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Why Lhasa de Sela Matters

Why Lhasa de Sela Matters

The first biography of the timeless bohemian world-music chanteuse who dazzled audiences around the globe and charted exhilarating new musical territory before her tragic death at thirty-seven.

Series: Music Matters

November 2019
200 pages | 5 x 7 |

An artist in every sense of the word, Lhasa de Sela wowed audiences around the globe with her multilingual songs and spellbinding performances, mixing together everything from Gypsy music to Mexican rancheras, Americana and jazz, chanson française, and South American folk melodies. In Canada, her album La Llorona won the Juno Award and went gold, and its follow-up, The Living Road, won a BBC World Music Award. Tragically, de Sela succumbed to breast cancer in 2010 at the age of thirty-seven after recording her final album, Lhasa.

Tracing de Sela’s unconventional life and introducing her to a new generation, Why Lhasa de Sela Matters is the first biography of this sophisticated creative icon. Raised in a hippie family traveling between the United States and Mexico in a converted school bus, de Sela developed an unquenchable curiosity, with equal affinities for the romantic, mystic, and cerebral. Becoming a sensation in Montreal and Europe, the trilingual singer rejected a conventional path to fame, joining her sisters’ circus troupe in France. Revealing the details of these and other experiences that inspired de Sela to write such vibrant, otherworldly music, Why Lhasa de Sela Matters sings with the spirit of this gifted firebrand.

  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1. A Flock of Black Sheep
  • Chapter 2. The Wailing Woman
  • Chapter 3. The Paradox
  • Chapter 4. Mile End
  • Chapter 5. Bells
  • Postscript: “The Girl-Fish”: A Catalonian Folktale as Recounted by Andrew Lang in The Orange Fairy Book
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes

Fred Goodman is a former editor at Rolling Stone whose work has appeared in the New York Times and many magazines. His previous books include the award-winning The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-on Collision of Rock and Commerce.


“This book beautifully portrays the uniqueness of Lhasa as a human being and a musician. Her life was too short; her music and voice are eternal. ”
Rufus Wainwright

"Lhasa de Sela lived her songs onstage, yet it was never 'Look at what I can do' but rather 'Listen to who we are.'  The emotion and the incredible ability to exist fully in the moment were always there;  Fred Goodman's book gives us a window into how Lhasa found her voice."
John Sayles

"Lhasa entered our lives like a whispered spell, an artist who chased, channeled, and created magic onstage and on record. Fred Goodman conjures her sorcery, and the title says it all: read this book and know the answer."
Naomi Klein, author of On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal