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Friday, October 11, 2013

Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed the World. Written by Robbie Robertson, Jim Guerinot, Sebastian Robertson and Jared Levine. Tundra Books, 2013. $29.00 all ages

"Chuck Berry created the template for rock and roll: incredible songwriting, singing, and performance. The whole package. Every time someone straps on a guitar and starts singing about driving around on a Friday night, they are paying tribute to Chuck Berry."

I spent half an hour this morning listening to Jian Ghomeshi speak with the writers of this beautifully put together, and smashing tribute to some of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. It is written for young people...those who might not have spent their childhood listening to Chuck Berry, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan and so many more. It is also written for their parents. In fact, it is a book for everyone!

I can't imagine how difficult it was to make the decisions concerning those 'legends, icons and rebels' they chose to include, and everyone who reads the book will wonder at the omission of someone they feel deserves inclusion. It is already a weighty book, and as they say in the CBC interview, it ensures that there will be another. Thank goodness for that!

The suggestion by Robbie Robertson's son Sebastian that they should work to produce such an incredible tribute resulted from his realization that the young children he was working with loved to listen to these classic songs. He had spent his lifetime listening to much of the music he was sharing and he knew that many of the students had not. Bravo, Sebastian!

Twenty-seven artists are included in their own four page entry. There is a personal quote from Robbie Robertson on the first double page spread that is accompanied by a dramatic, sometimes humorous illustration of the featured artist. The next two pages provide biographical information, and a clear accounting of their place in musical history. Phrases are highlighted, and much information is shared...certainly enough to pique the interest of aspiring musicians and those who love music for music's sake. Inspiring and informative, they may just encourage readers to search out the music described, as they did for me.

To add to the wonderful appeal, two CDs are included with one song from each of the artists. Other hits are a part of the information shared as a 'playlist' for each. The summaries of their careers include exactly the right amount of information and offer an explanation of the defining role each played in the evolution of music from Louis Armstrong in 1925 to Joni Mitchell in 1968. Every other artist is plotted along a time line which follows the text. Their stories are not always happy, and some are downright sad; readers will come away from the reading with a fervent hope that more will follow. I have my own particular hope that they will include more of my favorite artists.

Here's the interview from CBC. I hope you enjoy it. I know that you will love the book!
When you are finished reading it, you can sit back, relax and revel in the musical talents of these singular artists and think about who you hope to read about in the next edition.

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