6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A terrific book,
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This review is from: 33 Revolutions Per Minute (Paperback)
It's hard to believe that no-one seems to have attempted a history of protest songs before, but it's pretty safe to say that no-one need bother now, as it's impossible to imagine that anyone will do it better that Dorian Lynskey does it here. It's a huge book, but crammed to bursting with fascinating stuff.
The book starts with Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit", about the lynching of black men in the Southern states, moves through "This Land Is Your Land" and "We Shall Overcome" and on to the work of Dylan, Lennon, Stevie Wonder, The Clash, Billy Bragg etc, right up to Green Day, and not just looking at one particular song, but the performer's body of work.
Most of all, Lynskey provides a very astute social commentary of the circumstances that produced the songs of those times. It's not so much a wallow in nostalgia as a hard-nosed reminder of the way things really were back then.
And along the way there's a thousand little nuggets for your enjoyment. Did you know, for instance, that Chic's Nile Rogers used to be in the Black Panthers? Or that Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five were bitterly opposed to releasing "The Message", much preferring a song called "Dumb Love"?
Alas, it also feels a little like an elegy. There's nothing out there now to be mentioned in the same breath as the songs discussed in this book. These songs may not have changed the world but they surely gave a focus to people who were working for a cause. This has gone now and it's impossible to imagine it coming back to any great extent and we're much the poorer for it. And, hey, one or two, like Special AKA's "Nelson Mandela" actually did change the world.
One small caveat. It would have been nice to see the the whole lyric of the discussed songs printed, especially for the songs we might not know quite as well, so we could see the songs for ourselves, but I daresay this was not possible due to copyright restrictions.
My ultimate test of how much I'm enjoying a book is how much I want to get back to reading it and how sorry I am when the reading finally comes to an end. This book passes the test on both counts.
Very highly recommended. I wish you happy reading.