33 Revolutions per Minute

A History of Protest Songs, from Billie Holiday to Green Day
33 Revolutions per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, from Billie Holiday to Green Day. Ecco: HarperCollins. Apr. 2011. c.656p. photogs. discog. bibliog. ISBN 9780061670152. pap. $19.99. MUSIC
In his first book, British music critic Lynskey delves into the protest song movement from 1939 to the present. Dividing the time into discrete sections, he focuses on particular examples but also provides information on related songs. The author traces the historical context, using valuable contemporary sources and quotations from the artists. We encounter both the familiar (e.g., Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land") and the more obscure as Lynskey explores the repertoire, from jazz to folk to punk to hip-hop and beyond, and its effect on society. He wisely does not limit himself unduly, including several songs from outside the United States, and he treats sensitive topics in a balanced, careful manner. The extensive bibliography, list of songs and albums mentioned, and 100 additional recommended songs are useful resources, and a short chapter on earlier protest songs helps ground the narrative.
VERDICT Readers who lived through these decades will respond to familiar artists and songs, and Lynskey's flowing prose and well-turned phrases bring the times to life. He is especially adept at integrating the songs into the wider social milieu, which extends the appeal to cultural historians as well as music lovers.

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