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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.