A concise, Dylan-heavy history of the American relationship between race and music.

ON HIGHWAY 61

MUSIC, RACE, AND THE EVOLUTION OF CULTURAL FREEDOM

A combination of cultural history of American popular music and race relations and a fan’s notes on Bob Dylan, whose story consumes the final 100 pages.

The author, who has published previously about the Beats (Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America, 1979) and about the Grateful Dead (A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, 2002), offers an extensive analysis of and tribute to the popular music that grew along Route 61, from New Orleans to Wyoming, Minnesota, paralleling for much of its length the course of the Mississippi River. McNally begins with Thoreau and abolitionism and then segues to Mark Twain and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (the author joins the debate about that novel’s controversial final chapters) before beginning his story about the founding fathers and mothers of our popular music. Readers will recognize many of the artists he discusses. Scott Joplin, W.C. Handy, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Benny Goodman, Lead Belly, Duke Ellington, Robert Johnson, Woody Guthrie, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvis Presley, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker—these and numerous others form the first three-quarters of McNally’s story. Lesser-known names and narratives are here, as well (Charlie Patton and Buddy Bolden among them). The author also offers a summary of key events in American racial history: the era of lynching, the Freedom Riders, the rise of Martin Luther King Jr., Selma and much more. He notes the transitions from blues to jazz to folk to rock and the emotions each emergence occasioned (he mentions that Pete Seeger wept when Dylan went electric at Newport in 1965). In 1965, Dylan released his album “Highway 61 Revisited,” and McNally’s praise for Dylan is unrelenting—and a tad disproportionate.

A concise, Dylan-heavy history of the American relationship between race and music.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61902-449-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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