Music Is History

Abrams. Oct. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781419751431. $29.99. MUSIC
Musician and producer Questlove examines the artists, songs, and albums that affected him artistically and personally, from 1971 (the year of his birth) on. Each section is devoted to a different year and starts with a list (he loves lists) of important cultural events, then focuses on a noteworthy track. Questlove does more than just offer musical analysis: he puts the songs into context and digs into deep cuts and artists sometimes lost to history as he considers how we create history and how we think about popular music and culture. Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” becomes a jumping-off point for analyzing generation gaps; Living Colour’s response to the racist Guns N’ Roses song “One in a Million” leads to an exploration of race, music, and history. Questlove’s playlists (“Singles I Actually Dig”; “Put You in My Mix”) will make readers want to stop and listen—perhaps even on a Walkman, which was how Questlove first heard Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (the focus of 1988).
VERDICT This inspired volume continues Questlove’s thoughtful and thought-provoking work and is an enduring analysis of the effects of music on personal, political, and cultural histories.
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