Did you know that the Who Was series has over 210 books in it? Below is a list of 19 books about musicians in the series. The Who Was…biographies are great for 8-12 year olds. Each book has about ten chapters and most children this age can usually finish them in a week. When we do them as a family read aloud, they usually take three days.
These books are great for creating unit studies or just for reading on their own. Unit studies are a fun way to incorporate learning about different people and topics in your homeschool. You could study an artist, a musician, an entertainer, a scientist, or an author each month. Or anyone or anything else you can think of!
Then, over the course of the month you can learn about that person or thing through books, videos, and hands on projects!
Some of the musicians listed below include a detailed unit study that you can download, And there are child appropriate videos of each artist to accompany the book.
Make sure to grab the FREE printable notetaking bookmarks at the end that you can use with any of the books about musicians!
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The List of Who Was…Books About Musicians
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791
Mozart is the only classical composer in the Who Was series at this time. This book tells of how he started composing when he was five years old and how he spent his short life performing for royalty. For younger kids, Magic Tree House book, Moonlight on the Magic Flute is a fun book to introduce Mozart. And if you are looking for a kids’ series about other classical composers including Mozart, check out Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers. Make the books come alive by listening to some of Mozart’s music. Here is the first movement of his “Symphony No. 40”.
If you want to deep dive into composers, check out this class:
Duke Ellington, 1899-1974
Learn all about this major figure in the Harlem Renaissance with Who Was Duke Ellington? He was the bandleader of the Cotton Club and wrote almost 3000 songs in his lifetime. Add this Free Online Lesson about Duke Ellington from Music in Our Homeschool to your reading.
Louis Armstrong, 1901-1971
This trumpeter and singer is sometimes called the King of Jazz. Learn all about his challenging childhood and his career with Who Was Louis Armstrong? And for younger kids, include the Magic Tree House book, A Goodnight for Ghosts. Add this video of Armstrong singing and playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” to round out your lesson.
Check out this FREE Louis Armstrong Unit Study:
Pete Seeger, 1919-2014
Seeger wrote many American folk songs and played the banjo throughout his life. However, his name is not very well known due to his political beliefs. Learn that and more in Who Was Pete Seeger? Here is one of his famous folk songs.
Celia Cruz, 1925-2003
Johnny Cash, 1932-2003
Johnny Cash won many awards during his career and is one of the best-selling musicians of all time. Learn all about his life and career in Who Was Johnny Cash? Watch a performance of him here with his second wife, June Carter. And teenagers may enjoy the movie, Walk the Line.
Elvis Presley, 1935-1977
Who Was Elvis Presley? will take you from “The King’s” birth in Tupelo, MS through his musical career. You can watch his performance of “Hound Dog” here. Want to learn more about the history of rock and roll? Check out this unit study by The Unplanned Homeschooler! Or check out this lesson idea from Teach Rock.
Bob Dylan, 1941-
Aretha Franklin, 1942-2018
Bob Marley, 1945-1981
Dolly Parton, 1946-
Dolly Parton is known as a country music star, a businesswoman, and a great philanthropist. Learn about all these facets of her life in Who Is Dolly Parton? For younger children, read the picture book she wrote, Coat of Many Colors. Then, watch her perform “Jolene“.
David Bowie, 1947-2016
Elton John, 1947-
Elton John started playing the piano at age three in London and grew up to be one of the biggest pop stars of all time. Learn all about him in Who Is Elton John? Add a viewing of a performance of “Rocket Man” to your reading.
Bruce Springsteen, 1949-
Learn about this American icon who has won multiple Grammys and is especially known for his song “Born in the USA”. Grab the Who Is Bruce Springsteen? book and watch this performance of “Born in the USA“. This would be a great song for older students to analyze the lyrics and learn about the related history.
Stevie Wonder, 1950-
Stevie Wonder signed his first record deal when he was just eleven years old! Inspire your children with Who Is Stevie Wonder? while you learn about his song-writing, singing, and music career. Check out this music study over at Teachers Pay Teachers and watch this performance of “Signed, Sealed Delivered I’m Yours”.
The Beatles, years active: 1960-1970
Learn about each of the Fab Four’s childhoods in Who Were The Beatles? and how they came together to become one of the most famous bands of all time. Then check out some of the lesson ideas about the Beatles from Teach Rock. Watch this performance of the Beatles perform “Help!” as part of your lesson.
Bono’s band, U2, has sold millions of albums and won many awards, but he is also known for his social justice work, too. Learn all about him in Who is Bono? And watch this performance of “With or Without You“.
Rolling Stones, years active: 1962-
A native of Texas, Selena was the best-selling Latin artist of the 1990s. Learn about her life and career in Who Was Selena? Another biography, Queen of Tejano music, has beautiful illustrations. And then watch her perform here. These books would make a great complement to a study of Texas.
Grab the Notetaking Bookmarks
Click the picture below to open the pdf of notetaking bookmarks you can use with any of the books about musicians.
Which of these books about musicians sounds most interesting to you?
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