The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs (Hardcover)

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Greil Marcus is hands down the greatest rock critic/historian of our era. He knows popular music the way most people know their parents, and his astonishing new release is destined to become a modern classic. Eschewing the obvious canonical choices and accepted master narrative of rock history, Marcus instead opts for deep cuts and b-sides, charting a free-flowing, non-chronological take on this most American of artforms. His idea is that you can find the “DNA” of rock ‘n’ roll in any song. So garage rockers, doo-wop groups, even Beyoncé (as Etta James) make appearances in this always entertaining and illuminating read. Of course, everyone wants to know who makes the Top 10, but Marcus’ painstakingly detailed alternative lives of Buddy Holly and Robert Johnson are worth the price of admission alone. The what-could-have-beens are almost enough to make you cry...or sing. Highest recommendation!

— From The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs (Greil Marcus)


One of our finest critics gives us an altogether original history of rock 'n' roll

Unlike all previous versions of rock 'n' roll history, this book omits almost every iconic performer and ignores the storied events and turning points that everyone knows. Instead, in a daring stroke, Greil Marcus selects ten songs recorded between 1956 and 2008, then proceeds to dramatize how each embodies rock 'n' roll as a thing in itself, in the story it tells, inhabits, and acts out--a new language, something new under the sun.

"Transmission" by Joy Division. "All I Could Do Was Cry" by Etta James and then Beyonc . "To Know Him Is to Love Him," first by the Teddy Bears and almost half a century later by Amy Winehouse. In Marcus's hands these and other songs tell the story of the music, which is, at bottom, the story of the desire for freedom in all its unruly and liberating glory. Slipping the constraints of chronology, Marcus braids together past and present, holding up to the light the ways that these striking songs fall through time and circumstance, gaining momentum and meaning, astonishing us by upending our presumptions and prejudices. This book, by a founder of contemporary rock criticism--and its most gifted and incisive practitioner--is destined to become an enduring classic.

About the Author

Greil Marcus lives in Oakland, CA. His books include Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music and Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300187373
ISBN-10: 0300187378
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: September 2nd, 2014
Pages: 307
Language: English