To that end, I put out a call to several artists for their own lists of books they think ought to be required reading. Tim Kerr, the Austin-based artist and musician who recently showed his work at Third Man Records, submitted a few of his picks for must-have knowledge.
• Bright Moments: The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, by John Kruth
(This one's been out of print for a while, so if you see a copy snatch it up.)
From Library Journal:
Using dozens of interviews and a just-unearthed audio autobiography narrated by Kirk, Kruth traces Kirk's life from his childhood in Columbus, Ohio, to his mid-career vocal black-power stance, to his debilitating stroke and premature death in the mid-1970s. Throughout, Kruth highlights Kirk's pioneering efforts—such as his reintroduction of the stritch and manzello saxophones and his innovative circular breathing that enabled him to play several instruments simultaneously.
• Space is the Place: The Life and Times of Sun Ra, by John F. Szwed
From The Boston Review:
One of America's most prolific and daring musicians, Sun Ra located himself in outer space, beyond both the geographical limits of the United States and the ideological limits of Jim Crow and the Cold War. Such views, spliced with a homegrown Egyptology, earned Sun Ra a reputation as an Afro-eccentric charlatan-genius in the tradition of Marcus Garvey and Elijah Muhammad, and kept his"Arkestra" below the radar of concert halls and record companies. This biography charts Sun Ra's career, showing how he defied critics' periodization schemes, pioneering free jazz and electronic music in the 1940s and reviving big bands in the 1970s.
• The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff
From Library Journal:
Author/narrator Hoff calls Winnie the Pooh a "Western Taoist" and uses the unassuming bear to introduce Eastern philosophical principles. Pooh epitomizes the "uncarved block," as he is well in tune with his natural inner self. Pooh enjoys simple pleasures and the daily progress of life. Hoff contrasts this unpretentiousness to other characters created by Winnie - the - Pooh author A.A. Milne, including Owl, whom he describes as a "mind that tries too hard," and Eeyore, the eternal pessimist. In a clear and crisp voice, Hoff explains the central tenets of Taoism and further illustrates them with familiar excerpts from The House at Pooh Corner stories (1923), Chinese proverbs, maxims, and tales from Lao Tzu and others