Ten Musicians Who Write Real Books

Rob O'Connor
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Willy Vlautin of the Portland, Oregon band Richmond Fontaine has a new my-t-fine album called The High Country and it's said that it's influenced by himself. That's not as egotistical as it sounds. For Vlautin was influenced by his endeavors as a novelist.

For some unknown reason, musicians write books. I don't mean just their autobiographies. That stuff is expected. But books where they write about things that have nothing to do with the life of the rock and roll. Novels, I suppose you would call them.

I guess if I thought someone would actually read my ponderous ponderings and pay me handsomely for the effort, I would get up the wherewithal to write 100,000 words about something. Fiction would be preferable to non-fiction, since I wouldn't have to know anything. I could just make things up. Which I like to do.

Now, why a successful musician would give up the world of writing songs where the less sense the song makes the deeper they appear is
beyond me. Why labor over something you can't do drunk? To which there are no women eagerly waiting at the end of a long night?

It's tough enough trying to find people to like your music. Now you're going to try and find people who can read?

Well, here are ten musicians who have gone on to write books that aren't completely about them.

10) Jimmy Buffett: Insanely rich beyond all that is logical, Jimmy Buffett is the author of such books as Tales from
, Where is Joe Merchant?, A Salty Piece of Land and even children's books, The Jolly Mon and Trouble Dolls, with his daughter Savannah Jane. Who doesn't like an all-you-can-read Buffett? (Ugh. Sorry about the mess.)

9) Josh Ritter: Bright's Passage is the name of Ritter's novel about a man from West Virginia who goes to World War I and comes back with an angel. I think he means an actual angel and unfortunately not a prostitute. This is what you get when Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll turns into Love, Creative Writing and Folk Music.

8) Kinky Friedman: As a musician, Friedman knew how to keep things interesting. You don't have to like his music to admire an album called They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore. And who wouldn't consider voting for a Governor who campaigns with the slogan, "Why the Hell Not?" (I said, "consider," not actually do it.) He wrote a series of detective novels, along with non-fiction works. All of which are technically "completely Kinky."

7) Bruce Dickinson: Sometimes I think in order to get kids to read classic works of literature, we should tell them they were written by their favorite rock stars. Yes, kids, Heart of Darkness by Keith Richards is an amazing book. Hamlet by Ozzy Osbourne is a must-read. I say this because if the Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson can sell something called The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace, then that's proof that people judge a book by the name on the cover.

6) John Wesley Harding: In order to keep his careers somewhat separate, John Wesley Harding write his books under his given name, Wesley Stace. He is the author of three books, of which none have ever been compared to Bob Dylan or Elvis Costello.

5) Willy Vlautin: The lead singer for Richmond Fontaine, a group with a name that sounds like a rich oil tycoon, has written three novels. His 2010 book Lean On Pete won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and the Peoples Choice Award. No word on how many Peoples it takes to win that award. Can your mother vote?

4) Nick Cave: Though I am an admirer of the music and hair of Nick Cave, I've made sure to steer clear of his literary works, since I've always preferred the noise he makes more than whatever the songs might be about. The whole "American Gothic" thing sounds like tourism to me. It doesn't help that the first review I came across for his first novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, compared it to Roget's Thesaurus. Even more curious, I know many Nick Cave fans and none of them have ever mentioned his books. Maybe you enjoyed them! If so, please tell me why in the generous space provided below by the good folks at Y! Music.

3) Steve Earle: Appropriately enough, Earle's first novel is called I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, a title taken from Hank Williams' final hit song before he died. It would be plenty weird if Earle had instead named his book after something by The Smiths.

2) Leonard Cohen: Now, Leonard Cohen was writing novels and poetry long before he became a musician. I admit to taking both The Favorite Game and Beautiful Losers out of the library and reading the first few pages of each. When I was younger, I wanted to read them and like them, but now I don't care. I'm infinitely more shallow and predictable than I initially thought.

1) James Greer: As a bassist for Guided By Voices in the mid-1990s, Greer spent a surprising amount of time standing up. He ventured back to the chair and has written several "notable works," including the excellent Artificial Light and the what-do-you-say-we-call-it-uh-'harrowing' The Failure, a book that may be the only one I've ever read that explains the meaning of life. I think that's what happens.