Death in popular song comes in all shapes and sizes, but Thomson (Willie Nelson: The Outlaw) skids wildly from one genre and artist to another without pausing to draw larger conclusions. Divided into chapters covering everything from the common teenage penchant for suicide songs to the evolution of murder ballads and gangsta rap, Thomson displays considerable knowledge of music past and present, but his conclusions are often less than profound: death as a "hallmark of teen rebellion" (think James Dean); the Doors' "The End" signifying the late 1960s, Vietnam and "a world defined by death." In his most compelling section, entitled "Sweetness Follows: Into the Great Beyond" (from the R.E.M. songs of the same names), Thomson explores musicians' approach not to death itself, or even the journey toward it, but to what happens next. Though Thomson admits in the introduction that more death songs will be omitted than included, frustrated readers may wish he had taken his own advice and culled his examples to support a focused thesis. (Aug. 31)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
I Shot a Man in Reno: A History of Death by Murder, Suicide, Fire, Flood, Drugs, Disease, and General Misadventure, as Related in Popular Songby Graeme Thomson
Ask the gangsta rap devotee. Ask the grizzled blues fanatic and the bearded folk fan. Ask the goth and the indie kid. Ask and they will all tell you the same thing: death and popular music have forever danced hand-in-hand in funereal waltz time. The pop charts and the majority of radio stations' playlists may conspire to convince anyone listening that the world… See more details below
Ask the gangsta rap devotee. Ask the grizzled blues fanatic and the bearded folk fan. Ask the goth and the indie kid. Ask and they will all tell you the same thing: death and popular music have forever danced hand-in-hand in funereal waltz time. The pop charts and the majority of radio stations' playlists may conspire to convince anyone listening that the world spins on its axis to the tune of "I love you, you love me" and traditional matters of the heart. The rest of us know that we live in a world where red roses will one day become lilies and that death is the motor that drives the greatest and most exhilarating music of all.
"Death music" is not merely a byword for bookish solemnity, or the glorification of murder, drugs and guns. Over the course of the last hundred years it has also been about teenage girls weeping over their high school boyfriend's fatal car wreck; natural disasters sweeping whole communities away; the ever-evolving threat of disease; changing attitudes to old age; exhortations to suicide; the perfect playlist for a funeral; and the thorny question of what happens after the fat lady ceases to sing. Which means that for every "Black Angel's Death Song" there is a "Candle in the Wind," and for every "Cop Killer" there is "The Living Years." Death, like music, is a unifying force. There is something for every taste and inclination, from murderous vengeance to camp sentimentality and everything in between.
Drawing upon original and unique interviews with artists such as Mick Jagger, Richard Thompson, Ice-T, Will Oldham and Neil Finn among many others, I Shot a Man In Reno explores how popular music deals with death, and how it documents the changing reality of what death means as one grows older. It's as transfixing as a train wreck, and you won't be able to put it down. as an epilogue, I Shot A Man In Reno presents the reader with the 40 greatest death songs of all time, complete with a brief rationale for each, acting as a primer for the morbidly curious listener.
- Bloomsbury Academic
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- New Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.20(d)
Meet the Author
Graeme Thomson is a regular contributor to The Word, the Observer, Time Out, the Herald and the Sunday Herald. He is the author of Complicated Shadows: The Life and Music of Elvis Costello (Canongate, 2004) and Willie Nelson: The Outlaw (Virgin Books, 2006). He lives in Edinburgh.
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