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From Tony Markelis to Questlove

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Our June issue features a number of articles with literary ties. Here are some suggestions for your reading pleasure…

Questlove Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove (2013), Creative Quest (2018), somethingtofoodabout (2016).

Each of these books, from the man who appears on this issue’s cover, is fascinating in its own right. (A fourth offering is due this fall.) Fun Fact: When our illustrious publisher Peter Shapiro and I interviewed Questlove, he told an extended version of a story that appears in Mo’ Meta Blues, in which The Roots received the Rolling Stone lead review that the drummer had been coveting his whole life— only to find himself accidentally omitted from the accompanying artwork.

Prince The Beautiful Ones (2019).

Questlove references this book in our cover story, describing Prince’s dad taking him to see the Woodstock documentary, which—in Prince’s words— “was like going 2 the Wizard of Oz 2 ask 4 a new brain.” Released three years after Prince’s death, The Beautiful Ones draws on photos, scrapbooks and other ephemera.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song (2021).

The latest book from my former advisor is an important read. It was on my mind during a scene in Questlove’s Summer of Soul documentary, in which Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples share a microphone at the Harlem Cultural Festival.

Greg Kot I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers and the Music That Shaped the Civil Rights Era (2014).

This is a wonderful read that adds historical and cultural context to the story of the Staples family.

Ann & Nancy Wilson with Charles R. Cross Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll (2012).

In my conversation with Nancy, she mentions this memoir while reflecting on the time she gave an acoustic guitar to Eddie Van Halen. Kicking & Dreaming is a spirited book that jumps back and forth between the Wilson sisters’ perspectives.

Anthony S. Markellis Life…Real & Imagined (2019).

This short story collection from the Trey Anastasio Band bass player, who passed away in April, presents a series of character studies told mostly through dialogue, affirming his keen ear. I was amused to see Tony using his formal name. Back in 1998, when we published the very first issue of Jambands.com, a writer described him as “The Meat Man.” I felt obliged to fact-check this and he laughingly confirmed the nickname.

As the song (nearly) goes, “You’ve got one life, read on…”

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