Examining popular music
More excellent biographies and essays on the likes of Fred Astaire, journalist Paul Nelson, James Taylor and the blues.
Everything is an afterthought : the life and writings of Paul Nelson / Kevin Avery.
“Chances are, even the most cultivated hipsters under 40 have never heard of Paul Nelson (1936-2006), who pioneered new journalism with noir undertones at Sing Out! and Rolling Stone. This lovingly constructed part biography, part anthology reanimates a self-defeating romantic and uncompromising critic who aspired to live inside his beloved films and music.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)
Blues : thinking deep about feeling low / edited by Jesse R. Steinberg and Abrol Fairweather.
“From B.B. King to Billie Holiday, Blues music not only sounds good, but has an almost universal appeal in its reflection of the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Its ability to powerfully touch on a range of social and emotional issues is philosophically inspiring, and here, a diverse range of thinkers and musicians offer illuminating essays that make important connections between the human condition and the Blues that will appeal to music lovers and philosophers alike.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)
The complete idiot’s guide to the art of songwriting / by Casey Kelly and David Hodge.
“Now newbie songwriters can learn the craft-and sing their own praises online. Beginning songwriters can hit the right note by starting out with the basics in this guide, including: ? How to create melodies. ? How to create many different harmonies. ? Techniques using deliberate rhythm and stylistic changes. ? How to enable one’s songwriting to grow and evolve. ? How to deal with songwriter’s block. ? The best places to upload one’s work for maximum exposure and opportunities.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Music makes me : Fred Astaire and jazz / Todd Decker.
“Decker (music, Washington Univ., St. Louis) provides an accessible chronological study of the achievements of the remarkable Fred Astaire (1899-1987) in a book that is conversational in overall tone but stubbornly eludes categorization. Discussions of choreography are written in layperson’s terms rather than in the vocabulary of dance; the most technical references are to film procedures and music. Details of the artist’s personal life are almost entirely omitted, and although the author includes some interesting quotes, these offer little insight into Astaire’s private thoughts. This book is a worthy resource for a much wider audience than its title suggests.” – (adapted from CHOICE summary)
Glenn Hughes : the autobiography : from Deep Purple to Black Country Communion / by Glenn Hughes ; with Joel McIver.
“Hughes recounts his personal life and professional career–including both group and solo projects–as a singer, bassist, and songwriter.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
On celestial music : and other adventures in listening / Rick Moody.
“These mostly long and expansive essays reflect novelist Moody’s love affair with music and explain just how important music has been to his writing. There is a reason, he insists, why so many writers play music. Playing music encourages you to listen more closely and makes writers more concerned with the musical component of their prose. I like music that makes other people uncomfortable, Moody admits. In an essay on what it means to be cool, he makes it clear that he never considered himself to be cool and maintains that the essence of cool is embodied in the writing of Jack Kerouac and the Beats as well as the music of punk rock.” – (adapted from Booklist summary)
Hearts of darkness : James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, and the unlikely rise of the singer-songwriter / Dave Thompson.
“Hearts of Darkness is the story of a generation’s coming of age through the experiences of its three most atypical pop stars. James Taylor, Jackson Browne, and Cat Stevens could never have been considered your typical late-sixties songwriters – self-absorbed and self-composed, all three eschewed the traditional means of delivering their songs, instead turning its process inward. Author Dave Thompson, himself a legend among rock biographers, takes on his subjects with his usual brio and candor, leaving no stone unturned in his quest to shine a light on the dark side of this profoundly earnest era in popular music.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)
How soon is now? : the madmen and mavericks who made independent music, 1975-2005 / Richard King.
“Richard King’s “How Soon Is Now?” is a landmark survey of the record labels that make up the backbone of the independent music industry and the hugely inspirational, eccentric, impulsive and visionary figures who created them. One of the most tangible aftershocks of punk was its urgency to prompt individuals into action. Document your reality: do it yourself. From this, a generation was inspired and, with often zero financial planning or business sense, in bedrooms, garages and sheds, labels such as Factory, Rough Trade, Mute, 4AD, Beggars Banquet, Warp, Creation and Domino began, shifting the musical landscape and trading on an ethos and identity no brand consultant would now dare dream of. This is the story, set to an incredible soundtrack, of the enormous scale of the passions, the size of the egos, and the true extent of the madness of the mavericks who had the vision and bloody-mindedness to turn the music world on its head.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)