woman In Me proves to be an unflinching, eye-opening look at the swirling tornado of music, fame, love and family, for better or for worse. 

My Name is Barbra

By Barbra Streisand

Since her early '60s breakout to her current status as a bona fide living legend, Barbra Streisand has lived a lot of life. Streisand's 992-page tome breaks down her humble beginnings growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and her subsequent stratospheric life during which she received a whopping 46 GRAMMY nominations and released many timeless songs. Along the way, she also became the first female in the history of moviemaking to write, produce, direct and star in a major motion picture (Yentl). 

It’s all a long time coming, considering Jackie Onassis first approached Streisand to chronicle her triumphant life in 1984 (at the time, the former first lady was editor of Doubleday and Streisand was a mere 20 years into her iconic career). "Frankly, I thought at 42 I was too young, with much more work still to come," Striesand recently told Vanity Fair. It’s an understatement considering all that’s happened since.

THE LYRICS: 1956 to Present

By Paul McCartney

One of the most celebrated artists of all time, McCartney's genius songwriting is on full, glimmering display in THE LYRICS. Newly released in a one volume paperback edition, the book puts the Beatles' way with words front and center while offering popcorn-worthy backstory. 

Originally published to acclaim in 2021, the updated version includes additional material and insight from Macca himself on the creation of some of the most indelible hits in music history, including the 1965 Beatles hit "Daytripper." 

"The riff became one of our most well-known and you still often hear it played when you walk into guitar shops," wrote McCartney of the track. "It’s one of those songs that revolves around the riff. Some songs are hung onto a chord progression. Others, like this, are driven by the riff." 

Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones

By Dolly Parton 

"It costs a lot of money to look this cheap!" So says luminary Dolly Parton, in a self-deprecating and witty and also patently untrue famous turn of phrase. While Parton’s life story has been recounted numerous times on the page and on screen, Behind the Seams zeros in on not just her trials and tribulations, but her unmistakable style. 

Packed with nearly 500 photographs, the book traces Parton’s looks from the sacks she used to dress in as a child in poverty to the flamboyant visuals associated with her stardom. "I’ve been at this so long, I’ve worn some of the most bizarre things," Parton recently told the Guardian. "My hairdos have always been so out there. At the time you think you look good, then you look back on it, like, what was I thinking?"

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

By Sly Stone

The 80-year-old reclusive frontman of Sly and the Family Stone has certainly lived a lot of life. From his early days as part of the gospel vocal group the Stewart Four, Stone and his family band later became fixtures of the charts from the late '60s into the mid-'70s; a journey traced in the new book Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), named after their 1969 song of the same name.  

Known for funky, soulful and earworm signature hits including "Dance to the Music" and "Everyday People," the band won over the hearts of America, influencing legions of fans (including Herbie Hanckock and Miles Davis) and gaining a few enemies (the Black Panther Party). The book chronicles those ups and downs (including drug abuse), tracking Stone up to the modern era, which includes receiving the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Special Merit Award in 2017. 

Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song

By Judith Tick

Ella Fitzgerald is one of America’s most iconic voices and the full breadth of her story will be told in the first major biography since her death in 1996. Known as the First Lady of Song, the 13-time GRAMMY winner is known for her swingin’ standards, sultry ballads, scat and everything in between.

Out Nov. 21, the vocalist’s historic career is recounted by musicologist Judith Tick, who reflects on her legend using new research, fresh interviews and rare recordings. The result is a portrait of an undeniable talent and the obstacles she was up against, from her early days at the Apollo Theater to her passionate zeal for recording and performing up until her later years. 

"Ella was two people," her longtime drummer Gregg Field told GRAMMY.com in 2020. "She was very humble, very shy and generous. But when she walked on stage she was hardcore and didn’t know how to sing unless it was coming from her heart."

World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music

By Jeff Tweedy

Aside from his extensive discography with Wilco and beyond, Jeff Tweedy is the author of three books: his memoir  Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), a meditation on creativity called How to Write One Song, and his latest, World Within a Song. The latter expertly examines a variety of songs by a disparate spate of artists, from Rosalía to Billie Eilish with Tweedy’s singular take on what makes each song stand out along with what he dubs "Rememories," short blurbs that recount moments from his own life and times. 

Much like his songwriting prowess, it’s a book where Tweedy’s way with words shine with shimmering eloquence. "My experience of my own emotions is that they all interact," Tweedy told GRAMMY.com last year. "They aren't individual, isolated things that you experience one at a time, and I think that's a really beautiful thing about being alive."

Tupac Shakur: The Authorized Biography

By Staci Robinson

One of the giants of hip-hop finally gets his due with an official recounting of his life and times. Here his legend is told by the authoritative Staci Robinson, an expert on the star who previously wrote Tupac Remembered: Bearing Witness to a Life and Legacy and served as executive producer of the FX documentary series "Dear Mama: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur."

Here, Robinson reflects on Tupac’s legacy from a modern perspective, and tracks the history of race in America alongside the rapper’s life and times, from the turbulent '60s to the Rodney King riots. Along the way are the stories behind the songs including "Brenda’s Got a Baby." 

"In between shots (of filming the movie Juice) I wrote it," Shakur is quoted saying in Robinson’s book. "I was crying too. That’s how I knew everybody else would cry, ’cause I was crying.’" 

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