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Wilco: Learning How to Die Paperback


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Frequently Bought Together

Wilco: Learning How to Die + I Am Trying to Break Your Heart - A Film About Wilco + Jeff Tweedy - Sunken Treasure - Live in the Pacific Northwest
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (June 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767915585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767915588
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #726,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chicago Tribune writer Kot deftly explores the career, music and cult phenomenon of the '90s rootsy alt-country rock band Wilco. The Chicago-based Wilco has earned a loyal, passionate underground following through heavy touring and the honest, emotionally charged songwriting of front man Jeff Tweedy, who originally played bass in Uncle Tupelo. Despite Wilco's critical success and growing fan base, the histrionics of Tweedy's early career endured, culminating with the painful breakdown of communication between Tweedy and Wilco band mate Jay Bennett, which led to Bennett's firing and the bizarre circumstances surrounding the release of Yankee Foxtrot Hotel, in 2002. Unsatisfied with what it saw as an indulgent, hitless effort, Warner Bros.' subsidiary Reprise rejected the record upon delivery. Rather than re-record a more radio-friendly version, Wilco gave the record away on the Internet. That strategy led to a deal with another Warner Bros. subsidiary, Nonesuch, which released the record and sold over 400,000 copies, the band's biggest commercial success to date. Well researched and filled with primary interviews, Kot's book is probing and insightful. In chronicling Wilco, Kot also lays bare the stresses of the musician's life, the vagaries of the business, and the very essence of what makes for good music and a vibrant music scene. Wilco fans will love this book, but Kot's excellent work deserves an even wider audience.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–A music critic explores the career and art of Wilco, an alt-country rock group that commands an impressive and loyal following. The focus is on lead singer Jeff Tweedy, positioning him as the band's primary creative force and sometimes tyrant. He began his musical career as a bass player for Uncle Tupelo, one of the groups that kicked off the punk-country-folk blend that Wilco continues to develop today. After a clash of egos with bandmate Jay Farrar, Uncle Tupelo dissolved in the early 1990s and Tweedy formed Wilco, pushing himself into a more heavily produced sound without losing the quality of songwriting that made Uncle Tupelo so popular. The release of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot serves as an endpoint, giving the book a sense of narrative drive that most other band biographies don't have. Including the story of battling labels, contracts, and artistic expression versus commercial potential, the book represents a unique and informative portrait of the music industry. Kot is guilty of occasional exaggeration or indulgence when describing the songs and the personalities, particularly concerning Tweedy's habit of firing bandmates. For the most part, though, he approaches the story from a balanced point of view. Filled with enough anecdotes to entertain informed fans, but with enough direction to appeal to those less familiar with the subject, Kot's book should please a broad audience.–Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Greg Kot has been the music critic at the Chicago Tribune since 1990. He has established a national reputation not just for his comprehensive coverage of popular music -- from hip-hop to rock -- but for enterprising reporting on music-related social, political and business issues. His Tribune-hosted blog, Turn it Up, is considered a must-read for music buffs and industry insiders alike. With his Chicago Sun-Times counterpart Jim DeRogatis, Kot cohosts Sound Opinions, "the world's only rock 'n' roll talk show," nationally syndicated in over twenty markets and avialable worldwide on the web. Kot has been a regular contributor to Rolling Stone since 1992, and has written for Details, Blender, Entertainment Weekly, Men's Journal, Guitar World, Vibe and Request. Kot's biography of Wilco, Learning How to Die, was published in June 2004. He lives on Chicago's Northwest Side with his wife, two daughters, and far too many records.

Customer Reviews

Great Book, a must for the obsessive and hip Wilco / Music fan.
Michael Wellington
I know it's heresy, but the book has made me like Tweedy a little less, but like and appreciate Wilco a bit more.
Eric Hayes Patkowski
Or, if you admire those moments when the creative process manages to overcome life's obstacles, read this book.
"rslinn"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Eric Hayes Patkowski on January 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm about 10 pages from the end of this book, and I've got mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it's a great behind-the-scenes look at one of my favorite bands, but on the other hand, it's like sausage and politics -- if you like either, you shouldn't see how they're made.

Same for this book.

Kot is clearly a Wilco fan, no secret there, and he's got a shine for Jeff Tweedy -- this has a way of excusing or justifying Tweedy's behavior towards fellow bandmates, covering Tweedy's rear by painting him as a musical genius, guilty of the same eccentricities as so many others -- inability to communicate with bandmates right up til the inevitable splits, excusing the inexcusable way Tweedy has dismissed bandmates with little or no warning by saying the ends justify the means.

I'm a fairly recent fan, being turned on to Wilco through their work with Billy Bragg -- I've since become a die-hard fan of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco and have all their albums. That said, the chapter on the Mermaid Avenue Sessions was depressing, because it paints a fairly negative picture, I'm sure accidental, of Bragg and Tweedy. They come across as spoiled, arrogant, dismissive of each other, and manipulative. I think this wasn't intentional, but it left a sour taste in my mouth.

I initially thought Kot spent a bit too much time on Uncle Tupelo, but it is a good basis for understanding the turmoil within Wilco and why Tweedy makes the kind of music he's made in and out of Wilco, and why the record industry can't quite figure out Wilco. The story of UT and the whole Farrar-Tweedy relationship paints well the future divisions and jealousies in Wilco.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "chrisbooth34" on June 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
Part biography of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and part story of the band, this is an eminently readable book, packed with interesting stories and enough detail to satisfy even the most ardent Wilco fan. Kot was able to get almost everyone involved with Tweedy's career to talk -- including Jay Farrar, his bandmate in Uncle Tupelo, and Jay Bennett, his key collaborator in Wilco, who was kicked out of the band just after "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" was recorded -- and people are surprisingly honest. The book has a bit too much of a rock-journalism tone at times, and is almost painfully earnest. But if you love Wilco or Uncle Tupelo (or both), you'll find this a nice read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "rslinn" on June 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
As someone who likes Wilco, but is not a die-hard fan, I really appreciate the book for what it is: It is not a critic's review, it is not a fan-oriented biography-it is simply a superbly written, well-researched book about all that goes into the loaded concept that is "making music." Through his elegant prose, Kot delves into human relationships, band dynamics, artistic struggles, and identity-both personal and public. If you like Wilco, read this book. If you like music, read this book. Or, if you admire those moments when the creative process manages to overcome life's obstacles, read this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nom de Plume on January 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
As a die hard fan of Wilco, let me just say that I learned a lot about the group. It's nice to finally read something about Wilco that is honest, warts and all, and not just a rant about how the music industry has once again screwed over the little guy.
That said, however....
I really felt that Kot's rhetoric really distracted from the purpose of the book, which I can only assume was to present readers with an honest assesment of the band. The author seemed to have some opinions that led me to think that perhaps he was a bit more biased than he would like to think himself. Also, it bothered me that he took direct quotes from "I AM Trying To Break Your Heart" (a film by Sam Jones) and interpreted them COMPLETELY out of context, with the result of changing the meaning of the statement.
That's all, I guess. The anecdotes were really neat.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
After reading this book, I feel like I've received the secret decoder ring that unlocks the stories behind some of my all-time favorite artists. We all speculated on the reasons why UT split ... this book spells it out for fans with first-hand accounts from guys like Tweedy, Farrar, Hennemann and Heidorn. I seriously cannot put it down ...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Heidi J. Immel on June 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
Learning To Admire Jeff Tweedy more accurately portrays the content of this prodigious look into the singer/songwriter's history. Albeit Greg Kot's book is about Wilco as a whole, the reader prompty - and pleasantly - finds himself reliving Tweedy's high school days back in Belleville, IL. Kot winds through Tweedy's history in Uncle Tupelo, even thouching on the delicate subject of the, then overlooked by many, tension between Tweedy and bandmate Jay Farrar. Through the latter half of the book, Kot sees to it that the reader sees Tweedy slowly come into his own from Wilco's first day of existence to the present. From A.M. to A Ghost Is Born, Kot uncovers everything from ugly truths to moments of genius. Tweedy's personal life is touched on enough to know he loves his family, and withheld enough to keep the reader wondering. Kot goes in depth with details concerning the major merge between AOL and Warner, including several comments from past and present employees of Reprise Records. An easy read with a touching message from Tweedy. Overall a great book for Wilco fans.
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