- Copertina flessibile: 660 pagine
- Editore: Ecco Pr (5 aprile 2011)
- Lingua: Inglese
- ISBN-10: 0061670154
- ISBN-13: 978-0061670152
- Peso di spedizione: 771 g
- Posizione nella classifica Bestseller di Amazon:
33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, from Billie Holiday to Green Day (Inglese) Copertina flessibile – 5 apr 2011
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From one of the most prominent music critics writing today comes a page-turning and wonderfully researched history of the songs that have transformed the world through the 20th century and beyond.
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As the title would suggest, Lynskey, a music critic for the Guardian, picks 33 songs to write about. Along with the two listed above, it includes songs both well-known (Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land", Bob Dylan's "Masters of War", James Brown's "I'm Black and I'm Proud", Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio", Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes", which apparently got Lynskey interested in protest music) and lesser known (Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddamn", the music of Victor Jara, a singer/protestor in Chile until he was murdered when Pinochet took over, Steve Earle's "John Walker Blues"). Instead of merely describing the songs, however, Lynskey describes the history behind the songs (a brief description not only of the singer or band at the time, as well as what was going on in that particular country at the time), and often even a parallel songwriter whose work either complemented or contrasted the song under discussion (such as dealing with Phil Ochs in the chapter on Bob Dylan, as Ochs was more obviously political, and discussing the Clash and Sex Pistols, as while they both were the leaders of British punk they were also diametrically opposed in many ways).
While Lynksey isn't blind to the pretensions that go with the territory when it comes to writing protest songs (he singles out John Lennon as a case in point, though I do think he's a tad harsh when it comes to "Revolution"; its ambivalence is why, I think, it's still potent as a song), and he also recognizes how many singers were unable or unwilling to keep up the momentum (Dylan, for one, famously backed off from making any explicit protest songs when he went electric), he also isn't out to mock. He genuinely appreciates the intent behind many of the songs, and how they went hand in hand with the political movements of the time (though he concentrates more on civil rights than, say, feminism). While he concentrates mostly on the U.S. and Britain, Lynskey does touch on how protest music fermented in Latin America and Africa (as well as recognize how, unlike here and in Britain, singing these songs could get you killed, and did). At the end, Lynskey wonders if, as well as writing a history, he's also written an epitaph for the protest song. That may well be true (as he also points out earlier, there were in fact a number of songs eventually protesting the war in Iraq, but they seemed independent of each other rather than unifying or galvanizing a protest movement), but a few nit-picks aside (he misses how the segregation of American radio affected African-American protest music), Lynskey has written a fitting tribute to the protest song, as well as a vital history of it.
At its best, the book is informative. Even if you hate a particular song and/or artist, the author manages to keeps one's interest in reading about it/them. In part this is due to his scatter-shot approach, encompassing eras and genres. It is also well-researched.
Where it fails is in the balance of history. There are far too many relatively recent songs included. That Phil Ochs wasn't granted a chapter, while Frankie Goes To Hollywood was, is criminal. Broadside magazine is hardly even mentioned, while the author goes out of his way to include an obscure disco song, as well as U#2's "Pride (In The Name of Love)," which isn't even a protest song but, rather, a song of celebration. So why include it? I suspect it's for the same reason that the book is so laden with relatively recent songs, that the main concern was the bottom line. Most people will want to read about songs that they're familiar with.
So the blues, a form of music that, by it's very nature, is a protest, is totally ignored. Part of this is probably due to the author's definition of protest music, which he links to politics. There are, of course, other forms of revolution, such as cultural and social, but the author chooses to put blinders on concerning them. Still, I'd much rather have read something about the "Bourgeois Blues" than "Two Tribes."
Even among the modern music the author does highlight, there is some head-scratching on my part. Does Dorian Lynskey honestly believe that Huggy Bear is more representative of Riot Grrrl than Bikini Kill? Does he not believe that Patti Smith's song "People Have The Power" is even worth mentioning? Doesn't he see the implicit revolutionary aspect of the entire DIY culture / "indie scene," in which the "workers" have seized the means of production?
This is still a worthwhile book. I learned quite a bit about such artists as Crass, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Victor Jara and Feli Kuti. While I would not say that it is at all definitive, it is a good start.
It's safe to say that for nearly the first half of this 600+ page exploration of protest through song, I was enraptured. As a historian and a music-lover, I was in awe of the way Lynskey folded global historical events in with the chapter title songs. The first chapter, on Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" as well as the chapter on James Brown's "Say It Loud-I'm Black and Proud" are excellent examples of where the combination is done so almost flawlessly. By the time I had reached Part III of the book - a trio of chapters written about lesser-known songs and history (from an American point-of-view) from Chile, Nigeria, and Jamaica I had already begun thinking about a way to create a history class based around this idea. It seemed that introducing history via music and the protest song was a perfect way of illustrating historical ideas and ideals.
Something happened to the narrative of the book once it hit the mid 1970s, and it wasn't an improvement. Suddenly the chapters seemed disjointed and started feeling more like short essays on ideas and songs stitched together to create the larger chapters. The historical narrative, in itself simply a 100-level glossing of political events, was overtaking the musical narrative. The chapter on U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" has little to do with the title song, and instead describes U2's entire catalog and how it relates to the history of the years in which they were written. Chapter 20 on Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" is a neutered history of political hip-hop in the early 1980s and spends most of it's time forgetting to talk about "The Message".
By the time the book reaches the end of the 80s, into the 1990s and beyond, Lynskey becomes more interested in showing parallels and differences of then-vs-now protest songs than talking about the songs in question. (Excepting Chapter 27 on Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" which is a late book stand out.) Chapter 28 on Huggy Bear's "Her Jazz" says only about the song that it began as a 'zine article before becoming overshadowed by the history of Bikini Kill (much like in real life). In perhaps the most bizarre chapter, the story of Rage Against the Machine's "Sleep Now in the Fire" says absolutely nothing about the title song other than the fact it existed. It then interweaves the history or Radiohead as if there was some sort of connection between the two. Unsurprisingly, Lynskey dramatically fails at the attempt.
Chapter 32 (Steve Earle's "John Walker's Blues") spends more time talking about the Dixie Chicks than its supposed subject, and perhaps most disappointingly, the final chapter on Green Day's "American Idiot" spends three and a half pages discussing Green Day before peetering out in a weak history of the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina.
In the epilogue, Lynskey talks about the feeling he has had writing the book, that the era of the protest song may be over, buried under armchair internet activism and the flux music industry. This, perhaps, is his excuse the for floundering second half of his book, but it's not one I am ready to accept. For an author to so expertly move between and along with the racial history of the 60s and the war protests of Billy Bragg and Woody Guthrie, Lynskey has no excuse for being unable to transition into the new history or music and protest in the 2000s. Excepting, of course, for either laziness or his not-so-hidden anachronistic views of how protest songs should be.
Like some other reviewers, I could quibble about the songs selected (too light on the blues, a bit heavy on recent artists, too harsh on John Lennon), but since I really enjoyed learning so much about the artists profiled I can't really complain. You'll enjoy coming out of the book with new perspectives about a wide variety of performers, including James Brown, The Manic Street Preachers, Crass, The Specials, Nina Simone, Bob Marley, Phil Ochs, The Clash, Eric Clapton, Bratmobile, and Motown's roster of performers. Some of them you'll appreciate more, some you'll see as more shallow or as downright mean. (I'd like to hear Eric Clapton's rejoinder to the way he's protrayed in the book.) With such strong opinions of some artists, you know that only a true fan of the music could have written this book.
Be forewarned though: This book will very likely result in you buying a ton of music to hear for yourself both those songs profiled and the many, many artists and songs mentioned in the book. I, for one, though am enjoying this particular trip I'm taking to the poor house...
The concept of a protest song is that they are very political. Political, in this sense, is that it starts a debate about how society should function, as far as whether it's fine the way it is, or that it needs to change.
Now let's talk about the book: The individual songs that you read about in this book are quite descriptive, and the chapters are long. An individual chapter for a song is at least twenty pages. Now this does includes pictures, but the pictures are in the middle, and they are only recaps of what you have read so far.
I recommend this book if you are actually interested in reading about protest songs. If there's a conflict within you, don't read such a book, because this book contains 500+ pages. The estimated time of reading this for a fresh-in-college reader is a week, maybe two weeks. And that's if you're putting all your effort into actually reading this book. 33 Revolutions is meant for those who really want to learn about music history, no one else.