Robert Johnson Lost and Found
Barry Lee Pearson & Bill McCulloch
If you dig deep enough into rock 'n' roll, you're on a freight train headed straight for the blues. -- Jack White
There's something incredibly powerful about the effect of music on our psyche. Put on your favorite album and you're bound to feel better. Regardless of genre - as everyone has their own distinct taste when it comes to music - when the perfect song is heard, it gets deep into your bones and sticks with you. Like a good book, a song can take you back to a moment in your life, remind you of a place or your favorite person.
The list of books presented here highlights the history behind some of the most popular genres but certainly doesn't capture all music categories. Although there are many different genres and subgenres of music, the relationship between the genres are usually subtle and they blend together. The blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll, punk, country and hip hop are all looked at in detail with the selected books on this page and will give the reader a better understanding of how these types of music came about.
The blues genre originated in African-American communities in the American south around the end of the 19th century and influenced many other genres of music including rock 'n' roll, jazz and hip hop. Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Charley Patton and Son House were all prominent and influential bluesmen who helped shaped this style of music.
To get to the roots of rock 'n' roll, Robert Palmer's book Rock & Roll: an Unruly History addresses various moments in rock and roll lore and highlights the milestones and intimate stories beneath the music. The Rolling Stones Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll is the quintessential tome for any rock 'n' roll enthusiast.
Whether your heart lies in the American south, honky tonk joints or the inner city, these books about the history of musical genres will be music to your ears and eyes.
See our Review of R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country › Play Video
The Blues: A Very Short Introduction
by Elijah Wald
Explores the role of blues in the development of both country music and jazz; and looks at the popular rhythm and blues trends of the 1940s and 1950s.
The Land Where the Blues Began
by Alan Lomax
Follows the roots of the blues, telling what it was like recording in the Deep South in the 1930s and 1940s.
The History of Rock
edited by Parragon Books
Chronicles over six decades of key events in rock, punk, metal, and more, featuring profiles of 100 groundbreaking artists.
Rock & Roll: An Unruly History
by Robert Palmer
Various moments in rock and roll history, stopping to point out highlights, milestones, and intimate stories beneath the music.
The History of Jazz
by Ted Gioia
Considered a classic book of the genre, portrays the legendary jazz players, the breakthrough styles, and the world in which it evolved.
A History of Jazz in America
by Barry Ulanov
Looks at how jazz started, major centers of jazz music, jazz musicians and discusses some of the styles of the music.
The Vibe History of Hip Hop
by Vibe Magazine
Serves both as a fact-heavy primer and a passionate critical missive aimed straight for fans' hearts.
Hip Hop America
by Nelson George
The history of hip hop from its roots in the late 1970s to its emergence as the cultural force that today influences everything.
The Anthology of Rap
by Adam Bradley & Andrew DuBois
Brings together more than three hundred lyrics written over thirty years, from the 'old school' to the 'golden age' to the present day.
Country Music, U.S.A.
by Bill C. Malone
Starting with the music's folk roots in the rural South, it traces country music from the early days of radio to the beginning of the twenty-first century.
A Cultural Dictionary of Punk: 1974-1982
by Nicholas Rombes
An obsessive, exhaustively researched, and sometimes deeply personal portrait of the many ways in which punk was an artistic, cultural, and political expression of defiance.