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Arts & Culture

Book Nook: Shake It Up - Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z


The Library of America is a non-profit publisher that is devoted to the preservation of great American writing. This collection of material spanning from the early 1960's up to the present day tracks the explosion of numerous dynamic musical expressions that have swept across our nation over the last half century.

This volume opens with liner notes written by the late Nat Hentoff for Bob Dylan's second album. Four of the fifty writers featured in this collection, including Hentoff, have appeared on this radio show over the years.

There's some extraordinary writing here. Readers obtain an up close and personal view of Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind the Beach Boys, as he seemed to be losing his grip on reality. There's a stunning piece that was written for Life Magazine by a woman who was on tour across America with the band Led Zeppelin right before they became superstars.

We go inside the recording studio to observe as Otis Redding works out the lyrics for what would become his hit "Dock of Bay." There's a scalding essay written by a woman who got to know the doomed Jim Morrison, the front man for The Doors, before he ever became famous.

This volume is jammed with accounts of the lives and careers of iconic artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and Janis Joplin. The editors have chosen well. In this interview Jonathan Lethem describes how this project came about and what it took to fulfill their goals in publishing some of the best music writing of the period.

The Book Nook on WYSO is made possible by five local library systems in southwest Ohio:  the Greene County Public Library,  Washington-Centerville Public Library,  Clark County Public LibraryDayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.