Book Festival for music lovers: Wilko Johnson, Billy Bragg and more share their stories

Compelling stories and insights across the Book Festival's music strand

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Book Festival Music

Billy Bragg / credit: James Millar

It's pleasing to note that none of the music-related events at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival Music & Meaning series are based around cheap cash-ins; across the programme there are recognisable stars with compelling stories to tell and commentators offering new insights into the stories behind the music. Few of these stories will be as riveting as that of Wilko Johnson (Tue 23 Aug), wild-eyed guitarist with 1970s Canvey Island blues-rockers Dr Feelgood, who was given ten months to live in 2013 but remains with us and in good health after pioneering cancer surgery. A recent collaborator with Roger Daltrey and actor as the executioner Ser Payne in Game of Thrones, he discusses his memoir Don't You Leave Me Here.

A Dr Feelgood diptych is completed by veteran rock biographer Zoe Howe (Mon 29 Aug), whose Rock'n'Roll Gentleman celebrates the band's late singer Lee Brilleaux. Elsewhere, Billy Bragg (Sun 14 Aug) talks about A Lover Sings, his book of collected lyrics, while the Charlatans' lead singer Tim Burgess (Thu 18 Aug, hosted by Ian Rankin) has just released his second book Tim Book Two: Vinyl Adventures, which tells of his passion for vinyl records. In The Rise, The Fall and The Rise, fashion writer and musician Brix Smith Start (Sat 20 Aug) tells of her time in her ex-husband Mark E Smith's band, the Fall.

Other highlights include commentator Paul Morley (Thu 25 Aug) discussing Age of Bowie, his new biography of the late icon; Scots broadcaster, former NME writer and football pundit Stuart Cosgrove (Fri 26 Aug) introducing Young Soul Rebels, a blend of musical history and personal memoir focused on the UK northern soul scene; and Daniel Rachel (Sat 20 Aug) on his very timely new book Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge.

Zoë Howe

With R&B punk band Dr Feelgood returning to public consciousness thanks to the story of co-founder Wilko Johnson's battle with cancer, writer Zoë Howe believes it's a good time for recognition to be given to the band's other co-founder who died aged 41. In Lee Brilleaux: Rock'n'Roll Gentleman, she argues for a long…

Daniel Rachel

Political protest seems to happen more in other countries nowadays, but in the 70s and 80s Britain was awash with activism, both on the streets and on the musical stage. In this event, Daniel Rachel discusses the golden era of Rock Against Racism, Red Wedge and 2 Tone, cataloguing interviews with many of the period’s key…

Wilko Johnson

According to the medics, Wilko Johnson should be going nowhere near Charlotte Square Gardens this August, having been given ten months to live back in 2013. The former cohort of Ian Dury and founder of Dr Feelgood tells of his life with and without cancer in his inspirational memoir Don’t You Leave Me Here. With Vic…

Tim Burgess with Ian Rankin

In his memoir Telling Stories, Tim Burgess lifted the lid on life with The Charlatans and their experiences at the heart of the 1990s 'Madchester’ scene. Today, Burgess is joined by crimewriter and fellow music fan Ian Rankin to discuss their passion for vinyl. Burgess shares recommendations from a stellar cast of friends…

Stuart Cosgrove

The notable Channel 4 broadcaster and BBC football pundit rarely avoids the opportunity to obsess over his favourite music. In Young Soul Rebels, Stuart Cosgrove recounts the fascinating story of Northern Soul, weaving his own personal history into the biography of venues such as Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca. In…

Billy Bragg

From ‘A New England’ to ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’, Billy Bragg’s songs have captured the mood of modern Britain. Since politics and pop became entwined in the anti-Thatcher Red Wedge movement of the 80s, Bragg’s voice has been synonymous with left-leaning political sentiment – but his love songs chronicle a world more profound…

Paul Morley

Last year, the jubilation upon the arrival of David Bowie’s new album, Blackstar, quickly turned to shock and grief with the announcement of his death. A true and rare musical icon, Bowie influenced generations of artists. Paul Morley, musician, critic and one of the team who curated the massively successful V&A…

Brix Smith Start

Many musicians have joined and quit post-punk band The Fall thanks to Mark E Smith and his eccentric management techniques. But none have the same tale as Brix Smith Start, given that she was also married to the band’s notorious leader. Now a fashion guru, Smith Start has come through some tough times and in her book The…

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