I guest-edited an issue of Daedalus on American Music in 2013 and did not think I would revisit the subject quite so soon with this issue of The Common Reader on popular music. In some ways, it is quite fortunate that I have looked at the subject of music in such different forums so recently. […]
There may be songs whose histories are uncorrupted or wholly unrecoverable. “(The) Lonesome Road” is not among them. The road that everybody, including “E.V. Body,” in this story tredges on is crowded with two-way traffic: some stretches are dusty, others are paved with Tin Pan Alley gold or earnest populist intentions, and it is constantly being dug up and laid anew.
On Twitter the entire point is that somebody is watching you. Success is measured in followers. No wonder Sly Stone never seems at home there, and never alights there too long.
If Pokey LaFarge is post-nostalgic, it is only partway. If anything, his music and personae expose the extent to which older, simpler virtues—for worse and for better—survive in St. Louis in so many ways.
John Henry is fighting an age old battle. All of us are. Something will always come along and render us useless.
Despite a mountain of insecurities and sheer craziness, Peggy Lee remained undaunted. Engaging, and at times challenging, she made remarkably sophisticated music well into the 1980s, refusing to be an oldies act. But perhaps her greatest claim to public attention was that the blonde, North Dakota-born singer sounded black.
The financial distress, or lack of distress, of musicians has nothing to do with the purpose of copyright. We, wild anti-copyright theorists, have now been joined by many sober practitioners in our analysis pointing out the real issues.
For a decade in which rock music was reaching its zenith as a profitable business, the 1970s, it is staggering to consider the sheer number of risks Bowie took, without any hint or appearance that he was risking anything at all.
There was something about the music that evening, at a party in her honor, that immediately captured Bessie Smith’s attention. As she entered the party with a few of her girlfriends, Smith remarked in classic fashion, “The funk is flyin’.”
The reign of Frank Rizzo was also the era of the rising black political power in Philadelphia. Nowhere was the clash of racial interests more intense than the police department.