Biography of Creation: Writing about Artists, Musicians and Culture
Three biographers with a tantalizing variety of books discuss the special challenges associated with writing about artists and other creative talents. Watch a video of the event here.
They address topics of use to any veteran or aspiring biographer, but also focus on writing with authority on the arts and cultural history. Who are you writing for and how technical should your language be? How important is historical context and how best to incorporate it?
Jonathan Gould is a writer and a former professional musician who spent many years working in bands and recording studios. He is the author of Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America (Crown, 2008), and Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life (Crown Archetype, 2017). He is currently at work on a biography of the rock group Talking Heads (HarperCollins, 2023). The book focuses on the band’s remarkable musical evolution and their role as the figureheads, in popular music, of the unlikely emergence of Lower Manhattan as the cultural epicenter of New York City during the last quarter of the 20th Century.
Marcus J. Moore is an award-winning music journalist, editor, curator, pundit, and author of The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, 2020). He is a contributing writer with The Nation and a contributing editor with Bandcamp Daily. His coverage of soul, jazz, hip-hop, and rock can be found at The New York Times, Pitchfork, Entertainment Weekly, The Washington Post, NPR, Rolling Stone, and The Atlantic, among many other outlets. He was originally from the Washington, DC, area, and now lives in Brooklyn. On the web: marcusjmoore.media.
Celia Stahr, PhD, a native of California, is the author of Frida in America: The Creative Awakening of a Great Artist (St. Martin’s Press, 2020). Her love for art and culture stemmed from extensive travels to Cuba, Mexico, East and Southern Africa, Western Europe, China, and every region of the United States. She has a background in modern and contemporary art history (with a particular focus on issues of race and gender) as well as in African art and the diaspora. She is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco. On the web: fridakahlojourney.com; Instagram: @frida.in.america.
Steve Paul, a member of the BIO board, is the author of Hemingway at Eighteen: The Pivotal Year that Launched an American Legend (Chicago Review Press, 2017) and a biography of the writer Evan S. Connell, forthcoming from the University of Missouri Press. In his long newspaper career he served, among other roles, as book critic, arts editor and ultimately editorial page editor and columnist before retiring in 2016. He’s a contributing columnist at KC Studio, a regional arts magazine.