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Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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Wilco: Learning How to Die Paperback – June 15, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (June 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767915585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767915588
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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By A Customer 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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
About a week after I finished this book, Jeff Tweedy received some props in Nick Offerman's new "21 Great Americans" book. Even though it's a bit tongue & cheek, I think Offerman efficiently explains why Tweedy is such a fascinating artist- stories of being true to oneself & one's artistry. Offerman- who has hosted Tweedy as a special guest on his TV sitco- loves Tweedy's commitment to true artistry, irrespective of the short term financial impact.

I too have always loved the music right from the beginning, but the Uncle Tupelo style, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot negotiations & online streaming, and the consistent growth/experimentation of Wilco are each fascinating stories for fans of music, art, and humanities.

In all those cases, Tweedy wanted to do what his vision called him to do. He didn't care what conventional wisdom suggested- he tried to stay true to his passion. I agree with Offerman that this is what makes the Tweedy story so compelling, in fact - in our 24x7 world of flash before substance- it does make Tweedy an American Hero.
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Being a Wilco fan and growing up in a town in southern Illinois not far from where Jeff Tweedy grew up, I bought this book primarily to read about Wilco and Uncle Tupelo's early days.

Overall, the book reads more or less like an extended magazine article, like something you'd read in Rolling Stone or Spin, except that it's 250 pages long. As a Wilco fan, I quite enjoyed reading about Jeff Tweedy's early life and some of the background stories to some of their songs. Since the book ends around the time of "A Ghost Is Born", it would be nice if Kot writes a follow-up book (or additional chapters to be added in newer versions of this one) about Wilco's more recent years.

However, if you are not a Wilco fan, I can't imagine that you'd get much out of this book.
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