New book explores the oral history of 45 iconic songs

Songs that sell the most copies become hits, but some of those hits become something more—iconic recordings that not only inspire a generation but also change the direction of music. In ANATOMY OF A SONG: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop (Grove Press; November 2016; $26 hardcover; ISBN-13: 978-0-8021-2559-0), writer and music historian Marc Myers tells the stories behind five decades of rock, pop and R&B hits through intimate oral history interviews with the artists who wrote and recorded them. Based on the ongoing column for The Wall Street Journal, new chapter introductions detail the drama that caused R&B and rock to evolve over 50 years, while many chapters feature new material either from fresh reporting or from Myers’ original interview tapes. Pre-order here:

The songs in ANATOMY OF A SONG range from Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” one of rock ’n’ roll’s first hits, to Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz,” Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City,” and R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” Mick Jagger demystifies the eclectic ballad “Moonlight Mile,” a song he says wasn’t about drugs but about loneliness on a grueling European tour. Joni Mitchell remembers arriving brokenhearted in the village of Matala on the Greek island of Crete and living in a cave with the “mean old daddy” who went on to inspire her 1971 hit “Carey.” And Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, the Clash, Jimmy Cliff, Roger Waters, Stevie Wonder, John Fogerty, Keith Richards, Cyndi Lauper, and many others reveal for the first time the emotions and technique behind their influential works.

ANATOMY OF A SONG can be read like a literary jukebox, allowing readers to jump in anywhere to learn the story behind their favorite songs. Or it can be read linearly as a history of popular music in the second half of the twentieth century. The songs are presented in chronological order, and each is framed by an introduction that brings that moment in music history to life: the cultural context, evolving technology, and larger trends in music. An absorbing song-by-song analysis of the most memorable hits spanning forty years from the beginning of the 1950s relayed through the artists’ own words, ANATOMY OF A SONG provides a sweeping look at the evolution of pop music. This book will change how readers listen to rock and R&B hits, and the artists who created them.

Marc Myers is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal, where he writes about rock, soul, pop and jazz, as well as the arts. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Why Jazz Happened and posts daily at, a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association’s “Blog of the Year “award. He can also be found at or on twitter at @JazzWax.

Read Marc’s story behind the book here:

ANATOMY OF A SONG features hits by:
Lloyd Price
Little Willie Littlefield
The Isley Brothers
The Marvelettes
The Dixie Cups
The Kinks
The Righteous Brothers
The Four Tops
John Sebastian
The Doors
Grace Slick
The Young Rascals
The Stone Poneys
Otis Redding
Loretta Lynn
The Rolling Stones
Tammy Wynette
Creedence Clearwater Revival
The Edwin Hawkins Singers
Elvis Presley
Led Zeppelin
Janis Joplin
Rod Stewart
Joni Mitchell
The Staple Singers
Jimmy Cliff
Gladys Knight and the Pips
The Allman Brothers
The Hues Corporation
Stevie Wonder
Steely Dan
Elvis Costello
Pink Floyd
The Clash
The Neville Brothers
Merle Haggard
Cyndi Lauper
Bonnie Raitt

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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