33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs
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33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  206 ratings  ·  35 reviews
A thrilling and moving history of the music that inspired and soundtracked social change

When pop music meets politics, the results are often thrilling, sometimes life-changing and never simple. 33 Revolutions Per Minute tracks this turbulent relationship through 33 pivotal songs that span seven decades and four continents, from Billie Holiday crooning 'Strange Fruit' to Gr...more
Paperback, 843 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Faber & Faber (first published January 22nd 2011)
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Donovan Richards
A Pet Named Peeves

One of my wife’s biggest pet peeves occurs when I mumble meaningless words to the melody of a song. For her, if you don’t know the lyrics, don’t sing the song. I, sadly, find lyrics difficult to remember.

Since I play guitar, my ears focus on the music first. I can hum textured instrumental melodies much quicker than I can sing a chorus. In fact, sometimes lyrics aren’t necessary. Sigur Rós, one of my favorite bands, sings partly in Icelandic and partly in a made-up language wit...more
Amy Laurens
As music writing goes, this is surely on the more noble end of the scale, right? I like Dorian Lynskey as a journalist. So I was excited about reading this even though I've always felt (with some exceptions) that protest music is what happens when John Lennon starts taking heroin and stops being funny, and therefore something to be sorely lamented, not an ideal topic for a near 800 page breezeblock.

I ended up a bit conflicted about this book. It's ambitiously researched and detailed in its (obv...more
Du
I didn't warm up to this book. It was another one, I thought sounded great and grabbed, without flipping through it, at the library. I am not exactly sure what was wrong with it, other than it didn't grab me. The book is broken down into chapters, each chapter focuses on one song and the formulation of it, as well as its importance. Initially I thought I'd learn new things and be entranced. Reality was that the chapters slogged and didn't flow well. Like a reference book, you don't need to read...more
Jarvo
At first I really liked the title of this book, but as time went on I became increasingly convinced that the book was something of a victim of its own title. Put simply the author sets out to write a history of the protest song by dedicating a chapter to 33 songs/artists, but then can't find 33 different songs/artists good enough to write about...Or to put it enough way the material seems really rich in the first half of the book, where every chapter is about something important by someone impor...more
Mark
One of the best books I've read this year - four stars as it could do with volume two (for all the missing songs)
Karen
I feel pretty guilty about this book. It was a bit like those university alumni magazines, or glossy company bulletins, that I have great intentions of reading cover to cover, in order to become educated, inspired and motivated, then end up skimming purely to see if I recognise any names or faces.

Part of the problem was its being on Kindle format. Call me lazy, but it was disheartening wading through a seemingly interminable chapter to find that you’d only moved on around 2%. Whereas it would’ve...more
Jess
33 Revolutions per Minute covers the history of the 20th century protest song through 33 songs from different eras, covering a period of roughly seventy years. A passionately told socio-cultural history of the music and the times it was written for, it does, as the author notes toward the end, feel like something of an elegy. That political music has no place in our contemporary cultural landscape feels like something of a loss, no matter how commercially co-opted the protest songs of the past h...more
Steve Gillway
There is a great book in here trying to get out. I like the idea of the book - to go through the background and the impact of protest/ political songs. My main gripes come under 3 main headings. Firstly, the author manages to find protest in disco music - but to me protest music is more than a turn of phrase - if you look hrd enough you can find it anywhere. My secong gripe is there is too much filler at times. For example, with some records like "The revolution will not be televised", the autho...more
Rachel
For anyone interested in music and its function in the political and social realm, here's a useful compendium on western protest songs in the 20th century. For the most part, the information is very readable, despite each chapter being packed to the gills with references to specific people, places, events, and music.

Lynskey has taken an almost unmanageable amount of music history and pared it down to the most important protest music from each definable chunk of the last hundred years. Although t...more
Broadsnark
The subtitle of this book is “A History of Protest Songs, From Billie Holiday to Green Day.” But it should really say that it is a history of (mostly) the U.S. and U.K. through protest songs. I don’t say that as a criticism. The book actually turned out to be more interesting than I thought it would be.

I have some gripes here and there, but overall Lynskey did an admirable job of smashing 100 years of history and hundreds (thousands?) of musicians into one book. Whatever details I wish he would...more
George
Really 2.5 stars This seems an appropriate topic for a Labor Day review.

I'm deeply conflicted about this book. A 600+ page historical tome on protest songs from the 40s to the present should be right up my alley's. It's stylishly written in places, with fine reportage, and the occasionally startlingly gripping insight. And yet . . . I can't help wishing there was both more and less here. Less coverage of songs, though that would mess with the hokey 33 numerological riff (shouldn't it really be 4...more
Nick
This book is subtitled "A History of Protest Songs from Billie Holiday to Green Day" and Lynskey pretty much achieves that goal in a bit more than 500 pages. Perhaps not totally comprehensive--there's nothing in here about protest songs in, for example, Europe--but amazingly comprehensive when it comes to songwriters, singers and bands who've had some wider or lasting impact on music, society and the English speaking world. He covers Jamaican music, and while I wish he had said more about some J...more
Tricia
While the information contained in this book is fairly interesting, I found it difficult to get through, and did not end up reading all of the chapters, as some were very slow going and I didn't really know or care about some of the songs/artists.

After going through it, I felt this could have been split into smaller volumes, with dedicated themes like political uprising, civil rights, war, women's rights, third world protest, etc, as well as better headings for the chapters. For example, I was r...more
Eric
This book was fascinating and I learned quite a bit. I learned about quite a few artists that I hadn't heard of before like The Last Poets, and with Youtube it's possible to go look at obscure videos of concerts and interviews with many of the book's subjects. It sure beats tracking down obscure lp's from the 30's. Reading briefly about Sly stone's pet Baboon named Gun has made the reading of a Sly Stone documentary mandatory; but I digress. As you can see from the other books i've read, i'm a b...more
Frank
A fantastic book, and much more than the title lets on. Lynsky uses specific songs as springboards to examine the revolutionary periods in which they were written. For example, Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam" opens the door to the Civil Rights South of 1964; Max Romeo and the Upsetters'"War Ina Babylon" the turbulant mid-70s Jamaica; The Clash's "White Riot" the racially charged late 70s England. While he may stretch the central premise a bit in chapters about Huggy Bear and Riot Grrrls or St...more
Gin Ferrara
The book read more as a strategy for framing history than a deep exploration of specific songs and artists. While Billie Holiday and Pete Seger had chapters that explored their lives and songs, other chapters left the song entirely behind to explore protests and civil actions. I most likely learned more than I bargained for, and it was a very interesting read. However, it was not quite what I expected from the title, and as others mentioned, was easier to read chapter by chapter.
Margaret Sankey
When does a song cross over from Little Red Songbook party-meeting morale-builder to cultural phenomenon? What happens when it is co-opted or vastly misunderstood (""Born in the USA"" and Reagan/""London Calling"" in chick flicks?) Or when a ""commercial product"" sparks genuine feelings (Motown and the Detroit Riots)? How do changes in media (boom boxes, iTunes, televised concerts, radio and censorship of these) affect the message? Lynskey follows individual pieces in chapters setting up the po...more
thom
33 Revolutions Per Minute is an excellent and fascinating insight into the 20th/21st Century history of the protest, taking you from Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit all the way to Billie Armstrong's American Idiot. As well as being meticulously researched, including a wide range of exclusive interviews, it's absolutely beautifully written. And, as with all the best music journalism, along the way you're bound to be introduced to some new music that had passed you by, and to reminded of some great...more
Richard
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was particularly interesting finding out about older artists such as Woody Guthrie, Billie Holliday & Pete Seeger and their contributions to protest music.

The book is well written & researched. It does not focus solely on each song covered per chapter but widens out into considering other protest songs & artists at particular important junctures.

I am surprised Ewan McColl was not given a chapter as his contribution is immense. But, I suppose, any su...more
Bruno Espadana
Dorian Lynskey, jornalista do Guardian, tenta traçar a história das canções de protesto no século XX, - ou pelo menos do cruzamento entre a música pop e a política. Focado na música do Ocidente (com algumas excepções que, contudo, tiveram repercussão no Ocidente), é muito mais do que um livro de música - sob o pretexto de apresentar 33 canções representativas (de Billie Holiday aos Green Day), Lynskey acaba por traçar um retrato das grandes alterações políticas e sociais do século passado e de c...more
Paul
Really enjoyed this book. As well as the 33 songs chosen to lead chapters, each chapter goes into discussion of a whole lot of other songs from the time. There were so many times I said "Oh, I'd forgotten about that" whilst reading this book, and there were plenty of anecdotes I'd never heard before about artists from Nina Simone to Steve Earle. The lists of songs and artists at that back and indexing are exhaustive too. Perfect present for any friends that you have into popular music.
John
This is a wide ranging and thought-provoking book. I was already familiar with many of the artists and songs, nevertheless, it gave me new perspective on those and introduced me to many new songs and songwriters. My only problem with it is it made me want to order a ton of new music—which isn't necessarily a bad thing, of course. I particularly liked how Lynskey compared different genres, and connected the protest music of the 30s and 60s to the protest music of today.
Mclaughlin175
Sep 12, 2011 Mclaughlin175 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I read the chapter on Rage Against the Machine. It offers some good tandem analysis on Rage and Radiohead and globalization, economics, and politics especially in the 1990s and early 2000s. I was a little frustrated that the chapter just sort of ended without any concluding analysis. I wanted some final argument. We'll see what how the rest of the book plays out.
Shaon
Very detailed history. My only reservation is that some of the songs that were chosen to represent the time period did not strike me as all that relevant. But with such a rich source of material to select from, it would have be difficult to narrow the choice to one song. Songs & artists that were performing during that period were also discussed.
Petra Willemse
I enjoyed reading the stories of the songs I knew and some of the history of the ones I didn't. That being said there were times where I felt Lynskey gave too many historical details and times where I felt there weren't enough. For protest music fans, parts of the book will be captivating. If you don't relate to that form of music, you won't be engaged.
Edward Sullivan
An ambitious, sweeping, endlessly fascinating chronicle of protest songs from Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" to Green Day's "American Idiot." Lynskey covers afrobeat, blues, country, folk, hip hop, jazz, rap, and reggae in this superb work of music history. Lynskey is frequently prone to digressions but even they are always interesting.
Obisbooks
Fun way to learn some history, through music. This book looks at protest songs, a bit about the songs and singers who made them famous and a bit of the times in which they became famous. Sometimes it was more about the times and less about the songs which I wasn't as interested in because I wanted more about the music. Overall interesting read.
Linda Atkinson
So in love with this book. The hx of protest songs starts with Billie Holiday and Strange fruit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4ZyuU..., proceeds to Joe Hill, and then Woody Guthrie...hip hop and dixie chicks, marley and green day, clash and rem; thoroughly researched. Needs a cd accompaniment.
Dianne Landry
A really interesting background on many protest songs from the early days of the Blues to the current day. I really enjoyed this book. It made me go to You Tube to relisten to some of them.
Meghan
I really liked this book and think it's a great pick for music lovers. I have other books I must read for committee work, but can see myself picking this back up again.
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Dorian Lynskey is a British music journalist who currently writes for The Guardian, among other publications.
More about Dorian Lynskey...
The Guardian Book of Playlists: The Best of the Guardian's 'Reader's Recommend'. Dorian Lynskey

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