UNCOMMON PEOPLE by David Hepworth


The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars
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An award-winning music journalist compiles a spirited celebration of rock stars.

Hepworth (Never a Dull Moment: 1971, the Year that Rock Exploded, 2016, etc.), media correspondent for the Guardian, laments the demise of the rock star, which occurred at the end of the last century, caused by “the rise of automated percussion, the domination of the committee approach to hit-making, the widespread adoption of choreography, and above all the mystique-destroying rise of the internet.” Rock stars exuded reckless glamour and defiant irreverence. Their predominant qualities included “swagger. Impudence. Sexual charisma,” and “damn-the-torpedoes self-belief.” Now, in the hip-hop generation of social media and streaming music, Hepworth finds no one worthy of the term “rock star,” which may puzzle some fans of Rihanna, Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber. In 40 year-by-year chapters, the author profiles stars who gleamed in the music firmament from 1955 to 1994, focusing on one day in the performer’s life—sometimes a concert, recording session, or simply a mundane event—to spin out a minibiography. He appends each chapter with a list of 10 songs that were made, released, or became hits that year “in order to give a flavor of the time.” In 1955, for example, when Little Richard came out with his racy “Tutti Frutti,” Frank Sinatra was a hit with “In the Wee Small Hours,” and Lonnie Donegan, with “Rock Island Line.” Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John, and Led Zeppelin represented the range of popular taste in 1970. Rock fans will find the usual suspects, including Elvis Presley, each of the Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Mick Jagger, Keith Moon, Jimi Hendrix, Ozzy Osbourne (whose substance abuse got him kicked out of Black Sabbath), Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Prince, Axl Rose, and groups including the Rolling Stones, the Who, Duran Duran, and Fleetwood Mac. Janis Joplin and Madonna are among the few women who make it into this encyclopedic volume.

A lively compendium of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-250-12412-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2017


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