Love for Sale: Pop Music in America

"If music be the food of love, play on," Duke Orsino famously declared in the opening scene of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Then and now, popular music has been primarily and perennially concerned with love: yearning for it, falling in and out of it, enjoying its blissful heights and mourning its loss. Music critic and Columbia journalism professor David Hajdu, a longtime pop-music geek, takes readers on a tour of the 20th-century landscape of American popular music in his fifth book, Love for Sale.

Hajdu (Positively 4th Street) roams the pop music landscape, covering a dizzying array of musical trends, artists and technologies: wax cylinders, commercially produced sheet music, transistor radios, the Walkman, the MP3 file. He explores the ways in which pop music has always pushed the racial, sexual and societal envelope. He also draws on his interviews with many popular musicians, weaving in anecdotes of his years living in the Greenwich Village as a young music critic with a secret passion for disco.

Pop music, as Hajdu notes in his introduction, is "a phenomenon of vast scale and intimate effect." It is "a social art that works with every member of its enormous following in small, unique ways." Love for Sale will have music fans of all tastes and ages humming the nostalgic tunes of their youth, or scrolling through the latest digital music delivery service in search of the songs they once treasured. Pop music may be a crass commercial endeavor, but as Hajdu shows, it is also the food--and the lyrical expression--of love. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
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