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Highway 61 Revisited: The Tangled Roots of American Jazz, Blues, Rock, & Country Music 1st Edition

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0195154818
ISBN-10: 0195154819
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From Booklist

There is no stronger argument for America as a melting pot than its popular music. Nation music critic Santoro launches this collection of insightful, informative essays from the premise that post-World War II American pop music flows from the jazz of Louis Armstrong and the folk music of Woody Guthrie. He then demonstrates how subsequent artists commingled those two strains and added other elements to keep musical genres vital. Jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock embraced techno and hip-hop; country crooner Willie Nelson made his singing jazzy; Bob Dylan lurched from folk to rock and back again; and jazz singer Cassandra Wilson utterly transformed lightweight pop tunes. Even trailblazing comic Lenny Bruce incorporated a jazz sensibility into his stand-up routines. The nonmusical issues that inevitably bubble up in Santoro's discussions of music--marginalism, politics, and, most frequently, race--reflect concerns of the country in general. One issue that doesn't trouble Santoro is that long-standing bugaboo of cultural arbiters, authenticity; as he compellingly demonstrates, overwrought concerns about an artist's genuineness impede cultural vitality. Gordon Flagg
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Review


"An informed, thought-provoking book that will appeal to general readers and fans."--Library Journal


"At its best, the writing here is lively and insightful, describing the aerobatics of a Louis Armstrong solo or a death's-head rasp of Miles Davis's voice.... Santoro's pleasure in the music always shines through."--New York Times Book Review


"Santoro is at his best when he's leading with his heart."--JazzTimes


"Insightful, informative.... The nonmusical issues that inevitably bubble up in Santoro's discussions of music--marginalism, politics, and, most frequently, race--reflect concerns of the country in general. One issue that doesn't trouble Santoro is that longstanding bugaboo of cultural arbiters, authenticity; as he compellingly demonstrates, overwrought concerns about an artist's genuineness impede cultural vitality."--Booklist


"When he focuses on postwar jazz or on artists like Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, with whom he passionately identifies, Santoro is an engaged and insightful writer, and his wide-ranging tastes illuminate odd and interesting facets of his subjects."--Elijah Wald, The Washington Post Book World


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195154819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195154818
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.9 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #725,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Chris Luallen on February 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The book's jacket claims that Santoro will demonstrate "the many ways jazz has colored the entire range of American popular music". But this collection of writings isn't really a unified book about the influence of jazz. But rather a collection of 29 unrelated essays about various artists in different musical genres - country, rock and folk as well as jazz. He occasionally mentions the influnce of jazz on a particular artist. But certainly not all of them and it hardly serves as the major theme tying these separate artists together. Instead the essays tend to comment on particular albums along with a bit of biography and a few anecdotal tales.

Santoro writes better than most music journalists. But he makes numerous factual errors and gets a bit carried away with his constant literary and philosophical references. For example, he says that the Flying Burrito Brother's "Wheels" was about "the urge to jump in the car and get away, light out for the territory on the road like everyone from Huck Finn to the Beats, amid the existential questions tearing (Gram) Parsons, a shrunken Elijah, apart". The entire book is chock of passages like this, along with endless allusions to Hegel, Brecht, existentialism, etc. So if you prefer books without so much intellectual pretense than you should probably stay away from this one.

Jazz is Santoro's forte and I did enjoy his essays on artists such as Louis Armstrong and Max Roach. His essay on Bob Dylan was also good. But on other rock performers, such as the Band and Bruce Springsteen, he really didn't have much new to offer. I think Deadheads will be especially disappointed as he obviously knows less about the Grateful Dead than their legion of devoted fans does.

I would recommend this book for those unfamiliar but curious about jazz, as he does know his stuff on that style of music. But his writings on rock musicians, with the exception of Dylan, can be easily skipped.
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