People often take for granted that musicians who write their own songs are very much like authors, except they put their stories to music. It comes to no surprise then that many musicians have published books, whether it be poems, short stories, or novels. Here are six talented musicians who have found success in the world of literature as well!
WESLEY STACE: If you’ve read my previous installment about multi-talented authors, you would have seen Wesley Stace’s musical alter-ego, John Wesley Harding, mentioned throughout. Stace is the author of several novels, including his most recent, Charles Jessold, Considered As A Murderer. Stace, as John Wesley Harding, has been a very prolific musician, releasing nearly twenty albums in as many years.
Stace/Harding is also the host of the Cabinet of Wonders, my favorite show in New York City, which features musicians and authors, often collaborating with each other. You can listen to the Cabinet of Wonder on NPR.
LEONARD COHEN: For years, Leonard Cohen struggled as a writer. He published many collections of poetry, starting with Let Us Compare Mythologies in 1957, followed by several more during the 1960s. He also wrote two novels durings the 60s, The Favorite Game and Beautiful Losers.
While generally praised for his books, Cohen was discouraged by the lack of financial success he found as a writer and decided to focus on becoming a folk singer. Recently, Cohen’s literary contributions were recognized as he was the recipient of the Prince Asturias Award for Literature and was given the inaugural PEN Award for Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence.
JOSH RITTER: Josh Ritter’s music has a literary feel, with songs that tell beautiful tales and have a wonderful sense of imagery. A couple of years ago, Ritter was working on a song about an angel, but it seemed that the story he was singing was too big for it, so he started working on the idea as a novel.
In 2011, he released Bright’s Passage, his first novel, about a World War I veteran named Henry Bright and his horse that has been possessed by an angel. Like his music, Bright’s Passage has the same beautiful use of language and imagery that is found in his songs.
50 CENT: Rapper 50 Cent (aka Curtis Jackson) is most known for his multi-platinum albums, but he is also the creator of G-Unit Books. So far the imprint has published thirteen books, including several written by Jackson.
Many of the books are urban fiction, but Jackson also co-wrote The 50th Law with bestselling author Robert Greene, as well as the young adult novel Playground, which focuses on bullying from the bully’s perspective.
GERARD WAY: Lead singer for My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way is also the creator and writer of the acclaimed graphic novel series, The Umbrella Academy. Way had been creating comics since he was a teen, but it wasn’t until 2007 that he hit it big with The Umbrella Academy, about a group of superheroes that reunite after the death of their adoptive father.
It remains one of my favorite limited series and I’m glad to see that Way is writing more comics with the upcoming The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, based on the My Chemical Romance album.
STEVE EARLE - TRIPLE THREAT: Steve Earle has had a long career in music, starting in the 1970s when he moved from Texas to Nashville, playing alongside the likes of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. In 2002, he published his first book,Doghouse Roses, a collection of short stories that was well received.
In 2011, he came out with his first novel called I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, about a doctor who is haunted by the ghost of Hank Williams. He released an album of the same name simultaneously.
Steve Earle is also our triple threat because he has acted too, appearing in two of David Simon’s television shows, The Wire and Treme.