Legends, Icons & Rebels
Music That Changed the World
By Robbie Robertson, Jim Guerinot, Sebastian Robertson and Jared Levine
Tundra, 125 pages, $35
IMAGINE trying to distil the history of 20th-century popular music into the 25 most influential acts. It is impossible, of course, but Canadian great Robbie Robertson, along with two of his longtime colleagues and his son Sebastian have thrown down the gauntlet with this visually striking educational effort.
Each act, from Louis Armstrong (born 1901) to Stevie Wonder (b. 1950), gets a chapter, although the chapters are not arranged chronologically or alphabetically, but rather by some mysterious process of musical influence.
Interestingly, the Beatles and the Beach Boys are the only groups to make the cut; the other 23 are individuals. Six are women. Joni Mitchell is the lone Canadian.
Each act's contribution is summed up in a concise 500-word essay, accompanied by lively graphics, a portrait by one of 15 commercial artists and a sentence by Robertson about his personal connection to the act.
Given that its publisher is the Canadian children's house Tundra, the book's ideal audience would be curious youngsters who have dived into their parents' or grandparents' album collection. Included for them is a two-CD musical sampler.
And the book is also clearly aimed at the U.S. market. Mitchell, for example, is described as growing up in "a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada," rather than in Saskatoon.
-- Morley Walker