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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'Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin,' by David Ritz

3. 'Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin,' by David Ritz

Back in 1999, David Ritz helped Aretha Franklin write her memoirs, sanitized enough to be allowed into an operating room. This year, he issued Respect, his uncensored 520-page biography of the Queen of Soul, and it's clearly the book he's been preparing to write his whole life. It's stuffed full with revealing interviews from Franklin's family, her musical collaborators and subjects of Ritz's other books, from Smokey Robinson to B.B. King. MVP interview: the saucy Etta James. ("Who wants to admit that you're praising the Lord at the 8 p.m. service and servicing some drop-dead gorgeous hunk of a singer an hour later?") Knowing the details of Franklin's complicated, sometimes painful life — starting with the two sons she had at ages 12 and 14 — helps deepen an appreciation of the pain and passion that fueled her music. By Gavin Edwards

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