Anatomy of a Song is a new book subtitled “The oral history of 45 iconic hits that changed rock, R&B and pop.” Available thanks to Grove Press, this hardcover book by Marc Myers makes a perfect Christmas gift for the music fan in your life.
It turns out that Myers typically writes a column for The Wall Street Journal, and Anatomy of a Song is a logical extension of his essays for that paper. Basically, 45 songs are picked to highlight in the book, with the various singers, songwriters, producers and engineers contributing their thoughts on how the song came to be, how it got its sound, and what kind of impact it made at the time… and overall. In general, the book covers the 1950s thru the early 1990s, with most of the songs coming from the heyday of popular music in America– the 1960s and 1970s.
So you’re probably wondering what songs are covered in this book?
That’s exactly what I wanted to know when I flipped open its pages at Barnes & Noble bookstore. Some of the song titles and artists were very familiar, like “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes, “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks, and “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. Then there were quite a few I hadn’t heard of– song titles that is– like “Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan, “Big City” by Merle Haggard, and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” by Lloyd Price.
Here’s the deal: I read about the songs I was familiar with first. As for some of the ones I didn’t have much interest in? I kind of skipped over them. Just like a jukebox, this book offers short and interesting tidbits for your pleasure, and you get to choose which ones to pay attention to.
By the way, Myers did an amazing job compiling interview quotes for this book. Interviews with Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Mavis Staples, Loretta Lynn, Jimmy Cliff, Dion, Debbie Harry, Steven Tyler, and Bonnie Raitt fill this book. They’re not long, by any means, but they get to the point about certain songs, and that makes it interesting. It’s as if you’re in a room with songwriters, musicians, behind-the-scenes people and all those others who helped form the soundtrack of your life, and the soundtrack of America in the 20th Century.
Check out Marc Myers site here and look for Anatomy of a Song wherever books are sold.