Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man by Robert Christgau (Dey Street/HarperCollins 2015)
One of our great essayists and music journalists, the Dean of American Rock Critics, leads a heady tour through his life and times in this atmospheric, visceral memoir—both a love letter to a New York long past and a tribute to the transformative power of art.
Lifelong New Yorker Robert Christgau has been writing about pop culture since he was twelve and getting paid for it since he was twenty-two, covering rock for Esquire in its heyday and personifying the music beat at The Village Voice for over three decades. Christgau listened to Alan Freed howl about rock and roll before Elvis, settled east of Manhattan’s Avenue B forty years before it was cool, wit-nessed Monterey and Woodstock and Chicago 1968 and the first abortion speakout. He caught Coltrane in the East Village, Muddy Waters in Chicago, Otis Redding at the Apollo, the Dead in the Haight, Janis Joplin at the Fillmore, the Clash in Leeds, Grandmaster Flash in Times Square, and every punk band you can think of at CBGB.
Listed in Oprah’s O Magazine December 2015 Top Ten Reading List
“To read Going Into the City is to spend hours in the company of a completely sui generis critical mind, one that’s not only encyclopedically knowledgeable about mid-to-late 20th-century pop culture but capable of lapidary prose, astute insight, and savage wit.” — Slate
“An intellectual autobiography that beautifully captures what it feels like when a cultural experience trapdoors you into a new life.” — Grantland
Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth by John Szwed (Viking 2015)
Published in celebration of Holiday’s centenary, the first biography to focus on the singer’s extraordinary musical talent. Drawing on a vast amount of new material that has surfaced in the last decade, critically acclaimed jazz writer John Szwed considers how her life inflected her art, her influences, her uncanny voice and rhythmic genius, a number of her signature songs, and her legacy. WINNER OF THE 2016 JJA JAZZ AWARDS PRIZE FOR BEST JAZZ BOOK OF THE YEAR
“Revelatory. . . Szwed’s book is one of the most briskly revealing pieces of jazz biography that I’ve read.”
[Szwed] offers a portrait of Lady Day as artist and mythmaker rather than tragic victim . . . . As with the best of Holiday’s music, this elegant and perceptive study is restrained, nuanced, and masterfully carried out.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain (Atria Books 2015)
2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Purple Rain, the hugely successful film and soundtrack album by the Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Prince. A fictionalized version of Prince’s own life story, the film would make over $80 million at the box office; the album sold over a million copies in its first week and blasted to Number One on the charts, where it would remain for six months and eventually sell over 20 million copies worldwide. The work won Grammys and an Oscar, and permanently altered the rules and definitions for rock, funk, and pop music, and its impact and influence have never waned.
“Thoughtful and illuminating… [Mr. Light] is a fine companion for this journey through one song’s changing fortunes.” –The New York Times
I Only Read It for the Cartoons : The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists by Richard Gehr (New Harvest 2014)
Available for the first time to The New Yorker’s one million-plus readers: a volume dedicated to the individual careers of the magazine’s cartoon superstars.
Widely considered to be the pantheon of single-panel cartooning, The New Yorker cartoonists’ styles are richly varied, and their personal stories are surprising. For example, did you know that Arnie Levin is a seventy-three-year-old former Beatnik painter with a handlebar mustache and a back decorated by Japan’s foremost tattoo artists?
Gehr’s book features fascinating biographical profiles of such artists as Gahan Wilson, Sam Gross, Roz Chast, Lee Lorenz, and Edward Koren. Along with a dozen such profiles, Gehr provides a brief history of The New Yorker cartoon itself, touching on the lives and work of earlier illustrating wits, including Charles Addams, James Thurber, and William Steig.
“Gehr is sure to delight any New Yorker fan with this look at the pantheon of cartoonists… the book, brimming with New Yorker history and the idiosyncrasies of its contributors, is successful at what it sets out to do—provide a first-of-its-kind paean to some of the magazine’s most consistently popular contributors.” —Publishers Weekly
The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture and Style by Nelson George (Morrow 2014)
Soul Train ran in syndication on American television from 1971 to 2006. That’s thirty-five years of “love, peace and soul” that left an undeniable mark on the American collective culture. Primarily using the voices of the people who appeared on the program, Nelson George tells the story of this dance show’s impact, the stories behind memorable appearances by Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Barry White, as well as white stars Elton John and David Bowie, and many others. George interviews many of the celebrated Soul Train dancers as well, and talks to those who worked with Don Cornelius, the show’s late visionary creator. This book tells the story of the innovative, culturally influential program that featured one-of-a-kind superstar performances, outrageous fashions, hip dances, and the iconic Soul Train dance line.
“The definitive book on ‘Soul Train’” — New York Times Book Review
“George’s in-depth look at a revered TV show is one of those rare music-centric books that will transcend its subject’s core fan base. Even those with just a casual interest in Soul Train will be happy to take this trip.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Gil Scott Heron: Pieces Of A Man by Marcus Baram (St. Martin’s Press 2014)
THE MESSENGER is the first biography of the late Gil Scott-Heron, a musical legend, considered to be the godfather of hip-hop for his pioneering style of rapping poetry over jazz-funk beats in the early ‘70s. His lyrics touched on politics, racism, mass media and relationships with poignant honesty and a sarcastic edge. By refusing to compromise his music, his lyrics or his attitude, he always remained the great outsider – exalted by his devoted fans yet overlooked by the mainstream. Though his influence has been pervasive and his life story tracked the ups and downs of the black experience in America over the last six decades, Gil Scott-Heron’s full story has never been told.
“ Controversial and enigmatic, the tragic trajectory of Scott-Heron’s life and career is expertly examined in this testament to one of the last great radical artists.” –Kirkus
Naked And Marooned: One Man. One Island by Ed Stafford (Plume 2014)
After his stint as the first person to walk the length of the Amazon, British adventurer Ed Stafford set himself a new challenge: spend sixty days alone and without clothing or tools on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific. Dropped on an island with nothing but video cameras, Stafford’s first priorities were to secure a form of covering to prevent sunburn and ensure he had access to a fresh water supply. His recordings were turned into a successful series for The Discovery Channel. NAKED AND MAROONED is an account of how he survived and the emotional and psychological tolls of the experiment.
Praise for Walking The Amazon:
“Totally, completely, and utterly mad.” ––Michael Palin, author and actor
A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man by Holly George-Warren (Viking)
Alex Chilton’s story is rags to riches in reverse, beginning with teenage rock stardom and heading downward. Following stints leading 60s sensation the Box Tops (“The Letter”) and pioneering 70s popsters Big Star (“the ultimate American pop band”—Time), Chilton became a dishwasher. Yet he rose again in the 80s as a solo artist, producer, and trendsetter, coinventing the indie-rock genre. By the 90s, acolytes from R.E.M. to Jeff Buckley embodied Chilton’s legacy, ushering him back to the spotlight before his untimely death in 2010.
In the career-spanning and revelatory A Man Called Destruction, longtime Chilton acquaintance Holly George-Warren has interviewed more than 100 bandmates, friends, and family members to flesh out a man who presided over—and influenced—four decades of American musical history, rendered here with new perspective through the adventures of a true iconoclast.
“This book is the very definition of a labor of love. Every page of it is infused with Holly George-Warren’s affection for and deep understanding of Alex Chilton and his groundbreaking work. Even its most candid moments are presented with empathy and a profound respect. Chilton could be thorny and difficult character — he is fortunate to have found a biographer eager to untangle the knots of his character and to find the sweet heart beating within.”
~ Rolling Stone
“A Man Called Destruction is also the only thing about this criminally under-appreciated band you’ll ever need to read. It does more than all the articles, books, documentary films, and cover albums with liner notes written by famous fanboys about how important and life-changing Big Star’s recordings were combined…Nobody has done such a great job telling his story before. This is what makes Holly George-Warren’s achievement such an important one, and A Man Called Destruction one of the most important books on the life and work of a musician to come out this year.”
“A thoroughly reported biography illuminating the life and work of one of the more mystifying and influential cult figures in rock…. Chilton receives the biography he deserves.”
~Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Pranksters: Making Mischief In The Modern World by Kembrew McLeod
From Benjamin Franklin’s newspaper hoax that faked the death of his rival to Abbie Hoffman’s attempt to levitate the Pentagon, pranksters, hoaxers, and con artists have caused confusion, disorder, and laughter in Western society for centuries. Profiling the most notorious tricksters from the 1600s to the present day, Pranksters explores how “pranks” are part of a long tradition of speaking truth to power and social critique. More than just a simple how-to or compendium of college tricks, Pranksters provides the first overarching history of deception. Written in an accessible, story-driven style, Pranksters reveals how mischief makers have left their shocking, entertaining, and educational mark on modern political and social life.
“The story of how mischief-makers hope to change the world one prank at a time…McLeod’s renditions of his own pranks bring sparkle and humor to the serious message of his book.”
“It’s fantastic! Finally, a book that rescues the critically important art of the prank. Thanks to Pranksters, we finally understand what we’ve been trying to do all these years. No joke! Read it, and get out there and apply it!”
—The Yes Men
Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll by Ann and Nancy Wilson with Charles Cross
The story of Heart is a story of heart and soul and rock ’n’ roll. Since finding their love of music and performing as teenagers in Seattle, Washington, Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson, have been part of the American rock music landscape. From 70s classics like “Magic Man” and “Barracuda” to chart- topping 80s ballads like “Alone,” and all the way up to 2012, when they will release their latest studio album, Fanatic, Heart has been thrilling their fans and producing hit after hit. In Kicking and Dreaming, the Wilsons recount their story as two sisters who have a shared over three decades on the stage, as songwriters, as musicians, and as the leaders of one of our most beloved rock bands. An intimate, honest, and a uniquely female take on the rock and roll life, readers of bestselling music memoirs like Life by Keith Richards and Steven Tyler’s Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? will love this quintessential music story finally told from a female perspective.
“Righteously entertaining…[it] shows just what it’s like to be a woman who rocks, then and now.”
—New York Daily News
“Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson — better known as the faces and voices of Heart — look back on the personal and professional struggles and triumphs that define their legacy as one of rock’s pioneering female-fronted, creatively autonomous acts.”
“Thorough and entertaining…[Kicking and Dreaming is] satisfying for its breadth and spirit… the Wilsons write movingly and with a sense of humor.”
“An interesting duet that details precisely how women truly rock.”