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Hold on to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-1992 (Material Worlds) [Paperback]

Tim Lawrence
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Nov 2009
"Hold On to Your Dreams" is the first biography of the musician and composer Arthur Russell, one of the most important but least known contributors to the downtown New York music scene during the 1970s and 1980s. With the exception of a few dance recordings, including "Is It All Over My Face?" and "Go Bang! number 5," Russell's pioneering music was largely forgotten until the issue of two albums in 2004 triggered a revival of interest, which gained momentum with the release of additional albums and the documentary film Wild Combination. Based on interviews with more than seventy of his collaborators, family members, and friends, "Hold On to Your Dreams" provides vital new information about this singular, eccentric musician and his role in the boundary-breaking downtown music scene. Tim Lawrence traces Russell's odyssey from his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa, to countercultural San Francisco, and eventually to New York, where he lived from 1973 until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1992. Refusing definition while dreaming of commercial success, Russell wrote and performed new wave and disco as well as quirky rock, twisted folk, voice-cello dub, and hip-hop inflected pop. 'He was way ahead of other people in understanding that the walls between concert music and popular music and avant-garde music were illusory', comments the composer Philip Glass. 'He lived in a world in which those walls weren't there'. Lawrence follows Russell across musical genres and through such vital downtown music spaces as the Kitchen, the Loft, the Gallery, the Paradise Garage, and the Experimental Intermedia Foundation. Along the way, he captures Russell's openness to sound, his commitment to collaboration, and his uncompromising idealism.

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Hold on to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-1992 (Material Worlds) + Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979
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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press (20 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822344858
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822344858
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 413,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"[A] sensitive and thorough biography...Tim Lawrence presents more than enough evidence to suggest that Russell belonged to that unique line of wayward American composers...who placed personal vision and relentless innovation over easy acceptance...As the author of the excellent Love Saves the Day: A History Of American Dance Music Culture 1970-1979, Lawrence is particularly adept at exploring Russell's links with the New York club scene...The connection he establishes between the haunting songs for cello and voice Russell recorded on 1986's World Of Echo, and the empty dancefloors of Lower Manhattan as AIDS starts to take its toll, is particularly affecting." --Ken Hollings, The Wire

"[H]is overriding thesis--that Russell's boundary crossing was as important as the work he made is sound, paying tribute to a man who was a connector as well as a spark." --Michaelangelo Matos, TimeOutNY

"With rich and animated detail, Tim Lawrence tracks Arthur Russell's insatiable drive to integrate so-called serious music and pop. This definitive biography is both an engrossing record of Russell's musical ambitions and a compelling account of the fertile downtown scene that supported his admirable dreams." Matt Wolf, director of Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell "Tim Lawrence has written a fascinating and insightful biography of a sensitive and searching soul. Arthur Russell was a personal artist whose musical vision led him to coexist in seemingly incompatible worlds. Through the lens of Arthur Russell's life (never clouded with material success or celebrity), Tim Lawrence gives us a sharp and singular portrait of late-twentieth-century American life. A fine read, with a depth and detail that resonate with Arthur Russell's sparkle and wit."--Peter Gordon, Love of Life Orchestra "Hold On to Your Dreams tells the story of an artist whose life becomes more intriguing with every turn. Inspiring and written with love, this book takes us to the roots of Arthur Russell's music, from the streets of New York to the cornfields of Iowa."-- --Jens Lekman, musician

About the Author

Tim Lawrence is a freelance music writer and Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of East London.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love this in the sense that i love Russell's music and wanted to know more about him and what made him tick.
(You wont be reading this book unless you love the guy's music.. and if you love his music, odds on you'll want this even if you just dip into it.. or want it on yr shelf!) It's for the converted.
It aint easy going in this book- it's kinda written as if for an M.A. level crit/discussion..er.. level.. but sticking with it you are going to get a really detailed complete overview of Russell and the people in the downtown scene and the whole historical context of the time.
Like i said- hard work but i really enjoyed it and simply because there is so much of it, it enables you to spend a good hunk of time immersed in it and it is the tale of quite a curious and amazing man.
I love muso biogs and am glad someone made this much effort to write this.
I got this.. the biog of Darby Crash.. and Cope's "Repossesed" and it set me up for the whole summer.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect 14 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This arrived really quickly as a present for my brother. He loves it. It's just as it was described and was well worth the price. Thank you!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Superb 28 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Beautifully written and a wonderful story about a true genius. If you're interested in Arthur Russell you're going to love it.
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Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New York City Boy 26 Dec 2009
By Gideon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
At last.

Arthur Russell is definitely the most important artist to have been (re)discovered in the noughties.

Cello player, avant-garde composer, disco producer, pop/folk singer-songwriter, Mr Russell lived an interesting, busy life in New York from 1973 to 1992, straddling musical genres and mixing them with ease and depth. Although he never found the success he deserved during his lifetime, he nevertheless produced a body of work that will never cease to fascinate discerning music lovers all over the world.

This biography by Tim Lawrence - the first book ever on the Iowan maverick - is a wonderful introduction to its subject: painstakingly researched (work on it lasted for ten years), immensely readable and shot through with humanity and an acute critical eye, it will only make you love Arthur Russell and his music more, helping you understand his working methods and the tender, marvellous poetry of his lyrics.

Its merits, though, do not end here; while recounting Russell's human journey, Mr Lawrence also manages to connect it beautifully to the bubbling milieu of 70s/80s Downtown New York, thus producing a pulsating portrait of a difficult yet extremely creative part of the Big Apple.

The end result is an essential book. One that you will keep going back to time and again, a work, in short, that is totally worthy of Arthur Russell's multifarious, radiant oeuvre.

1.0 out of 5 stars CLEARLY FLAWED & INACCURATE! 10 Sep 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
This book is INACCURATE. Tim Lawrence did a poor job on researching and
failed to contact the owner of the recording studio that Arthur Russell used during
the last decade of his life. Tim's book is clearly flawed. BEWARE!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Super boring book about an amazing and overlooked genius 11 Jan 2013
By Hotrodimus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Arthur Russell is amazing, and Tim Lawrence ("Love saves the day," the best disco book written to date) is the man to really write about him. But strangely, unlike "love saves the day," the style here is complete and utterly devoid of life. It's like reading a congressional report, a completely "just the facts" account of Russell's life and career. There's not a hint of style or storytelling, just pure "Wikipedia"-dry narrative. This makes it a bit tough to swallow, but the content is so worth it.
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