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Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  2,023 ratings  ·  323 reviews
January 1970:
> the Beatles assemble one more time to put the finishing touches on Let It Be;
> Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are wrapping up Déjà Vu;
> Simon and Garfunkel are unveiling Bridge Over Troubled Water;
> James Taylor is an upstart singer-songwriter who’s just completed Sweet Baby James.

Over the course of the next twelve months, their lives ... and
Hardcover, 369 pages
Published May 31st 2011 by Da Capo Press
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  2,023 ratings  ·  323 reviews

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Start your review of Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970
Jul 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
A perfect book for those of a certain age who loved the music back then. I found it interesting and a very quick day for me but then I love music almost as much as I love books! Can't say there was anything earth shattering that I didn't already suspect, but it made me put on those CD's and listen to them with a more knowledgeable ear.
Wayne Courtois
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Years ago I read that, while they were recording the 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' album, Simon and Garfunkel hardly saw each other. Simon would go to the studio and record his tracks, and Garfunkel would go some other time and record his tracks, etc. I was crushed to learn this. I had always thought that S & G were a gay couple. I mean, their photo on the cover of 'Bookends' was, and still is, the gayest thing I've ever seen. Now, thanks to David Browne, I learn that it's true: they didn't ...more
Thelma Adams
Jun 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Full confession: I had a decade-long crush on Graham Nash. The song "Our House," his love song to his ex Joni Mitchell (Her Blue was my favorite cry album through high school and college), has a prominent place in my novel Playdate, along with The Beatles' Octopus's Garden. But, given all my love for CSNY, Y alone, the Beatles, James Taylor and, even, Simon & Garfunkel, the soundtrack of my adolescence, it wasn't until I read Browne's exhaustively researched, impeccably written book that I ...more
Oct 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: everyone interested in music, especially old hippies like me.
The parts of the book that dealt with the subject of the title, rated 4 stars. But, the inclusion of the "other stuff" took it down to 3 for me. I turned 20 in 1970 and was as immersed in music as I could be at the time, considering that I was also in the United States Marine Corps. I was a "long hair" in attitude only.

The "other stuff" was history lessons of events of that year like the Kent State shootings, and Weather Underground bombings. Those were important events that had an impact on
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
I was born in the late sixties and I have no conscious living memories of the era. I did grow up in the aftermath of the great cultural revolution and was much regaled by my boomer elders on the significance of the era. There is much vinyl from the era that I listened to and I went to a lot of Grateful Dead shows in the 1980s so I am not totally at sea when it comes to the 1960s and early 1970s. Still, it is a bit of a letdown that the music industry is indeed an industry and being a musician is ...more
Admittedly, I am giving this at least one extra star b/c of my demographic: This book directly ties to 1970 (not "70s" or "70-ish", but 1970 exactly), and given that I entered my teen years right about then, all the music / bands / music stars / current events about which author Browne writes are pretty much burned into my brain given that formative youth period. The backstories of the Beatles (officially) breaking up, CSNY forming and breaking up, Simon & Garfunkel sending "Bridge Over ...more
Andy Miller
Aug 23, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is about music in 1970 and focuses on four groups/albums; Crosby Stills Nash and Young and Deja Vue, James Taylor and Fire and Rain, the Beatles and Let it Be and Simon and Garfunkle with Bridge over Troubled Water

The subject matter should have made for a great read. But either because the author tried to cover too much in too short of book or because of a narrative that read more like a survey or plot summary of an era, the book never really came alive. The best contrast is with the
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was born during Woodstock. Not, you know, AT Woodstock, though it is fun to tease my mother, but while it was going on and about two and a half hours southeasterly. I grew up on this music, to the point that there are songs by the featured artists that I simply know, with absolutely no effort on my part. (There are also a few I thought I knew, and discovered when listening to them during this that I had the words ALL wrong.) I have always loved CSN&Y without even really realizing it; Simon ...more
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Well, this was just a glorious, riveting read. I knew a lot (but not all) of the Beatles stuff, but I wasn't that familiar with the back stories of CSNY and Simon and Garfunkel (or James Taylor, but I found him the least interesting of the four. Your mileage may vary.)

Browne, a long-time writer for Rolling Stone, is a skilled writer regardless of what you think of the magazine and effortlessly interweaves the narratives of these four performers through the events of the turbulent year of 1970.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing

Browne has taken the genre of rock biography to a new level. He goes far beyond describing a band and the internal discontent, creative energy, or drug use. He takes four seminal albums and places them in the social and political context of 1970, the year in which they were released. The demise of the Beatles and events surrounding Let It Be, and the rise of James Taylor with the release of Sweet Baby James serve as metaphorical bookends to the year.

The book is organized by seasons, with the
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
David Browne's narrative of four seminal acts in 1970 could have been really interesting. However, I was amazed to find out that Browne is an editor at Rolling Stone Magazine, as an editor is exactly what this book needed. Each group had producers, studio musicians, girlfriends, etc. and Browne did not do a good job distinguishing who was who. Also, he switched from talking about one act to another with too much extraneous information, so that the reader was left wondering when he was going to ...more
Shaun Swick
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, music
An engrossing read from start to finish, Browne expertly synthesizes a year in music history—and American history—through the eyes of three devolving bands and one emerging solo artist. I've been really getting into this era and these musicians in the past couple years, but even if I hadn't, I would dive in right after reading this book. Bouncing between stories and progressing chronologically throughout the first year of a new decade, Browne finds connections in both obvious—and, to me at least ...more
Lora King
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book about CSNY, Beatles, James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel during a pivotal year in their lives....a break up year for 3 and a take off year for 1! So many changes going on that year and we do tend to focus on 1972 with Watergate as the beginning of of the 70's. Music changed forever that year, the type of music we wanted to listen to changed and this book does such a great job of making that year come alive. Very easy to read and inspired me to download some old favorites to ...more
Ginny Messina
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Not quite the cozy nostalgic read I was anticipating since this covered a period when these groups were dealing with tremendous discord among the members (or heroin addiction in the case of JT), and were in the process of breaking up. So, while the music they produced that year was excellent (after all these years, hearing Art Garfunkel sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" still makes me all shivery and teary) the whole book felt a little sad. Fascinating just the same,though, and still recommended ...more
Patrick DiJusto
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
1968 was the year that changed everything.

No, that was 1963.

Or was it 1967?

1964. Definitely 1964.

No matter. The thesis of this book is that 1970 was The Year That Changed Everything, at least as far as the music business was concerned. We lost the Beatles, with all their multi-instrumentality. Simon and Garfunkel didn't break up as much as just stopped working together. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young went from a multi-platinum debut album to a situation where they couldn't stand to be in the
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I listened to the audiobook and would have given it 5 stars if parts of the songs that were referenced had been added! I want a soundtrack!

This was a fascinating history, weaving the music of the late 60s with the cultural and political landscape of the time. I was too young in 1970 to understand what was happening, but I grew up to love James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel. The background stories are just cool.

The parallels with today, 50 years later, illustrate all that we haven’
Kathy McC
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Clearly the author has done his research, and the subject is near and dear to my heart. So much information, such great music. But, it was a boring book, and it is difficult to understand how a book about music from the 70s could be boring.

"Many have rightly argued that the dawn of the '70s began in 1972 or 1973, just as the '60s didn't genuinely launch until Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.
1970 felt like the lost year: the moment at which the remaining slivers of the idealism of the '60s
Charles Hughes
Aug 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Very entertaining, somewhat insightful look at the intersecting 1970 careers of the four artists mentioned in the title. Browne aims to use these biographical sketches to make larger points about what happened to pop music, the music business, and cultural politics in the year that he repeatedly identifies as a transitional year. He's on his surest footing when talking specifically about the music - he does some of the most interesting work on CSNY that I've read, for example - but he flags a ...more
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it

I really enjoyed this book, even though some of the themes -- the disintegration of rock music's iconic bands and the heavy drug use -- were dispiriting. Possibly because I was never an aficionado of rock history books before, this one seemed fresh to me, while also allowing me to revisit my 23-year-old self and learn a lot more about the making of the music that captured me.

I remember working for a small daily newspaper in Connecticut when someone in the composing room brought in Crosby, Stills
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
The book is divided into four chronological sections; the chapters within each section cycle through each band, wrapping up with an epilogue entitled December. Each time a chapter covering one band ended, I thought I couldn’t bear to wait to read what happened next, but then immediately became absorbed in the next band’s story. There was a great deal of overlap between all of the musicians and bands, so the book flowed well.

1970 was a turbulent time in U.S. history, and I was at the age where I
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I knew I would love this book by just the title. In 1970 I was 11 years old and just discovering this music.

Who knew men could be such divas? This book give insight as to the rise and fall of muscial partnerships that were close enough to be called family. You will learn the depth of James Taylor's addiction, Stephen Stills' temper, Paul Simon's insecurity, Paul McCartney's and John Lennon's arrogance. You will learn the turmoil that surrounded the writing of "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Let
Nov 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
I definitely enjoyed this book, and Browne is one of my favorite music journalists (Dream Brother is one of my favorite music books of all time). It is admirable here that he addresses with some depth Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, James Taylor, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Additionally, he turns the book into a cultural history, briefly talking about major events of 1970, and how they either shaped (or were shaped by) the music being made.

My only issues with the book are also some
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
This a very clever idea, tell the history of a year through four different musical histories and along the way help illuminate the social context of that year. For anyone of a certain age who was an avid music fan in 1970 much of this will be a soundtrack of your past. Browne tells the story of the breakup of the Beatles, the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel, the rise of James Taylor and the train wreck that was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Browne's research is deep and is spiced with many ...more
Steve Turtell
Nov 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is one of two books about popular music I've been reading (I haven't finished the other yet: Elijah Ward's How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll). I was skeptical at first about the thesis, that there was a "lost story of 1970" to be told through an account of the major pop musical events--but I lived through that period and listened to all the music David Browne discusses and analyzes so skillfully and carefully. He does make a good case that 1970 was a transitional year--not simply the ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
This went down easy--nice to see a book about the music of this time period, which generally gets little respect. The book isn't a piercing sociological study or anything like that, but it nicely ties together the disillusion of the end of the sixties with the dissolution of the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and CSNY--and the rise of James Taylor and what he (sort of) stood for. Having read countless critics talking about how awful that was, it's pleasant to read a book that accepts it--maybe ...more
Darcia Helle
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, nonfiction
If you are a fan of any of the bands and/or singers listed in the title, then this is a book for you. Readers follow the descent of the Beatles, the quick rise and fall of CSNY, Simon and Garfunkel's fall and Simon's singular rise, and James Taylor's ascent into the singer/songwriter world of music. We're given glimpses into their personal lives and the way their lives and music tangled together, then came apart.

David Browne does occasionally touch upon the politics and social aspects of life
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed this book. I give it 5 stars for the people who love this music and were young when it first came out, and four stars for those who just like the music. I was a freshman/sophomore in 1970, and so many of these albums were among the first I bought and played over and over again on the stereo, staring into the album covers. The book probably doesn't add much new to what we know about these groups but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I played After the Gold Rush and Harvest this ...more
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As a music fan, I loved this book. Not only did I enjoy it because of the time period, artists and albums that it profiled, but also because of the way that it was written, with each of the (nonfiction) stories flowing into the next. Specifically, this is the story of four artists - The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, and CSNY = the historic albums that they released in 1970 - Let It Be, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Sweet Baby James, and Deja Vu. This is truly a must-read for fans of ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: listen-to
GREAT read about the incredible (& incestuous) Brit/American folk to rock scene. Amazing that these bands had albums on the charts while breaking up and simultaneously having solo albums on the charts. An amazing time in musical history, the story focuses less on the party scene than most writing about this time, and focuses more on the interpersonal relationships of the band mates. If you decide to read this - get the albums because you will want to be listening to the music while you read!
Jan 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The story of 1970 - a year in which the Beatles went into freefall and the other musicians listed had a tumultuous time. As CSNY bickered throughout their tour, Simon and Garfunkel annoyed each other and James Taylor struggled with success, Stills recalled that "The Let It Be stuff was overhanging the whole year," and "it permeated the whole industry." A must read for all music lovers.
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