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Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music
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Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  63 ratings  ·  18 reviews
The years from about 1950 to 1970 were the golden age of twang. Country music’s giants all strode the earth in those years: Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, George Jones and Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. And many of the standards that still define country were recorded then: “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Mama Tried,” “Stand by Your Man,” and ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Faber & Faber
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Gary Anderson
I'm not giving Sing Me Back Home 5 stars because I think everyone should read it. I'm giving it 5 stars because it hit home for me, and I'll be thinking about this book for a long, long time.

New York Times editor Dana Jennings grew up hard in New Hampshire, descended from hardscrabble people who were not quite in sync with the times. In Sing Me Back Home he tells their story synchronized with a history of country music from 1950-1970.

Jennings is a year older than me, and our family's circumstanc
...more
Mark
In this book Jennings accomplished several feats that surprised and satisfied me as a reader. He stoked my desire to listen more closely (or for the very first time) to the country songs he so lovingly explicates in each of the loosely thematic chapters. He made convincing connections between the music he celebrates and the autobiographical details from his rural New Hampshire childhood of poverty, violence and a homespun "oh, fuck it" fatalism. He captures a slice of indigenous American culture ...more
Nikki
All this time I've thought I was a swamp Yankee. After all, my parents grew up fairly poor, with no electricity until after World War II; I visited and even lived in houses with outhouses as recently as 1966; and my parents certainly listened to country music. Well, compared to Dana Jennings' folks, mine were upper middle class!
Jennings was born in 1957 to a shotgun marriage of two eighth-grade graduates, both of whom came from pretty dysfunctional families. Violence, alcoholism, depression, a
...more
Suzanne
This book hit me in a surprisingly personal way. Jennings talks about the role of classic country music in his life and that of his family growing up in rural New Hampshire -- not the location one most associates with country music, but his stories resonate with my North Carolina family. I remember a story about how my great-grandfather was apparently needy enough to trade his gun for liquor. That's the kind of people Jennings talks about, and he was there for some of it in his family; I just he ...more
Catherine
Aug 26, 2008 Catherine rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Country Music Fans
Part country music history of the 1950s through 1970s, part memoir. Dana Jennings candidly reflects on his hardscrabble upbringing along with the trials and tragedies of his family while uniquely blending the images portrayed in country music.

Jennings writes of everything from lying, cheating, poverty, death, prison, and God and shows how often country songs mirrored peoples’ feelings, and through the music, soothed the wounds of everyday life.

I’m not a country music fan, but am old enough to re
...more
Tom
Jul 31, 2008 Tom rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of classic country, working-class New Englanders
Dana Jennings, an editor at The New York Times, has written a memoir about growing up poor in Kingston, N.H., during the 1950s and 60s—with classic country music as a soundtrack.

I'm glad to see this Yankee claim country music, a genre associated with the South. He makes the case that this music (we're talking Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline et al.—my favorites) was the music of choice for working-class Americans. He enlarges our understanding of the music.

But he skates t
...more
Steven Pattison
Blending country music history along with his own personal family history and turmoil Dana Jennings attempts to relate the two. Personally I was far more interested in the country music history then his own ancestry,this book was a little all over the place.

I get the feeling he's almost patronizing the typical rural people who listen to country music and perhaps even over- romanticizing the poverty and alcoholism. He also gets a bit too personal when talking about some of his family members (he
...more
claire
Oct 23, 2008 claire rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: neophyte music nerds, fans of the film "Walk the Line"
Recommended to claire by: NPR review
So I'm obsessed with classic country music, namely the era that Jennings covers in this book. Yes, his writing is at times disjointed and tangential, but hey, my A.D.H.D.-addled brain kinda digs that! It's a great introduction to the genre, and reads a bit like Rolling Stone blurbs all spackled together.

At first I was skeptical of the dude's "hick" credentials as he seems to spend much of the book attempting to prove to the reader how truly "country" he is. How New Hampshire is really just like
...more
Michael
Part history of country music, part memoir of a life entwined with country music, and part musing about what t all means, Sing Me Back Home is ultimately anhomage to music for the people who never get a break. What's best about it is how it encompases artists that we would not normally think of as country, and shows that it is the heart of the music that counts, not the label. Yes, it gets a little self-indulgent, but how could it not? Ultimately, country music is real life, and Jennings pours h ...more
Jerry Oliver
Jul 01, 2011 Jerry Oliver rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: country music lovers
Great book. Amazing history of the authors upbringing and family life in rural, hillbilly - New Hampshire!? Yup, go figure. Jennings explores the classic country music of 1950 through 1970 that fueled the lives of his people, poor white country folk who lived and breathed the songs of Johnny Cash, Faron Young, Bill Monroe, Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams and others whose lives and songs mirrored their own. Highly recommended read for country music lovers.
Nick
Jul 10, 2008 Nick rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
I really wanted to like this book and some of it is very moving and some of it is a good introduction to basic facts about country music, but mostly I think Jennings had a chance to write a unique first person testament to working class poor people and the way our society doesn't "see" them and blew it. I guess he told me one time too many how poor, hungry and mean his people were instead of showing me through their stories.
Melanie Ullrich
I had a lot of fun with this book. The whole book is filled with references and quotes from songs and descriptions of the musicians that sang them and every time I would happen upon a song that sounded good, I would immediately look it up on Youtube. Although, sometimes tedious with all the information, Dana kept me forging though with his intimate stories about his life and family.
Erica
I bought this book [which was 24 dollars] mostly because I liked the cover, but I wanted to get a good idea of where country music came from and yadda yadda. But after reading 41 pages of crap I had to put it down. This book was not what I thought it was going to be.
Lindsay
Loved the country music history, loved the way the book was framed, loved the crazy stories of the author's family, but something wasn't quite right, and it didn't feel completely organic. Nonetheless, a great read for country music lovers.
Sandi
The author uses tales from his family to look at famous country music song types from what he deems as its classic period.
Linda Moore
You get a whole lot of Dana Jennings here; in the end the reflection of the art in the life worked for me though.
Kathleen
Aug 05, 2008 Kathleen marked it as to-read
Shelves: newengland
The author writes about growing up in Kingston, NH.
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