Oxford Music Online is the best, most comprehensive site for research on musicians and musical topics. Draws together and updates several multi-volume Grove Dictionary titles. These titles, with call numbers for the Hamersly Library Reference collection, are:
Above the search results from Grove, be sure to also click the provided links to Oxford titles. Example:
In Primo or Worldcat, search for the person's name in the subject field and the word "biography."
For big-picture histories of a topic, simply combine the keyword with "history"
But some texts cover a distinct period rather than the overall history, and the subject heading will reflect that focus.