10 Best Music Books of 2014

From the stage to the page: The year's best biographies, rock crit, photo essays and more

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'Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James,' by Rick James with David Ritz
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4. 'Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James,' by Rick James with David Ritz

Those looking simply for stories of sexual and pharmaceutical excess can re-read Mötley Crüe's The Dirt. In Glow, Rick James' posthumously published autobiography with author David Ritz, the funk pioneer surprisingly eschews repetitive freaky tales for a deeper look at an insane life. Sure, there are unflinching looks at the singer's crack binges and violent behavior — an already unbridled id made worse by the death of James' mother — but it's the lesser-known adventures that make this essential reading for those only familiar with James' dark side. A mob-connected dancer mom who smuggled James into the club as a child to see Miles Davis; a chance encounter with future members of the Band, who saved a teenage James from getting his ass kicked; a headache that prevented the musician from hanging out with people who would be murdered by the Manson Family that night. Any hack can make a lost weekend enthralling, James and Ritz can make the history of "Super Freak"'s four-note descending bass line as intriguing as a pipe-filled motel-room breakdown. By Jason Newman

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