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The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing
Edited by Marc Smirnoff
Foreword by Van Dyke Parks

The best music writing from “what may be the liveliest literary magazine in America”*

“God Bless America and God bless The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing.”
—Dolly Parton

“Elvis made a blip on our national radar. Many of the artists featured here did not. To read on is to discover America.”
—From the Foreword

Not only have a breathtaking array of musical giants come from the South—think Elvis Presley, Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Jimmie Rodgers, to name just obvious examples—but so have a breathtaking array of American music genres. From blues to rock & roll to jazz to country to bluegrass—and areas in between—it all started in the American South. Since its debut in 1996, The Oxford American’s more-or-less annual Southern Music Issue has become legendary for its passionate and wide-ranging approach to music and for working with some of America’s greatest writers. These writers—from Peter Guralnick to Nick Tosches to Susan Straight to William Gay—probe the lives and legacies of Southern musicians you may or may not yet be familiar with, but whom you’ll love being introduced, or reintroduced, to. In one creative, fresh way or another, these writers also uncover the essence of music—and why music has such power over us.
To celebrate ten years of Southern music issues, most of which are sold-out or very hard to find, the fifty-five essays collected in this dynamic, wide-ranging, and vast anthology appeal to both music fans and fans of great writing.

•Tom Piazza hangs out with irrepressible country musician Jimmy Martin in Nashville
•Elizabeth Wurtzel deconstructs the career of R.E.M.
•R. Crumb hunts for old blues records
•Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) discusses his love affair with the banjo
•Rosanne Cash remembers a harrowing roadside experience
•Lucinda Williams talks about life, love, and music
•All-time great producer Jerry Wexler recalls Dusty Springfield’s Memphis sessions

Marc Smirnoff is the editor and founder of The Oxford American. He has written for the New York Times Book Review, the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, the Washington Post Book World, and others.
Van Dyke Parks is an arranger, musician, producer, lyricist, and composer. Although he has worked with dozens of essential musicians, including U2, Randy Newman, and Bruce Springsteen, he is best known for collaborating (as lyricist) with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys on the legendary Smile album. His own albums include Song Cycle and Discover America. He has done a number of film soundtracks, including Goin’ South and The Two Jakes, and he is the author of three acclaimed children’s books: Jump, Jump Again, and Jump on Over.


*New York Times, 2007


October 2008
6 x 9, 466 pages
$34.95 cloth
ISBN 978-1-55728-887-5 | 1-55728-887-9