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33 Revolutions per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, from Billie Holiday to Green Day Paperback – April 5, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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“A longtime music critic, Lynskey presents up-close details to ballast the book’s larger historical sweep.” (Los Angeles Times)
“Lynskey has a strong command of the music and its makers.” (Wall Street Journal)
“lovely writing…Let’s praise the agile, many-tentacled writer Mr. Lynskey can often be, because I loved bits of this book; you can pluck out the many tasty things like seeds from a pomegranate.” (New York Times)
“British music critic Dorian Lynskey offers a completely absorbing look at 33 songs, spanning seven decades and haling from five continents...Comprehensive and beautifully written.” (Booklist (starred review))
“[A] provocative, absorbing book” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“A must-read for militant-music lovers.” (The Root)
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Top Customer Reviews
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").Read more ›
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?Read more ›
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".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great book for anyone interested in the intersection of music and 20th century history. Highly recommended.Published 5 months ago by fnj
Ordered for my grandson in college, received in great condition.Published 17 months ago by Frank J. Vasti
No one interested in how pop-culture affects society, a vastly ignored subject by social scientists, can afford NOT to include this on their bookshelf. Read morePublished 18 months ago by DAW
Oh wow...a massive 688 tome about protest songs (including
American popular music) that does not even MENTION the
words "Eve Of Destruction" or "P.F. Read more
This book is half content, half propaganda. Aside from being incredibly biased and only covering the book's topic from a leftist point of view, the author takes every chance to... Read morePublished on June 14, 2014 by Amazon Customer
what I enjoed most about the book was the amazing and interesting stories beghind the songs. A history lesson of each song!Published on February 21, 2014 by Amazon Customer
I realize that 5 starts is the max, however, for me this book hit all the marks. It uses just over 30 songs spanning from the late 1930s until the early 2010's as catalysts for a... Read morePublished on February 21, 2014 by Kindle Customer
Music always had it's share of politics, and with these 33 songs written about, Guardian music writer Dorian Lynskey makes his book debut with "33 Revolutions," an anthology of all... Read morePublished on July 10, 2013 by Ben