The photographs collected by Scott Crawford in Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington D.C. Punk Scene (Akashic, $24.95) are so vivid and personal, you can almost smell the sweat and stink of the all-ages basement shows and you can definitely hear the pound of the punk rock reverberating off the walls. Crawford continues his investigations into the crucial story of music and dissent he began in his documentary Salad Days through oral histories, ephemera, and photographs from many different on-the-ground sources. This album features histories of Fugazi, Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, Bad Brains, and many other D.C. bands that revolutionized the narrative of punk in this country. A radical coffee-table book, this is the only possible holiday present for punk rockers of any age.
Now that Bob Dylan is officially a Nobel laureate and has accepted his 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, a new book by Harvard Professor Richard F. Thomas arrives and opens a dialogue on the relevance of Dylan’s artistry, classical literary references, and his importance to “the great American song traditions.” In Why Bob Dylan Matters (Dey Street, $24.99) Professor Thomas expands on the basic outline of his freshman seminar class and adds his own personal and cultural connections to the songs. In one example he traces the cultural significance of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and concludes with the urgency of its questions. The answers are timeless. Dylan often borrowed folk melodies and created something new out of them. From the early influences of Woody Guthrie to the ancient classical poets, and including Dante, Machiavelli, Gogol, Balzac, Maupassant, Hugo, Dickens, and Melville, Thomas looks at how Dylan’s songs borrow and steal from a wide range of literary and song traditions and transform them all into the phenomenon folks simply refer to as “Dylan.”
Known as the originator of ‘trap music,’ a style of rap that is taking over the music industry, Gucci Mane reveals his vulnerability in his first memoir and shows us the man behind the Trap God, his hit songs and the infamous reputation behind the criminal charges and prison time he experienced. As a fan of his music, I appreciated learning the stories of his childhood about the creation of hit songs, and how he was able to overcome his drug addiction. His story shows how easy it is for us to get caught up in a celebrity’s image without knowing who they truly are as a person.