Cover image for Highway 61 revisited : the tangled roots of American jazz, blues, folk, rock, & country music
Highway 61 revisited : the tangled roots of American jazz, blues, folk, rock, & country music
Santoro, Gene.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
312 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Avatars -- The postwar jazz era -- Rebirth of the blues -- In the garage -- Possible futures.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3477 .S21 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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What do Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, Cassandra Wilson, and Ani DiFranco have in common? In Highway 61 Revisited, acclaimed music critic Gene Santoro says the answer is jazz--not just the musical style, but jazz's distinctive ambiance and attitudes. As legendary bebop rebel Charlie Parker once put it, "If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn." Unwinding that Zen-like statement, Santoro traces how jazz's existential art has infused outstanding musicians in nearly every wing of American popular music--blues, folk, gospel,psychedelic rock, country, bluegrass, soul, funk, hiphop--with its parallel process of self-discovery and artistic creation through musical improvisation. Taking less-traveled paths through the last century of American pop, Highway 61 Revisited maps unexpected musical and cultural links between suchapparently disparate figures as Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Herbie Hancock; Miles Davis, Lenny Bruce, The Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, and many others. Focusing on jazz's power to connect, Santoro shows how the jazz milieu created a fertile space "where whites and blacks couldmeet in America on something like equal grounds," and indeed where art and entertainment, politics and poetry, mainstream culture and its subversive offshoots were drawn together in a heady mix whose influence has proved both far-reaching and seemingly inexhaustible. Combining interviews and original research, and marked throughout by Santoro's wide ranging grasp of cultural history, Highway 61 Revisited offers readers a new look at--and a new way of listening to--the many ways jazz has colored the entire range of American popular music in all its dazzlingprofusion.

Author Notes

Gene Santoro is jazz and popular music critic for The Nation. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and Down Beat. He is the author of two volumes of essays, Dancing in Your Head and Stir It Up, as well as the widely praisedbiography Myself When I Am Real: The Life and Music of Charles Mingus. He divides his time between New York City and Shokan.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

There is no stronger argument for America as a melting pot than its popular music. Nation music critic Santoro launches this collection of insightful, informative essays from the premise that post-World War II American pop music flows from the jazz of Louis Armstrong and the folk music of Woody Guthrie. He then demonstrates how subsequent artists commingled those two strains and added other elements to keep musical genres vital. Jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock embraced techno and hip-hop; country crooner Willie Nelson made his singing jazzy; Bob Dylan lurched from folk to rock and back again; and jazz singer Cassandra Wilson utterly transformed lightweight pop tunes. Even trailblazing comic Lenny Bruce incorporated a jazz sensibility into his stand-up routines. The nonmusical issues that inevitably bubble up in Santoro's discussions of music--marginalism, politics, and, most frequently, race--reflect concerns of the country in general. One issue that doesn't trouble Santoro is that long-standing bugaboo of cultural arbiters, authenticity; as he compellingly demonstrates, overwrought concerns about an artist's genuineness impede cultural vitality. --Gordon Flagg Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Santoro, the jazz and popular music critic for the Nation, here tries to make sense of modern American music, locating its shared thread in a loosely defined folk ethos of individuality, improvisation, and constant stylistic change that jazz most clearly exemplifies. Using material that, to a large extent, previously appeared in several magazines (e.g., Pulse; the New York Times Book Review), he identifies jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong and folk icon Woody Guthrie as the fonts of future musical developments. The author follows with more than 25 segments on such varied artists as Willie Nelson, the Blues Project, Chet Baker, and Ani DiFranco, attempting to show the connection between music and race, politics, business, drugs, and the definition of subculture. Throughout, he delivers vignettes that are part personal recollection, part history, part social context, and part analysis. Santoro patches together more than a dozen book and record reviews, revealing interviews of Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, and Miles Davis, and some fascinating essays about soul music, Bob Dylan, and the 1960s folk revival. Though always illuminating his individual subjects, Santoro never hits his rather ambitious mark of knitting them together to explain the social and political context of modern American music. Nonetheless, he offers an informed, thought-provoking book that will appeal to general readers and fans.-Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.