Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop

Rock and jazz journalist Marc Myers's column "Anatomy of a Song" is a popular feature of the Wall Street Journal's Arts section. With interviews from the singers, songwriters and producers of chartbusting megahits, each column captures the historical and musical backgrounds of songs that altered popular cultural history. Anatomy of a Song collects 45 of those columns, covering what might be the playlist of a baby boomer's life. From Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" in 1952 to R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" in 1991, Myers (Why Jazz Happened) chooses those that made a difference--by his definition, that they "stood the test of a generation--twenty-five years." Here's a taste--Smokey Robinson on his fellow Motown group: "The Temptations were the greatest background maker-uppers ever." Grace Slick on her fame: "I was just a f**k-off who got lucky.... I'm not a genius, but I don't suck." Mavis Staples on the ending of "Respect Yourself": "I had to put some fuel in it, to keep it going. That's the seasoning." Or Gladys Knight on "Midnight Train to Georgia": "I wanted an Al Green thing going, you know? Something moody, with a little ride to it."

Greatest hits lists always get plenty of argument, especially in rock 'n' roll. Myers includes the Stones, Joplin, Elvis, the Doors, the Allman Brothers and even Steely Dan (Steely Dan??)--but no Hendrix, Dylan or Springsteen. No matter. With its eye-opening, candid interviews and detailed discussion of the songs' instruments, rhythms and lyrics, Anatomy of a Song is a juicy history of the music that got audiences onto the dance floor, out in the streets and cruising down the highway. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Powered by: Xtenit