Two generations of American music lovers have grown up listening with Robert Christgau, attuned to his inimitable blend of judgment, acuity, passion, erudition, wit, and caveat emptor. His writings, collected here, constitute a virtual encyclopedia of popular music over the past fifty years. Whether honoring the originators of rock and roll, celebrating established artists, or spreading the word about newer ones, the book is pure enjoyment, a pleasure that takes its cues from the sounds it chronicles.
A critical compendium of points of interest in American popular music and its far-flung diaspora, this book ranges from the 1950s singer-songwriter tradition through hip-hop, alternative, and beyond. With unfailing style and grace, Christgau negotiates the straits of great music and thorny politics, as in the cases of Public Enemy, blackface artist Emmett Miller, KRS-One, the Beastie Boys, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He illuminates legends from pop music and the beginnings of rock and rollGeorge Gershwin, Nat King Cole, B. B. King, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presleyand looks at the subtle transition to just plain “rock” in the music of Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and others. He praises the endless vitality of Al Green, George Clinton, and Neil Young. And from the Rolling Stones to Sonic Youth to Nirvana, from Bette Midler to Michael Jackson to DJ Shadow, he shows how money calls the tune in careers that aren’t necessarily compromised by their intercourse with commerce.
Rock and punk and hip-hop, pop and world beat: this is the music of the second half of the twentieth century, skillfully framed in the work of a writer whose reach, insight, and perfect pitch make him one of the major cultural critics of our time.
Wiity, insightful, savvy, and unafraid to bash pretenders and hangers-on, [Christgau] is usually right on target with his criticism…Christgau gives well-reasoned, often provocative insights into all his subjects, from Elvis Presley to the Clash, Patti Smith and Lou Reed to Nirvana, and at book's end, his Bog Three of George Clinton, Al Green, and Neil Young. To his credit, he's also chosen to scrutinize some fascinating lesser-knowns of twentieth-century rock like Andy Fairweather-Low, Freddy Johnson, Marshall Crenshaw, and Loudon Wainwright III. If you're serious about rock-n-roll, you can't do better than pay close attention to Christgau's musings here.
Along with Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau is the writer who has best explained what the rest of us intuitively understood about the last thirty years of rock and roll but couldn't quite say. As is entirely evident in this brilliant and idiosyncratic survey, before anyone else Christgau identified the meaning in the maelstrom of Exile on Main Street, the profane ecstasy of Al Green's voice, Cobain's cry from the approaching oblivion--and in so doing didn't just monitor the music and map it, but changed it.
Bob Christgau has been writing about rock music for over twenty-five years. He moves gracefully from the down-and-dirty to the highfalutin, the ironic to the satiric, and from low comedy to high seriousness. A joy to read, Grown Up All Wrong is the product of a serious mind tackling a worthy subject over a sustained period of time. It is a fascinating meditation on rock music and the rock years. Jon Landau, author of It's Too Late to Stop Now
Wiity, insightful, savvy, and unafraid to bash pretenders and hangers-on, [Christgau] is usually right on target with his criticism…Christgau gives well-reasoned, often provocative insights into all his subjects, from Elvis Presley to the Clash, Patti Smith and Lou Reed to Nirvana, and at book's end, his Bog Three of George Clinton, Al Green, and Neil Young. To his credit, he's also chosen to scrutinize some fascinating lesser-knowns of twentieth-century rock like Andy Fairweather-Low, Freddy Johnson, Marshall Crenshaw, and Loudon Wainwright III. If you're serious about rock-n-roll, you can't do better than pay close attention to Christgau's musings here. Frank-John Hadley, Experience Hendrix
Dr. Donna Gaines
With the relentlessness of a searing hot guitar, 'the Dean' peels away the mythologies that blur music, politics and economics. With incomparable grace, wit and and uncompromising critical sensibility, Christgau offers a glimpse of beauty and the beast--the sacred and the profane, dancing in the moonlight, sha la la la.
Bob Christgau is the pure article. Most rock critics, like most employees of Tower Records, end up mistaking themselves for the rockers they revere. Most of the rest promote themselves as professores. Christgau never falls victim to either of these fatal conceits. He is always our guy, the fellow geekoid standing beside us at the concert. The guy without the backstage pass, who is having a hell of a good time, anyway. Later, he will go home and write something smart and heartfelt, witty and weird about the experience. This earns him the privilege of more music. That's purity, and we are its beneficiaries. Dave Hickey, author of Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy
John F. Szwed
It was Robert Christgau's writing above all others' which gave voice to the seriousness and passion so many of us felt about music in the late 60's and early 70's. And now, when that passion has begun to ebb and might otherwise slip into torpor and false nostalgia rationalized by quotidian distraction and fallen ideals, Christgau refuses to let us look away, and remains our pop conscience. Crucial reading, as always. John F. Szwed, Yale University
Robert Christgau has no peer as a rock critic, a profession he helped invent, and one he has lovingly developed since the nineteen sixties. He combines intellectual gravitas with a teenager's passion for music. Through some magic of poetic prose, Christgau exudes rigorous taste without ever becoming a snob. He rejoices in all musical genres, never loses sight of the rebellion and fun and poetry in music and has given us an extraordinary and unique overview of rock and roll. Grown Up All Wrong made me feel young again yet inexplicably okay about being middle aged. A+! Danny Goldberg, Chairman and CEO, Mercury Records Group
Ha ha. The boot is on the other foot now. A-. (That minus always kept me looking over my shoulder.) Jon Langford, The Mekons
Just when you think he's got it all wrong, he gets it right...sometimes. With hyper-drone vocabulary Xgau decodes rock and roll life as valid social study. It's infuriating, fascinating and, quite often, illuminating. And it's mostly about men. Duh." Sonic Youth, semi-popular band
Not knowing Sylvester from Coolio, I'm inclined to enthuse about Robert Christgau's intelligence, humor, and style, which straddles the vernacular and the high-falutin like nobody's business. But when I read his discourses on music I do know (more than half of Grown Up All Wrong, happily), all that recedes before the fact that he is a sage critic who breathes music and can get to the nub of any performance, allowing the reader to hear almost as insightfully as he does. Gary Giddins, author of Visions of Jazz: The First Century
Robert Christgau's Grown Up All Wrong is full of faith: In pop music, in love, in America, and--this is the best part--a faith in his own opinions. It's fearless. Sarah Vowell, author of Radio On
Robert Christgau is the dean of American rock criticism, not because he's opinionated (which he is), contentious (which he is), and witty (which he is). He is a dean because whenever he writes he teaches about pop culture, music, and America. Nelson George, author of The Death of Rhythm and Blues
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