Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Book Reports: A Music Critic on His First Love, Which Was Reading
Paperback, 2019. Duke University Press, 416 pages.

In this generous collection of book reviews and literary essays, legendary Village Voice rock critic Robert Christgau showcases the passion that made him a critic--his love for the written word. Many selections address music, from blackface minstrelsy to punk and hip-hop, artists from Lead Belly to Patti Smith, and fellow critics from Ellen Willis and Lester Bangs to Nelson George and Jessica Hopper. But Book Reports also teases out the popular in the Bible and 1984 as well as pornography and science fiction, and analyzes at length the cultural theory of Raymond Williams, the detective novels of Walter Mosley, the history of bohemia, and the 2008 financial crisis. It establishes Christgau as not just the Dean of American Rock Critics, but one of America's most insightful cultural critics as well.

Is It Still Good to Ya? Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017
Paperback, 2018. Duke University Press, 456 pages.

Is It Still Good to Ya? sums up the career of longtime Village Voice stalwart Robert Christgau, who for half a century has been America's most widely respected rock critic, honoring a music he argues is only more enduring because it's sometimes simple or silly. While compiling historical overviews going back to Dionysus and the gramophone along with artist analyses that range from Louis Armstrong to M.I.A., this definitive collection also explores pop's African roots, response to 9/11, and evolution from the teen music of the '50s to an art form compelled to confront mortality as its heroes pass on. A final section combines searching obituaries of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen with awed farewells to Bob Marley and Ornette Coleman.

Going Into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man
Paperback, 2016, Dey Street Books, 384 pages.
Hardcover, 2015, Dey Street Books, 384 pages.

Robert Christgau takes us on a heady tour through his life and times in this vividly atmospheric and visceral memoir that is both a love letter to a New York long past and a tribute to the transformative power of art. . . . Christgau chronicled many of the key cultural shifts of the last half century and revolutionized the cultural status of the music critic in the process. Going Into the City is a look back at the upbringing that grounded him, the history that transformed him, and the music, books, and films that showed him the way. . . . It's an homage to the city of Christgau's youth from Queens to the Lower East Side -- a city that exists mostly in memory today. And it's a love story about the Greenwich Village girl who roamed this realm of possibility with him.

Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s
Paperback, 2000, Griffin, 396 pages.

The '90s saw more albums produced and distributed than any other decade. It was a fertile era for new genres, from alt-rock to Afropop, hip hop to techno. Rock critic Robert Christgau's obsessive ear and authoritative pen have covered it all--over 3,800 albums graded and classified, from A+'s to his celebrated turkeys and duds. A rich appendix section ensures that nothing has been left out--from "Subjects for Further Research" to "Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies." Christgau's Consumer Guide is essential reading and reference for any dedicated listener.

Grown Up All Wrong: 75 Great Rock and Pop Artists from Vaudeville to Techno
Paperback, 2000, Harvard University Press, 528 pages.
Hardcover, 1998, Harvard University Press, 528 pages.

A critical compendium of points of interest in American popular music and its far-flung diaspora, this book ranges from the 1950s singer-songwriter tradition through hip-hop, alternative, and beyond. With unfailing style and grace, Christgau negotiates the straits of great music and thorny politics, as in the cases of Public Enemy, blackface artist Emmett Miller, KRS-One, the Beastie Boys, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He illuminates legends from pop music and the beginnings of rock and roll--George Gershwin, Nat King Cole, B. B. King, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley--and looks at the subtle transition to just plain "rock" in the music of Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and others. He praises the endless vitality of Al Green, George Clinton, and Neil Young. And from the Rolling Stones to Sonic Youth to Nirvana, from Bette Midler to Michael Jackson to DJ Shadow, he shows how money calls the tune in careers that aren't necessarily compromised by their intercourse with commerce.

Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s
Paperback, 1990, Pantheon Books, 514 pages.
Paperback (reprint), 1994, Da Capo Press, 525 pages.

Robert Christgau has earned his place as America's foremost rock critic by distilling enthusiastic nonstop listening into incisive, knowledgeable, sometimes hilarious judgments. Christgau's guide to the records of the 1980s, the first and only book to survey the decade's popular music, reviews and letter-grades some 3,000 albums. His search for exciting music is wide-ranging, not just what is narrowly defined as "rock,", but also pop, country, rap, blues, rock-related jazz, and the panoply of world musics, especially reggae and African genres.

UK cover DaCapo reprint Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies
Paperback, 1981, Ticknor & Fields, 472 pages.
Paperback (reprint), 1990, Da Capo Press, 480 pages.

Robert Christgau has adapted his notorious Village Voice column to produce the essential guide to recent rock and roll. It is the first book devoted to the years that brought us disco, punk, and new wave; that established Linda Ronstadt, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Bob Marley, and Deborah Harry as superstars; and that confirmed the brilliance of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, and the Rolling Stones. The man who has listened to more rock and roll than anyone else in the country offers a unique reference book, as energetic and rebellious as the music he has the nerve to grade--funny and personal, but always searching for musical, literary, and political standards in an amorphous and hype-ridden business.

Any Old Way You Choose It: Rock and Other Pop Music, 1967-1973
Paperback (Original), 1973, Penguin Books, 330 pages.
Paperback (Expanded), 2000, Cooper Square Press, 360 pages.

In this collection of more than forty pieces, Robert Christgau shows why he is a leading critical voice. With an ability to pack more insight into a single phrase than most critics can work into a lengthy piece, he rarely misses the mark. Any Old Way You Choose It examines a wide array of artists--from Joni Mitchell to the New York Dolls, from Barbra Streisand to Frank Zappa--as well as the descent from Monterey to Altamont, sexism in rock, the commercial pitfalls of the pop game, and the ethics and aesthetics of the marketplace.

Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough: Essays in Honor of Robert Christgau
Edited by Tom Carson, Kit Rachlis and Jeff Salamon
Paperback, 2002, Nortex Press, 253 pages.