Book Notes: Music

Every now and then I put together a blog post where I list a bunch of books I've noticed in the library, book store, or on the web. Sometimes I include notes. This file just collects all of them so I can try to avoid repeating myself.


Hisham D Aidi: Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture (paperback, 2014, Vintage): Explores musical subcultures among Muslim youth around the world, primarily hip-hop but also rock, reggae, and more traditional forms like Gnawa. Also seems to know the history where bits of traditional Muslim music worked into blues, jazz, and other genres we don't associate with the Muslim world. I see no mention of metal here, but it's worth noting Mark LeVine: Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam (paperback, 2008, Three Rivers Press).

Iain Anderson, This Is Our Music: Free Jazz, the Sixties, and American Culture (2006, University of Pennsylvania Press).

John Broven: Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers (2010, University of Illinois Press): Big book (640 pp), based on 100 interviews with industry makers and shakers. Author is a consultant to Ace Records in the UK, high up on the list of reissue labels I wish would send me records.

Frank Büchmann-Mĝller: Someone to Watch Over Me: The Life and Music of Ben Webster (2006, University of Michigan Press): Career-spanning biography, one of the all-time tenor sax greats, started in Kansas City and wound up in Copenhagen.

David Byrne: How Music Works (2012, McSweeney's): Talking Heads frontman, Luaka Bop honcho, applies his experience to a big topic, although I can imagine lots of different tangents for "works" to take off in. Most likely: how music works for me. Still, a topic of some interest.

Robert Christgau: Going Into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man (2015, Dey Street Books): Memoir from childhood growing up in Queens through college at Dartmouth and several newspaper jobs through his stretch as music editor at the Village Voice, ending in the early 1980s. Disclosure: he's a friend, and I make a couple brief appearances in the book, plus one in the acknowledgments. More prominent in the book is his wife, Carola Dibbell, who it should be noted has a new novel out, The Only Ones (paperback, 2015, Two Dollar Radio).

Robert Christgau: Book Reports: A Music Critic on His First Love, Which Was Reading (paperback, 2019, Duke University Press): Second collection of essays, following up Is It Still Good to Ya? Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017 (paperback, 2018, Duke University Press) with a selection of book reviews -- some on music history and criticism, some on fiction, some loosely grouped as "Bohemia Meets Hegemony" and "Culture Meets Capital."

Harvey G Cohen: Duke Ellington's America (2010, University of Chicago Press): Big biography of Ellington (720 pp), 1899-1974, with sideward glances at the country that change around him.

Brian Coleman: Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies (paperback, 2007, Villard): Expanded version of the author's Rakim Told Me: Wax Facts Straight from the Original Artists -- The '80s with short essays that provide necessary background info on critical hip-hop albums. Probably the essential music book of the year. I only put off buying it because I was hoping to get a freebie. Hasn't happened, and I haven't had time.

Richard Cook/Brian Morton: The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (8th edition, paperback, 2006, Penguin Press).

Richard Cook/Brian Morton: The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings: Ninth Edition (paperback, 2008, Penguin): New editions have been coming out every two years. This one caught me by surprise, probably because I haven't finished listing the changes in the Eighth Edition. This has long been the essential guide to recorded jazz; even for experts it remains invaluable for covering Europe better than any other guide, and for keeping a balance that spans trad jazz and the avant-garde. I found more good records in it than any other guide I have. Still, I've had more and more nits to pick with the last couple of editions. Not sure if that marks a change, or it just means that I'm becoming less suggestable as I listen to more and more stuff before reading the reviews. Also, note that each edition loses about as much as it gains. I keep all eight on a fat shelf, and will have to find room for one more.

John Corbett: Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music (2019, University of Chicago Press): Music writer and impressario (owns his own reissue label), reminiscences about 4-11 records from each year of the 1970s -- a pretty hip selection, many (even obscurities) I would have picked, probably more jazz than I knew at the time. Starts with the Kinks' "Lola," ends 1979 with the Raincoats' cover of same (plus one 1980 album, Grace Jones' Warm Leatherette).

Stanley Crouch, Considering Genius: Writings on Jazz (2007-04, Perseus).

Elizabeth Currid: The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art, and Music Drive New York City (2007, Princeton University Press): Something on the arts business in NYC. Not sure how good on either arts or business.

Lisa E Davenport: Jazz Diplomacy: Promoting America in the Cold War Era (2009, University Press of Mississippi): Short book (208 pp) on an interesting story. Looks like Dave Brubeck on the cover. Jazz, of course, became very popular around the world, and jazz musicians became much more popular in Europe than they were in the US -- which still didn't do much for the reputation of the US government.

Morris Dickstein: Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression (2009, WW Norton): Big survey (624 pp), but a big subject, especially with all the music and literature. Helped that the New Deal made a point of supporting artists, and that they managed to do it while getting and giving relatively little flack.

Ani DiFranco: No Walls and the Recurring Dream: A Memoir (2019, Viking; paperback, 2020, Penguin Press): DIY folksinger from Buffalo, released her own records and made a business out of that, which she still regards as a pretty weird thing to do. I have a cousin who moved to Buffalo and knows her -- my cousin's family shows up here and there in the book, and I figure I probably caught a glance of Ani as a girl, long before I started hearing about how amazing she was, which was long before you did, so I've always felt a bit of a personal connection. Also I figure it's good for me to read the occasional memoir, especially of people growing up political, as I may write one myself some day. I found the early family/city parts fascinating, the music/industry less so. I suspect she does too.

Geoff Dyer: But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz (1996, North Point Press).

Simon Frith, ed: The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock (2007-02, Cambridge University Press).

Gary Giddins: Bing Crosby; A Pocketful of Dreams: The Early Years, 1903-1940 (2001, Little Brown; paperback, 2002, Back Bay Books).

Gary Giddins, Natural Selection: Gary Giddins on Comedy, Film, Music, and Books (2006; paperback, 2008, Oxford University Press): Less on music, I think, and much already familiar. One of the great critics of our times.

Gary Giddins/Scott DeVeaux: Jazz (2009, WW Norton): This takes a bunch of famous jazz performances and tears them apart measure by measure, sometimes note by note. The technical level is way too much for me, but Giddins is one of the essential critics of our age, so I figured I had to pick up a copy. The records are also available in a 4-CD, evidently drawing on the Sony catalog, running about $60. I'd be real surprised if there's anything there I don't have somewhere, so it might be a good mixtape project -- when/if I get the nerve to delve deeper.

Gary Giddins: Warning Shadows: Home Alone With Classic Cinema (paperback, 2010, WW Norton): Mostly a collection of short DVD reviews. Best known as a jazz critic, Giddins has dabbled in film reviews for quite a while.

Ted Gioia: Music: A Subversive History (2019, Basic Books).

Richard Goldstein: Another Little Piece of My Heart: My Life of Rock and Revolution in the '60s (2015, Bloomsbury USA): A memoir by a good candidate for America's first rock critic, who started writing "Pop Eye" for the Village Voice in 1966. By the time I started reading him he was mostly writing about politics, which was fine with me.

Farah Jasmine Griffin/Salim Washington: Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever (2008, Thomas Dunne): An important group, especially once they picked up on George Russell's modal thing and recorded Kind of Blue, but both key musicians did much more pathbreaking work later. Maybe you could say that separately they finally broke through the limits of cool. Griffin has a previous book on Billy Holiday: If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday.

Howard Hampton: Born in Flames: Termite Dreams, Dialectical Fairy Tales, and Pop Apocalypses (2007, Harvard University Press): Big (496 pages) collection of film and music reviews. As I recall, Hampton and I wound up inadvertently reviewing the same William Parker album for the Village Voice once. [Paperback April 15]

Richard Hell: I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography (2013, Ecco): One of the key musicians in the mid-1970s New York rock revolution, originally a founder of Television, later ran the Void-Oids. Seems to be a good writer as well as a focal point.

Will Hermes: Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever (2011, Faber & Faber): 1973-77, basically the New York Dolls to Talking Heads, although there was also disco and funk and salsa and some jazz regrouping in downtown lofts -- not sure the author has the latter covered. I moved to NYC to hit the tail end of all that. I don't recall Hermes being around then, but he must have worked his way back there many times.

Dave Hickey: The Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty (1993; revised and expanded, 2009, University of Chicago Press): I think of him as a rock critic, the author of Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy, but his interests are broader. Something of a manifesto.

Jessica Hopper: The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic (paperback, 2015, Featherproof Books): She mostly writes for Pitchfork, which I don't read enough to have any sense of who she is or what she likes. Pitchfork's business model is based on the ideas that bits are cheap and so are writers, so make the latter crank out plenty of the former -- always more than it takes to glaze my eyes over. Her title is provocative, and not just because Ellen Willis and Lillian Roxon are dead, or because others like Ann Powers went straight into books without bothering to gather up their numerous short pieces. Still, the main reason I mention this book is to throw in a plug for Carol Cooper's Pop Culture Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race: Selected Critical Essays (1979-2001), which belies Hopper's title.

Charles Kaiser: 1968 in America: Music, Politics, Chaos, Counterculture, and the Shaping of a Generation (paperback, 1997, Grove Press): Amazon reader: "this book gives great insight to the days of rage and the background leading up to the reign of terror in America." What? Mixed reports on the music part. Mark Kurlansky's 1968: The Year That Rocked the World covers the same ground plus more international.

Sean Kay: Rockin' the Free World! How the Rock & Roll Revolution Changed America and the World (2016, Rowman & Littlefield; paperback, 2018, RL).

Peter La Chapelle: I'd Fight the World: A Political History of Old-Time, Hillbilly, and Country Music (paperback, 2019, University of Chicago Press).

Steve Lake/Paul Griffiths, eds.: Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM (2007, Granta): Big coffee table book, with cover illustrations and miscellaneous info for some/most/all[?] of ECM's 2000 or so releases -- jazz with a pastoral or chamber bent/classical music for new agers. Important label, possibly the most important of the last 40 years.

Jonathan Lethem: The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc. (2011, Doubleday): A novelist based in Brooklyn dumps off scattered essays, mostly lit, some about music. Poking around Amazon's "look inside" I can't get a sense of the whole, but one fragment on "Disnial" is certainly sharp.

Jonathan Lethem: Talking Heads' Fear of Music (paperback, 2012, Continuum): Part of their 33 1/3 series of short books, where a writer picks out a single record and riffs on it. This is number 86, a rare case with a celebrity author. [Mu]

Mark LeVine: Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam (paperback, 2008, Three Rivers Press): Historian, rock guitarist, political activist, sometimes gets his careers confused, although few Middle East scholars are more insightful, or interesting.

Daniel J Levitin: The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature (2008, Dutton): Follow-up to the author's This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, which I bought but haven't read. Six song classes: friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion, love.

George E Lewis: A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (2008, University of Chicago Press): Big book (672 pages), an essential slice of jazz history that has rarely been written about before. Lewis is a brilliant avant-garde trombonist who's worked with most of these people. Should be a fine historian as well. [May 1]

George E Lewis: A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (2008; paperback, 2009, University of Chicago Press): Most likely a major book on the development of avant-garde jazz in the 1970s, told by a major figure in his own right.

Allen Lowe: That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History, 1900-1950 (paperback, 1999, Music and Arts Program of America).

Allen Lowe: God Didn't Like It: Electric Hillbillies, Singing Preachers, and the Beginning of Rock and Roll, 1950-1970 (paperback, 2013, Constant Sorrow Press).

Howard Mandel: Miles, Ornette, Cecil: Jazz Beyond Jazz (2008. Routledge): Davis, Coleman, Taylor; important musicians, an interesting sequence in that they substantially overlap but peeled off on different tangents. More interested in Taylor, personally, although he's the odd player out in one regard: the only one of the three not to experiment in fusion.

Wynton Marsalis/Geoffrey Ward: Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life (2008, Random House): Sounds like a self-help book, which doesn't sound like a very good idea. Marsalis certainly knows much about jazz history, and is a capable and entertaining educator, but he also has some blind spots and limitations -- there is a lot more to jazz than he admits, and his art suffers accordingly. Ward is a "with" credit here. He wrote the Ken Burns books, so he's dealt with Marsalis before.

Robert Matheu/Brian J Bowe, eds: Creem: America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine (2007, Collins): Coffee-table book culled from the 1969-88 Detroit-based rock rag. My impression is that it's long on trashy features but short on criticism. I read it for the reviews, and would have written for it if Lester Bangs hadn't quit too soon. Afterwards it wasn't the same.

Michaelangelo Matos: The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America (2015, Dey Street Books): The one critic I try to follow regularly for his insights into techno or electronica or EDM or whatever you call it -- I still remain blissfully ignorant of the distinctions between the dozen or so subgenres my favorite Detroit-area record store uses. So I grabbed this as soon as it came out, and some day hope to get around to it.

Chris McGowan/Ricardo Pessanha: The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil (revised edition, paperback, 2008, Temple University Press): New edition of one of the more highly regarded surveys of Brazilian music. The sort of thing I ought to be reading to improve my spotty knowledge of one of the most important music scenes in the world.

John McWhorter: All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can't Save Black America (2008, Gotham): Of course it can't, but with plaudits from Shelby Steele and Stanley Crouch one might easily be tempted to believe the opposite. McWhorter has written several books on language which look interesting (e.g., Word on the Street: Debunking the Myth of "Pure" Standard English), and several books on black culture and politics which don't (e.g., Doing Our Own Thing: The Degeneration of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care).

Ingrid Monson: Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa (paperback, 2010, Oxford University Press).

Tom Moon: 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die (paperback, 2008, Workman): Big list book, part of a series like 1,000 Places to See Before You Die that that I haven't paid any attention to, figuring I'm so short on time the effort would be hopeless, and not particularly enjoying the reminder. Actually, 1,000 recordings is relatively doable: I'd be surprised if I'm not already more than halfway there, unless the classical shit gets totally out of hand. There's also a rival 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, edited by Robert Dimery, which is older but only in hard cover, assembled by a committee of critics I've never heard of, and is much more rock-centric.

Robert Palmer: Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer (2009, Scribner): Posthumous anthology, edited by Anthony DeCurtis. Not sure what all is in here, but Palmer is one of the more important historian/critics of early rock and roll and its precursors -- Palmer's Deep Blues is one of the best known books on the subject.

Devon Powers: Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism (paperback, 2013, University of Massachusetts Press): Focuses on the early work of Richard Goldstein and Robert Christgau at the Village Voice and the founding of rock crit as a serious (as well as fun) intellectual activity. Wasn't much later when I gave up on the Frankfurt School and read little but rock crit.

Ben Ratliff: The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music (2008, Times Books): New York Times jazz critic. I pretty much never read him, but not because I have a real opinion about his criticism. (His Jazz: A Critic's Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings has a lot of obvious picks, a few inspired ones, and none more dubious than Wynton Marsalis.) Not sure if these are verbatim interviews or just distillations. Ratliff's Coltrane: The Story of a Sound is also now out in paperback.

Marcus Reeves: Somebody Scream!: Rap Music's Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power (paperback, 2009, Faber & Faber): Historian, tries to link put draw out the context rap artists work out of, from Grandmaster Flash to Jay-Z and Eminem.

Simon Reynolds: Bring the Noise: 20 Years of Writing About Hip Rock and Hip Hop (paperback, 2012, Soft Skull Press): Scattered essays and interviews -- looks like a reprint of his 2010 Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews. Also wrote Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past (paperback, 2011, Faber & Faber); Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 (paperback, 2006, Penguin); Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture (paperback, 1999, Routledge); and, with Joy Press, The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock 'n' Roll (1995, Harvard University Press).

Gene Rizzo: The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time: Ranking, Analysis and Photos (2005, Hal Leonard): I'm a sucker for list books, even though they're bound to be arbitrary (hence wrong). Key example here is the #5 ranking for Monty Alexander (after Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Art Tatum). Amazon's readers preferred Robert L Doerschuk's 88: The Giants of Jazz Piano.

John Robb: Punk Rock: An Oral History (paperback, 2007, Ebury Press): Well, obviously, interviews with punk rock musicians -- UK division, 100 or so (576 pages). Presumably not the same John Robb who wrote Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization. I don't know enough to decide whether the latter book is misguided or just nuts.

Alex Ross: Listen to This (2010, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Scatteed essays by The New Yorker's classical music critic, although he might quibble since he doesn't approve of the term. Some pieces on Ellington and Chinese music peck at the mold. Seems like a critic I should take more interest in, especially since his The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is so well regarded.

Randall Sandke: Wher the Dark and the Light Folks Meet: Race and the Mythology, Politics, and Business of Jazz (2010, Scarecrow Press): Randy to his friends and fans, plays some serious trumpet on several dozen good-to-great records, including examinations of Bix Beiderbecke -- he named his son Bix -- and Count Basie. Tackles the nasty issue of race, which runs deep in every aspect of jazz history except for the music, which pretty much transcended race, and pointed the way so we could too.

Rob Sheffield: Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time (paperback, 2007, Three Rivers Press): I went through a stage in the mid-'70s when I read nothing but rock crit, then a few years later got to where I could read virtually none of it. Sometimes I think I should at least try to keep up, and Sheffield is one of the guys I recognize as worth following. But I don't.

Rob Sheffield: Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut (2010, Dutton): One of the more successful, probably because he's one of the better, rock critics of his generation, which unfortunately was the one that grew up in the 1980s, about the only excuse anyone has yet come up with for taking Duran Duran seriously. Turned out a previous book, Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time. Were I still in my twenties, I'd be reading him like I read Paul Williams and Ed Ward back when I actually was. Hard to find time now.

Alyn Shipton: A New History of Jazz (2nd revised updated ed, paperback, 2008, Continuum): Big (804 pp) book on a big subject, originally published 2001 (an even bigger 965 pp). Original cover looks semi-familiar, but I don't see it anywhere handy.

Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff: Black Culture and the New Deal: The Quest for Civil Rights in the Roosevelt Era (2009, University of North Carolina Press): Roosevelt's record on civil rights should be seen as disgraceful, although his general thrust toward greater economic equality did materially bring us closer to a viable civil rights movement. Not sure how much of that this book covers, but it does focus on Federal Arts Projects at a time when blacks increasingly distinguished themselves in the arts -- Duke Ellington and Richard Wright being well known examples.

Gary Stewart: Rumba on the River: A History of Popular Music of the Two Congos (paperback, 2004, Verso): Saw this cited in the liner notes to Tabu Ley Rochereau's The Voice of Lightness. Not a lot of good books on African music, but this looks like it might be very useful.

Ned Sublette: Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004, Chicago Review Press).

Ned Sublette: The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square (2008, Lawrence Hill Books): A history of New Orleans, presumably with a strong focus on the music, since Sublette is a musician, and his history of Cuban Music, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo is masterful. I'm still expecting a second volume on Cuba, since the first one shut down in 1953.

Ned Sublette: The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans (2009, Lawrence Hill): I'd rather he write that promised second volume of Cuba and Its Music, but I have his musical history of New Orleans awaiting my attention on the shelf, and I imagine he finds interesting things to say about recent (pre-Katrina) New Orleans as well.

John Swenson: New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans (2011; paperback, 2012, Oxford University Press): A rock critic of my generation goes to post-Katrina New Orleans and finds inspiration in the music -- where else would one work?

John Szwed: So What: The Life of Miles Davis (2002, Simon & Schuster).

John Szwed, Crossovers: Essays on Race, Music, and American Culture (2007-01, University of Pennsylvania Press, paperback).

John Szwed: Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World (2010, Penguin): One of the best jazz historians working, has previously done biographies of Sun Ra and Miles Davis. Lomax wasn't a folkie so much as the guy who invented the mold: he came early enough he could imagine recording a world unspoiled by modern technology like his own recordings. Thought doing so was politically significant too.

John Szwed: Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth (2015, Viking): Biography of the legendary jazz singer, timed to come out 100 years after Holiday's birth. Szwed has written excellent biographies of Sun Ra, Miles Davis, and Alan Lomax, as well as the essential primer, Jazz 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Jazz (2000).

Terry Teachout: Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (2009, Houghton Mifflin): Major new biography of Armstrong, always a subject of interest and fascination.

Peter Thall: What They'll Never Tell You About the Music Business, Revised and Updated Edition: The Myths, the Secrets, the Lies (and a Few Truths) (2006, Billboard Books): Previous edition 2002. Many details on the business side of music, as if that matters. If I wanted to go there, and I might if I snagged a serious music blog gig, this would be one of my first investments.

Sandy Tolan: Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land (2015, Bloomsbury USA): Author of one of the best books ever on the Israel/Palestine conflict -- The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (2007) -- returns with another very specific, concrete story of Palestinian and Israeli musicians transcending the conflict through "the power of music," but also "determination and vision."

Jen Trynin, Everything I'm Cracked Up to Be: A Rock & Roll Fairy Tale (2007-02, Harcourt, paperback).

Eric Weisbard: Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music (paperback, 2014, University of Chicago Press): As I recall, pop/rock seemed like a single mass culture in the early 1970s, but even then radio stations were coming up with various genre/formats to attract desired advertising niches, and by the '80s it was all over: one could listen to pop/rock all the time and never come across a top-ten single (excepting Madonna). In retrospect, other genres had split off well before the 1970s, and each makes for its own peculiar view into its own slice of the culture. This book looks back on the main ones, with the last chapter's post-millennial fragmentation the only one I have no sense of.

Bob W White: Rumba Rules: The Politics of Dance Music in Mobutu's Zaire (paperback, 2008, Duke University Press): Mobutu loved to see his people sing and dance. Kept them from paying too much attention while he stole the country blind.

Ellen Willis: The Essential Ellen Willis (paperback, 2014, University of Minnesota Press): A pioneering feminist polemicist who early on wrote some notable rock criticism, since her death in 2006 her daughter, Nona Willis Aronowitz, has done a fine job of collecting her various writings for posterity -- before this general collection there appeared Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music (2011), and reissues of Beginning to See the Light: Sex, Hope, and Rock-and-Roll and No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays (both 2012, all University of Minnesota Press paperbacks). I've never been much of a fan -- partly because she seemed to be too glib about war for a leftist, partly because of a tone I recall in her feminism, like wrapping oneself in a flag -- but I don't doubt that these books are chock full of interesting insights.

Stephen Witt: How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy (2015, Viking): Business writer focuses on how file sharing works and rose in prominence, undermining the recorded music industry.

James Wolcott: Critical Mass: Four Decades of Essays, Reviews, Hand Grenades, and Hurrahs (2013, Doubleday): Bio doesn't mention Village Voice, where I know him from, but the music reviews go back that far, and are complemented by pieces on film and TV, books, other things a literate raconteur would bump into over the last 30-40 years.