I have been surprised by books before but never in such a pleasant way- when I first ordered the book I assumed it would be a thinnish volume about 33 different songs- something I could dip in and out of, so when I opened the Amazon box the weight and thickness of the tome was unexpected- it was then I realised this was a more indepth piece of work and I would get much more out of it than I first thought.
I'm a big fan of, as Billy Bragg would say, mixing pop and politics and to see Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs and more all brought together, with great songs put into context makes this a fascinating and well researched work. It acts as a crossroads, showcasing the history of political song through the 20th into the 21st century. The 33 songs in the title form the basis for each chapter, but the book looks at many more. My one small gripe is that while Phil Ochs keeps cropping up and has a major role in the book, there is no chapter looking at him or any of his songs. However he makes enough appearances to keep even the most die hard Phil fan happy.
Placing these songs in context heightens my appreciation of them even further, and the different motivations behind the characters who wrote and performed the music laid bare- so you may find yourself emerging with a new respect for certain artists who may nowadays be seen as naff or mainstream, and also slightly annoyed at the more mercenary who simply jumped on the bandwagons of their time, profiting while people were suffering.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone who believes that music has still a role to play in raising consciousness or acting as a standard for activists to collect around.
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