GUERILLA MINSTRELS: John Lennon, Joe Hill, Woody Guthrie, and Bob Dylan by Wayne Hampton

GUERILLA MINSTRELS: John Lennon, Joe Hill, Woody Guthrie, and Bob Dylan

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A heavy, worried study that takes itself very seriously indeed. Hampton is anxious to include every possible interpretation and datum; even the footnotes are jawbreakers. He begins with Lennon's death and can't seem to leave it alone for the rest of his tome. In fact, Lennon's killing sparks Hampton into a bit of melodramatic autobiography that will unsettle fans of that genre: ""My mind was racing as I slipped into my clothes and headed out the door. My ear stayed glue to the local rock station as I drove to school. My mind was numb. . ."" The plodding repetition of thrice-familiar facts would be tolerable if Hampton's attempts at interpretation showed wisdom and good taste. But they don't. Hampton claims that the Woodstock Nation of young people was ""ideologically barren."" Hampton then cites an incident at a 1982 Simon and Garfunkel concert to draw a strange parallel. A crazed fan ran onstage and was restrained by police. Hampton proclaims that such deranged people, including Lennon's murderer, are motivated by ""the same force that fuels the cultural guerilla"" (sic), such as Lennon. Hampton's hefty pile of facts amounts only to this rather limp identification of Lennon with his murderer. The next chapter, ""Doing the Mind Guerilla"" (sic), is hardly better. The likes of Sartre, Karl Marx, and Yoko Ono are quoted liberally here. Hampton's attempts to interrelate the subjects of his book fail as well. The best he can observe is that Joe Hill ""could produce pop verses as trite and sentimental as 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' or 'Love Me Do.' "" Ah, but could he take such potentially interesting subjects and make them this vapid?

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Univ. of Tennessee Press