On the Vagaries of Aesthetic Appreciation

In 1978, at age thirteen, I became a Bob Dylan fan thanks to his side of the multi-artist Concert for Bangladesh three-record set. My knowledge of Dylan’s life and work was extremely limited, but I was eager to learn and hear more, and my interest was piqued by his appearance that year in The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s … Continue reading On the Vagaries of Aesthetic Appreciation

Blurring Categories: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize

Patti Smith performs Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” at the 2016 Nobel Prize ceremony. Smith accepted Bob Dylan’s award on his behalf. The Swedish Academy’s decision to award the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan was one of the biggest news stories of 2016. Major news sources including the New York Times and The Guardian reacted to the announcement, and Dylan’s initial refusal to acknowledge the award brought another wave of comment and criticism. Some critics focused on the meaning of literature in the wake of this award.

“Hard Times Come Again No More”: Springsteen’s Vision of Community

May 23, 2009, Izod Center, East Rutherford, New Jersey. Bruce Springsteen sings Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” with a spoken introduction asking for people to support local relief efforts. “We’ve gotta stand up, support our neighbors, and please support the local community food bank of New Jersey.”

Politics and Protest in Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”

By: Joanna Smolko (Athens, Georgia) // “I liked Springsteen before he became political,” a friend of mine commented on Springsteen’s performance at the 2009 Super Bowl. But in actuality, Springsteen has always been political. From the outset, he infused his music with elements of working class identity: unions and families, steel and rust, coal and … Continue reading Politics and Protest in Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”

“You’ll Tic Tic All Day Long”: The Cold War, Geiger Counters, and Doris Day

By: Tim Smolko (Athens, Georgia) // Some wars are good. Most are bad. Some are just plain weird. The Cold War was definitely weird, and one of the best ways to grasp its weirdness is to listen to Cold War novelty songs from the 1940s to the 1960s. The oddest of them all may be … Continue reading “You’ll Tic Tic All Day Long”: The Cold War, Geiger Counters, and Doris Day

Joe Hill Returns: Labor Movements and Protest Music

In 2011, singer Joan Baez performed the song “Joe Hill” for a Veteran’s Day rally sponsored by Occupy Wall Street, a movement that began in New York City that same year in response to widespread financial corruption at banks and corporations. Baez has long been known for her work as an activist; although she might be new to younger generations, her voice is still respected at protests.

The Popular Songwriter

By: Travis D. Stimeling (West Virginia University) // In November 1975, Barry Manilow hit the top of the Billboard “Top 40” chart with “I Write the Songs.” Singing from the perspective of Music itself, the song’s protagonist “write[s] the songs that make the whole world sing.” Although that line has made headline writers happy for the past four … Continue reading The Popular Songwriter

Recording: A Team Process

By: Travis D. Stimeling (West Virginia University) // Much of the music we encounter in our daily lives comes to us through recordings, whether we stream it over our phones, pull it out of the ether on our car radio, or passively hear it over the public address system at the local supermarket. But despite … Continue reading Recording: A Team Process