Award-winning journalist and beloved music critic David Browne continues his string of successful band profiles, digging past his recent subjects of Jeff Buckley and Sonic Youth, to four of the most undisputedly influential rock legends falling apart at the end of the Decade of Love. As the seasons turn, the interlocking portraits of these four struggling musical partnerships shed new light on an often overlooked moment in the history of a country and a music scene.
Earphones Award-winner Sean Runnette narrates the book like he is sitting in your living room. Browne has set an easy-going tone that Runnette delivers with a friendly charisma and a fine ear for the sad parts of the story. This is a time where the bestselling albums in America all belonged to bands on the brink of implosion. Ironic parallels between the album content and the lives of the musicians abound. The Beatles are tying up loose ends on Let It Be while McCartney and Lennon each refuse to leave the other's nasty press quotes alone. James Taylor is riding the wave of Sweet Baby James while privately ignoring his heroin addiction. Simon and Garfunkel debut Bridge Over Troubled Water while burning bridges as Simon turns to teaching and Garfunkel turns to acting. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are pushing out Deja Vu while all four are much more focused on their solo careers.
As a backdrop to these tales of celebrity won and sanity lost, Browne provides ample historical context. Students killed in the Kent State riots drew the attention of Neil Young, the next wave of protest movements drew several rock stars to Joni Mitchell in competing romantic intrigues, everybody was glued to the news coverage of Apollo 13, and the meteoric rise of Led Zeppelin was poised to give all four bands a run for their money. In the hands of a less capable narrator, this fascinating moment in music history might amount to nothing more than a major bummer. But Runnette keeps the listener engaged and optimistic, adding a nostalgic flavor that will make you want to blow the dust off these albums and appreciate what you've been missing in a much more nuanced way. Megan Volpert
January 1970: the Beatles assemble one more time to put the finishing touches on Let It Be; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are wrapping up Déjà Vu; Simon and Garfunkel are unveiling Bridge Over Troubled Water; James Taylor is an upstart singer-songwriter who's just completed Sweet Baby James. Over the course of the next twelve months, their lives---and the world around them---will change irrevocably.
Fire and Rain tells the story of four iconic albums of 1970 and the lives, times, and constantly intertwining personal ties of the remarkable artists who made them. Acclaimed journalist David Browne sets these stories against an increasingly chaotic backdrop of events that sent the world spinning throughout that tumultuous year: Kent State, the Apollo 13 debacle, ongoing bombings by radical left-wing groups, the diffusion of the antiwar movement, and much more. Featuring candid interviews with more than 100 luminaries, including some of the artists themselves, Browne's vivid narrative tells the incredible story of how---over the course of 12 turbulent months---the '60s effectively ended and the '70s began.
©2011 David Browne (P)2011 Tantor
"Browne's engrossing account of this fertile but volatile period sets the standard by which comprehensive musical histories should be judged." (BookPage)
I bought this because I graduated from high school in '70 and began college- and couldn't remember a whole lot of details from that year. The author has researched it meticulously, giving quotes from members of the bands and setting political backdrops. The narrator is also very good. I have a very hard time putting it down- it is as if you have someone in your living room with you, telling you about what was going on as if he knew these people well, and remembered it perfectly. I have told several people about this book and may give it as a gift, along with some of the music. I find myself playing the songs he describes-
An insightful look at the classic rock star arc: poor, some success, a bunch of excess then immortality after losing touch. Some B-side and bottom of the album references were meaningless but a real, heavy-duty fan of the bands would understand. There is a bit of innocence throughout and a ton of sex/drugs...did they really not know the long-term effects or did they not care? Well, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll had to start somewhere. I was not aware of the inter mingling between the groups and that made the book even more interesting. Not a short book. The reader does not imitate the singer's voices but does an admirable job of reflecting the intonation. Hard core, classic rock lovers will love it. Casual fans with an interest in history will like it. You'll still enjoy it if you like to hear about rags to riches to not-so rags stories.
Being of an age, it is hard for me to imagine how this expansive review of the year 1970 would read for a younger person. My kids do seem to be interested in the era, but I suspect it is because 1) the first ones there mined that musical vein out; and 2) nothing better has come along since. In any event, I was there and this multi-biography/social history gets it just right. The narrative is balanced and if anything gives The
Beatles less attention than the other three acts. If you were paying attention all those years ago (and since) not a whole lot new is here, but its fun and entertaining to reminisce. One remarkable fact the book brought out was the radicalism of the times, with respect to bombings and social turmoil. We tend to forget the nastiness of it all. The narrator is very good and the text flows elegantly. Nothing challenging here, but for those who were there, a fun rewind.
Love to read, and Audible has made the two-hour daily commute enjoyable!
1970 was a pivotal year musically as the Beatles, and Simon and Garfunkel broke up, CSNY flowed together and apart, and James Taylor emerged.
Browne discusses individuals, drug abuse, albums, lyrics against the back-drop of this year with the memory of asassinations and the current setting of Vietnam, the Manson family, Weather Underground, Kent State and the beginnings of Earth Day and Green Peace.
I started the book because these groups were my favorites, and it brought back and connected many things that happened during my mid-teens. It does cover the chaos of the time.
At times there were details missed that I wanted to go back to. With a book it would take the turn of a page for that detail to be found and appreciated. In any event, this only makes you want to listen to the audio book once more. Otherwise this audio version of Fire and Rain would equal its printed version.
There many memorable moments that stood out in Fire and Rain. All the stories revealed the triumphs and pitfalls of each group- Having lived the 70's years as a young boy, I relished the origins of songs like Judy Blue Eyes and Fire and Rain. I understood more the dynamics that led to the break-ups of CSNY, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beatles;and why certain friendships remain true to this day as in the case of James Taylor and Carole King. Well researched, it filled in whatever facts were hidden from the fans.
Mr. Sean Runnette's reading was appropriate for the book. He was like a friend sharing an anecdote or two about our favorite singing groups. His voice is mature, credible, and appropriate for the age group who would patronize the book.
At the end of the last page, the book tied up all the loose ends, but like the lives it mirrored some stories were left unfinished (we all knew what happened next). Some break-ups made me regret because all that was needed was open communication. However, like one attending a school reunion, the book left me satisfied because it made me vicariously revisit the period, the clothes, the places, and the hit makers who shared their music with us.
This is a romp through the wild and crazy world of the Beatles breaking up, Simon & Garfunkel rising to dominance (and breaking up), CSNY rising to be the “American Beatles” (and breaking up) while James Taylor rose to dominance and shot heroin – all against a backdrop of Nixon’s America. I had always understood that the 60s happened in Greenwich Village and the Haight. I was delighted to learn the rest of the story in Michael Walkers 2007 book Laurel Canyon. I had hoped Fire and Rain would fill in more of the blanks since many of my favorite acts of that period were LA based. This book was actually all over the globe connecting the break-up of the Beatles in London to the Simon and Garfunkel in New York to CSNY forming in Laurel Canyon. The social significance, business and musical connections of these acts along with Joni Mitchel and Carol King are not surprising, but in fascinating none the less.
Being me, I hear the songs as they are referenced and see the album covers and photo shoots and in many cases, I remember my first listen. This was a special time for anyone who grew up in the 70s and I don’t think it gets enough coverage. Excellent book, though it may not have as much significance for not 70s Folk/Rock fans.
I have a primary love of music and pretty much an insatiable curiosity of history, art, science, current affairs, and all things bicycling.
Focusing on four of popular music most influential groups to tell the story of 1970 draws the music junkie into a history lesson of one of the most turbulent times in recent American history. Mr Browne is able to focus on the groups while giving an over all background history of the end of the sixties and the beginning what some refer to as the desert of the seventies. In an effort to maintain focus on the chosen subject he gives cursory or no attention to the other forms which also developed during this time (prog rock-Jethro Tull Yes Pink Floyd King Crimson et al, the horn bands-Chicago Blood Sweat and Tears, the rise of funk-Earth Wind and Fire Tower of Power) which leaves the listener with the feeling that we were only bound for the land of Disco. Overall, the nit picking aside, this is a very informative and enjoyable book.
A history of that year and the interaction music had with the social issues at that time was completely intertwined for me as teenager at that time. Remembering all the unrest in the nation and the music seemed to match the feeling of the youth. If you are in your 50's or older you will relate to this book. I think the younger generation will be lost if they listen although it would be good for them to see how music influenced us. If you love rock &roll listen to this book
Music me and the Mob or the Wrecking crew.
Yes but did not have the time
This brought back many memories of my youth. I was 11 years old that year and music was playing a major part of my consciousness. I would read books in the back yard listening to CSN's first album. I loved the song Guinevere and Abby road was my first album I ever owned.
I think the author was right on in the end when he commented that today there are to many things that interfere with music listening like video games and access to instant movies. Music was all we had in those days and three channels of TV so the music shaped a generation.
Not so today! We worshipped these musicians
I wouldn't listen to another spoken version musical history by David Browne.
Mr. Browne was describing multiple artists using a chronological order. So as he went through the time period he jumped from artist to artist. Perhaps in the book there was a heading or some other way to indicate a change coming, but on the audible format you have no indication that a change has occurred...after awhile it becomes annoying to suddenly realized he has jumped to another performer/group when a name gets mentioned. "Oh", you think, "James Taylor didn't do that, it was Neil Young".
The story was also rather depressing - I wanted to know more details but wasn't prepared for the downer this story would become.
Not necessarily - maybe other authors have organized their books differently.
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