January 1, 2009

Two books revisit late 1960s culture

Popular culture readers will find two new books just out as darkly fascinating. Both weave rock with political and social history, both specifically make reference to the Grateful Dead.
Peter Doggett’s There’s a Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars, and the Rise and Fall of the ‘60s (Canongate, 2008) looks at the period of 1965-72 when music “fueled the revolutionary movement with anthems and iconic imagery,” and the stars were asked to respond to, endorse and defend (sometimes reluctantly or defiantly) political action. Steve Morse in a Boston Globe review of Nov. 7, 2008 finds this book “brilliant,” “ambitious,” and “wrenching”.
Journalist Mikal Gilmore (whose pieces frequent Rolling Stone) has just published Stories Done: Writings on the 1960s and Its Discontents (Free Press, 2008), a collection of essays examining the lives of several of the era’s cultural figures. Often visionary, these figures may be publically engaging though personally tragic. As noted in a NY Times review of Dec. 30th, Gilmore has a “keen sense of the dark undertow of the American dream.”

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