Lynskey presents a difficult, risky art form in all its complexity.




An ambitious, astute summary of political songs, from the 1940s to the present.

British music journalist Lynskey uses copious research and fresh interviews with several writer-performers to chart the evolution of political thought in pop music. The titular “33 revolutions” are individual songs he employs as signposts. He frequently looks at the tunes cursorily, using them as gateways for the topics at hand—the Vietnam and Middle East wars, civil rights, the black-power movement, etc. Using Billie Holiday’s 1939 recording of “Strange Fruit,” Abel Meeropol’s hair-raising depiction of a lynching, as the launch point, the author takes in the work of pioneering writers on the Left (Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger) and their ’60s progeny (Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs et al). Lynskey focuses mostly on American and British firebrands, with side trips to Chile (Victor Jara), Africa (Fela Kuti) and Jamaica (Max Romeo, Bob Marley). The author also includes entries on more current acts, like U2, R.E.M., Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine and Steve Earle. Throughout, Lynskey displays complete command of the music and the events that sparked it, and though he writes from a left-field perspective, he is no cheerleader. He is often stingingly critical. He takes John Lennon to task for his murky, off-target writing, mulls the addled, fist-pumping stances of The Clash and Rage, and takes stinging aim at Public Enemy’s intrinsic contradictions and frequently misguided positions. One of the best chapters explicates the inherent folly of “stadium protest,” manifested in such overblown, self-congratulatory ’80s affairs as Live Aid and “We Are the World.” Lynskey also notes that compositions can have their intent obscured and their essence misappropriated, as was the case with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”  The book reaches its sobering conclusion in the new millennium with Green Day’s American Idiot, which the author sees as the end of something, and a waning of the music of dissent. “I began this book intending to write a history of a still vital form of music,” he writes. “I finished it wondering if I had instead composed a eulogy.”

Lynskey presents a difficult, risky art form in all its complexity.

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-167015-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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