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The Rise and Fall of Popular Music: A Narrative History from the Renaissance to Rock 'n' Roll [Paperback]

Donald Clarke
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 15 1996
Popular music--a melding of folk and commerical music with its roots in Renaissance Europe--has reached both zenith and nadir in this century. So argues music critic and historian Donald Clarke in his broad and vibrant history. Navigating the many streams that flow into the river of pop, his chronicle matches authoritative perspective with controversial and convincing commentary.

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3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars unfounded opinions Jan. 17 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The premise of this book was largely in editorial fashion. I accept this as his perogative however his views were often weakly supported and as a result unfounded. For example he lunches into a discussion about the racial struggles in the music industry. At the end of this section on rap music the reader only comes away with the taste of prejudism in her mouth (and I don't even advocate ganster rap music). The two stars I gave in the rating above were for the presentation of a comprehensive history which I respect. This book is required for a class of mine at the University of Toronto but the material is much too slanted for use as an introduction to the history of popular music. Therefore if you already have a good knowledge in this area and are intersted in new perspectives then this would be the book for you. Otherwise, I would reccomend you read something else first.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Decline and Fall from Prez to Poop Feb. 1 2000
Format:Paperback
This is not a bad overview of American popular music. Mr. Clarke is clearly a jazz fan who regards the days of Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, et al. as the high point from which we have declined, and sees the present state of commercial popular music as a "culture of musical impoverishment." The career of A&R man Mitch Miller, the evil genius whose venality and lack of taste was a landmark in adult pop's precipitous decline in the 1950s, is touchingly portrayed. I think Clarke's conclusions are correct; however, this is a matter of taste to some degree. Many will think differently, no doubt. Read it anyway, along with Will Friedwald's history of Jazz Singing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Survey Jan. 19 2002
Format:Paperback
I particularly liked the start of this book that gave the origins of popular music from Europe.
The author dwells a bit too much on the details of Jazz but his premise is well taken and he shows how and why pop music has become grunge, rap and muzak. He recognizes the originality in performers like the early Elvis and Hank Williams even though he regrets the decline of the real learned Jazz musicians. He shows how the corporate entities and listener surveys have destroyed a promising genre if it can be called that.
Interesting that the Internet seems to be allowingl real musicians to connect with the public directly without needing the middle corporate ground.
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4.0 out of 5 stars From Art to Product Feb. 13 2002
Format:Paperback
This is a fascinating book going back to the origins of popular music forms, going through jazz and blues and getting to today's pop music.
A main theme of the book appears to be that the further the music gets away from its roots, the less musical value it has. And then today too much music has just become product to sell with little musical value.
Sometimes a bit too opinionated, but mainly an excellent analysis of the of the fall of pop music.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decline and Fall from Prez to Poop Feb. 1 2000
By S. Dougherty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is not a bad overview of American popular music. Mr. Clarke is clearly a jazz fan who regards the days of Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, et al. as the high point from which we have declined, and sees the present state of commercial popular music as a "culture of musical impoverishment." The career of A&R man Mitch Miller, the evil genius whose venality and lack of taste was a landmark in adult pop's precipitous decline in the 1950s, is touchingly portrayed. I think Clarke's conclusions are correct; however, this is a matter of taste to some degree. Many will think differently, no doubt. Read it anyway, along with Will Friedwald's history of Jazz Singing.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Survey Jan. 19 2002
By "jazzyjack" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I particularly liked the start of this book that gave the origins of popular music from Europe.
The author dwells a bit too much on the details of Jazz but his premise is well taken and he shows how and why pop music has become grunge, rap and muzak. He recognizes the originality in performers like the early Elvis and Hank Williams even though he regrets the decline of the real learned Jazz musicians. He shows how the corporate entities and listener surveys have destroyed a promising genre if it can be called that.
Interesting that the Internet seems to be allowingl real musicians to connect with the public directly without needing the middle corporate ground.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Art to Product Feb. 13 2002
By Bernie Koenig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a fascinating book going back to the origins of popular music forms, going through jazz and blues and getting to today's pop music.
A main theme of the book appears to be that the further the music gets away from its roots, the less musical value it has. And then today too much music has just become product to sell with little musical value.
Sometimes a bit too opinionated, but mainly an excellent analysis of the of the fall of pop music.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Rhythm Aug. 27 2013
By Mollytjm - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of American music, especially jazz and blues. It's fascinating, well written and researched and a good read.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The rise of jazz and the fall of almost everything else July 14 2013
By David Johnston - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a historian Donald Clarke makes a great encyclopaedist. For that's what this book is: chapter after dense chapter about the jazz music that he fell in love with as an adolescent with only scant attention to, apart from many gratuitous putdowns of, what was really exploding in 'pop' music during his teenage years and what happened thereafter.

Clarke is not alone in his, probably indisputable contention that music that occurs spontaneously is the most honest form. Thus his appreciation of black-originated music, particularly jazz and blues, and some white folk and hillbilly music stands true.

But he is also a self-confessed lover of classical music which, with its intellectual composition process and intricate arrangement is the antithesis of spontaneous. So once he starts to consider the evolution of music from primal soundmaking to arranged perfection, pop (and, yes, even some jazz) musicians are 'damned if they do, damned if they don't'. The Kinks are derided for their earliest original songs, the Beatles and Brian Wilson are given scant attention for their attempts to hone their music, and don't even expect any appreciation of prog rock, jazz rock, heavy metal or any of the other attempted fusions. Tellingly, the one man who sought above all to drop elements of popular, jazz and classical music into the test tube and see what explosion resulted is not mentioned at all. Frank Zappa, were you part of the 'rise' or the 'fall' of pop music?
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