Rock and roll's death has been forecast nearly since its birth; the country song "The Death of Rock and Roll" appeared in September 1956, showing that the music had already outraged a more conservative listening audience. Is Rock Dead? sets out to explore the varied and sometimes conflicting ways in which the death of rock has been discussed both within the discourse of popular music and American culture. If rock is dead, when did it die? Who killed it? Why do rock journalists lament its passing? Has its academic acceptance stabbed it in the back or resuscitated an otherwise lifeless corpse? Why is rock music the music that conservatives love to hate? On the other side of the coin, how have rock's biggest fans helped nail shut the coffin? Does rock feed on its own death-and-rebirth? Finally, what signs of life are there showing that rock, in fact, is surviving?
Is Rock Dead? will appeal to all those who take seriously the notion that rock is a serious musical form. It will appeal to students of popular music and culture, and all those who have ever spun a 45, cranked up the radio, or strummed an air guitar.
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Kevin J. Dettmar is Professor of English at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He writes on contemporary literature and popular culture, and has edited Reading Rock and Roll: Authenticity, Appropriation, Aesthetics (with William Richey)and has writes on rock music for The Chronicle of Higher Education, for which he is a regular contributor. He lives in Carbondale, Illinois.From Publishers Weekly:
Proclamations of the death of rock and roll have been voiced since its birth, and this engaging study probes their centrality to rock's conflicted self-image. Dettmar, a music writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education, examines the theme via the writings of music journalists and scholars, the Internet outpourings of disgruntled fans, the elegies for rock martyrs like Kurt Cobain and the curious sub-genre of rock songs about the death of rock. Through them he explores tenets of rock ideology, including the romantic cult of genius, the dichotomy between art and commerce, rock's need to define itself through rebellion against the pop Other, and boomers' tendency to conflate rock with their own nostalgia. No mourner, Dettmar gives a postmodernist embrace to rock's evolution from rap to Radiohead, welcomes the blurring of genre boundaries and celebrates kids today and their bricolage of samplings and iPod medleys. He too quickly dismisses the aesthetic arguments of the death-of-rock crowd as the usual unthinking disdain of elders for the music of youngsters, a criticism that almost mimics youth's equally witless retort that old folks just aren't with it. But Dettmar's contention that death is the health of rock is persuasive, and his witty prose and stimulating insights make him the life of the funeral. (Dec.)
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