Best Music Writing 2009 by Greil Marcus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the yearly collection of music writing, skewed toward rock and pop as a matter of course, but Marcus takes a wide look at music and includes several interesting selections. David Remnick's examination of jazz DJ Phil Schapp's mania for jazz musicians makes for a great cautionary tale for music obsessives. This article originally appeared in The New Yorker, and focuses on Schapp's WKCR radio program "Bird Flight" which takes a look at the life and music of Charlie Parker in absurd detail. Schapp's mania for music has taken over his life, and driven people into taking sides: some love him, some hate him, but no one can ignore him. John Sullivan's "Unknown Bards" from Harpers, uses a profile of John Fahey as the lynchpin for the examination of little known blues men and women of the 20's and 30's. Examining the lyrics and meaning of blues songs, Sullivan takes a very thoughtful look at the music. He also examines the way white critics view black musicians as well, making this a very valuable essay. Other interesting essays include a fascinating glimpse into the "Emo" culture of Mexico City and the discrimination the teenagers of that sub-culture face from their enemies. The mix of genres and writing styles can be a bit scattershot at times, but there really is something for everyone in the collection, and it is well worth a trip to the library to check it out.
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