© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

History of Rock & Roll Books

Greil Marcus, Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession (1991)

Marcus has collected a wealth of articles, interviews, rumors, jokes, tabloid headlines, novels, and song lyrics on Elvis Presley produced since his death. Marcus sifts through these sources to understand who Americans think Elvis was, or who Americans want Elvis to have been—a tougher task than you might think!

Greil Marcus, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'N' Roll Music (1975)

Marcus explores the music of several rock, funk, and blues artists including Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, the Band, and Sly and the Family Stone. Along with detailed biographies of these artists, Marcus offers the stories behind the music. Why did Robert Johnson sing about the devil with such conviction? What happened to Elvis's popularity after the 1950s? Who did Sly Stone want to be and who did he become? Marcus's essays grapple with these and many more mysteries.

Lucy O'Brien, She Bop II: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop, & Soul (2004)

Although we object to the title (It just isn't possible to write a "definitive history" of, really, anything!), She Bob II is one of the better books available on women in music. O'Brien offers up fascinating stories about some of the most successful and most fascinating performers and musicians in the business. Be sure to note all the great quotes from her hard-to-get interviews!

Laura Joplin, Love, Janis (1992)

Love, Janis is a detailed memoir written by Laura Joplin, Janis's sister. Full of intimate thoughts and observations about Janis, and stories about the singer's life growing up and coming of age in Port Arthur, Texas, this is an interesting read for anyone curious about this mysterious rock icon.

Robert Palmer, Rock & Roll: An Unruly History (1995)

Robert Palmer—the historian, not the pop artist known for being "Addicted To Love"—tells the story of rock and roll as if it were a fiction novel! Drama, betrayal, sex, alcohol, drugs, and death—it's all in there. The best thing about this companion text to the PBS documentary is that Palmer doesn't claim to be writing the master history of rock; that task, he says, is pretty much impossible. Instead he takes the reader on a journey through various moments in rock and roll history, stopping along the way to point out highlights, milestones, and some intimate stories beneath the music.

Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey (1999)

Not exactly a book about rock and roll, Last Night is a book about some of the ways in which music became popular, and artists earned fans. Many rock artists and groups depended a great deal on radio—and later, club—disc jockeys to promote their sound. This book describes how disc jockeys rose to play such an important role in the history of popular music. A fascinating read for anyone interested in the history of broadcast radio... and, also, a vital read for any fan of hip-hop!

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...