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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
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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.


“[Why Lhasa de Sela Matters] gets to the heart of what made de Sela such a singular and beloved talent…Goodman's book makes a wonderful case for continued reverance.”
CBC Music

“Fred Goodman has uncovered the story of an obscure, adventurous singer who refused to take the easy path…[A] slim but absorbing book.”
Rolling Stone

“[An] engrossing new biography.”
Los Angeles Times

Why Lhasa de Sela Matters captures the lightning-in-a-bottle of her life and music.”
Please Kill Me

“A compelling and valuable biography…Goodman probes de Sela's upbringing with surgical skill.”
FYI Music News

“Goodman's book captures the beauty of de Sela's life and music...[an] insightful biography.”
No Depression

“Goodman's account relies heavily on interviews he conducted with Lhasa's family, friends, and musical collaborators, and to give each of them as much space as he does is welcome, illuminating Lhasa through the primary legacy she left for her loved ones. The argument that Goodman sets out to make—that Lhasa is worth remembering—is proven time and again by the stories her intimates tell to memorialize her.”
Athenaeum Review

“Goodman crafts an enchanting story that's nothing less than modern musical mythology…While [Why Lhasa de Sela Matters] features deft prose and taut pacing, the hallmark of the book is Goodman's otherworldly interview skills. Specifically, his ability to weave together an immense amount of direct quotations from Lhasa's inner circle and her own interview archives makes for a fresh and vital reading experience...Goodman invites you to first wrap yourself in this tragic tale of a life cut down in its prime, and then dive headlong into the music she created.”
Bearded Gentlemen Music

“Through gripping, dynamic storytelling, [Goodman] paints a lavish portrait of this sometimes-nomadic and temperamental, yet lovable artist…Why Lhasa de Sela Matters is a long, winding tale, with amazing highs and decimating lows, all about a rare and old soul, someone who was taken from this life far too soon. Fans and the uninitiated alike will be equally enthralled by this lovely and all-too-short story—one that is incredibly difficult to put down.”

Why Lhasa de Sela Matters is an eloquent argument on behalf of the late singer.”
Shepherd Express

“[Why Lhasa de Sela Matters] goes a long way to giving some overdue—and, sadly, posthumous—credit to a singer with a unique voice that was always seeking new musical roads.”
On Milwaukee

“[Why Lhasa de Sela Matters is] a slim but illuminating book that fills a gap and serves a dual purpose: the ideal introduction for Lhasa neophytes, it also offers fans entry into deeper currents of her music and sensibility. In the process, it amply justifies its title.”
Montreal Gazette

“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, Filmmaker and author of Yellow Earth

“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


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca