A useful cultural history that is sure to please fans and musicologists.



The first “critical history” of Los Lobos.

In his debut, former Hollywood Reporter music editor and Billboard senior writer Morris presents an overview of the seminal California band’s four-decade career, focusing on how their musical palate expanded over time. A longtime supporter (his was one of the last weddings Los Lobos played), the author attributes “Los Lobos’ totemic position in L.A.’s musical firmament” to their unique background and the individual members’ restless open-mindedness. Initially, the youthful Mexican-American amateur musicians wanted to play traditional folk, in keeping with the era’s Chicano consciousness. As they honed this approach in raucous restaurant and wedding gigs, they also found themselves inspired by LA’s fertile post-punk scene, where they found kinship with bands like X and the Blasters. This incongruous fusion of Mexican music with punk’s reverence for rockabilly and roots paid off; fervent early supporters and the band themselves were startled by a Grammy win for an early EP. With their major label debut, "it became apparent to the band's producers that something new was afoot in Los Lobos' music." Still, no one expected that their titular single from the 1987 film La Bamba (a Richie Valens cover) would be a sudden chart-topper. Unable to match its commercial success, despite the prodding of several record labels, the band went on to a series of experimental, acclaimed (but underselling) albums. As Morris summarizes, “after hitting a creative wall amid the snares of rock stardom, they forged into terra incognita.” The author writes with an encyclopedic knowledge of California rock and effectively uses interviews with band members and producers. Although his primary focus is on a chronological analysis of the band’s recordings and their production, Morris also deftly addresses insider aspects of the music industry, much transformed since the 1970s, adding depth to this otherwise brief account while clarifying how Los Lobos survived changes in styles and label politics to become an enduring cross-cultural institution.

A useful cultural history that is sure to please fans and musicologists.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-292-74823-1

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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