Monday, November 14, 2016

Rock: The Definitive History

The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1 1920 – 1963 – Ed Ward (Flatiron Books)

Author Ed Ward is no stranger to the history of rock music. He has authored countless articles for a wide variety of music and popular culture magazines, definitive biographies of great artists, and is the co-author of Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock & Roll, which dates back to a time when Rolling Stones actually meant something in the world of music. Ward also served as the longtime rock & roll historian for National Public Radio’s (NPR) Fresh Air program, which counts as listeners some 14 million folks.

So it’s a safe bet that Ward’s bona fides are firmly in place to tackle a massive, three-part project that traces the roots of rock & roll with a fervent complete-ists approach. In The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1 1920 – 1963 Ward goes deeper than just the roots of rock, but takes things down to the granular level, examining the DNA of the music.

If you are looking for an encyclopedia of rock, something you can whip out to settle arguments or fuel debates about the legends of rock, then this may not be your cup of tea. Ward is looking way beyond those simple thought processes; he uses a scientist’s eye toward how minstrel shows and vaudeville spliced their DNA into country, roots, R&B and gave birth to the behemoth that moved and influenced generations.

This, the first of what will become a three volume set be run a little off the beaten path for those casual rock fans. As it progresses you can start to see the direction Ward is heading in those future volumes. If you are a student or historian of the music, The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1 1920 – 1963, certainly deserves a place on your bookshelf. Has a fan of the minutiae of music, I found myself putting Ward’s theories to the test, revisiting music to trace the influences that he spells out long the way. Which for me makes this volume a success and has me primed for the future editions.  

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