Cover Image: Music is History

Music is History

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Member Reviews

This book blew me away. Questlove skillfully wove his own life experiences into the greater fabric of music history and American history. Nonfiction that is equally fun and informative, I can’t recommend it enough. The audio was great, but I’m going to need a physical copy to be able to quickly access his song lists.
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Questlove is a music encyclopedia and this book is his latest attempt at putting his vast knowledge into words. Narrated by him and accompanied by background instrumental music, where he also plays the drums, the book felt like a casual conversation about music in a bar. In each chapter he focuses on one specific year, starting with the big events that marked that specific time and continuing with musical anecdotes set in that context. All throughout, he inserts a bird view perspective about history writing that's meant to remind you that no history will ever be the ultimate objective truth, nor will it be complete (there will always be missing points of view), or final. 

Not knowing all the musical references in each chapter, made this book hard to follow at times. This became much easier in the later chapters, where I was more familiar with the musicians Questlove talks about and I could thus form a much better mental picture of the stories being told. The book concludes with thoughts about the recent years of political unrest in the United States, how musicians have responded, and how the pandemic is currently shaping our history in ways we can not yet know.

My favorite part of this book must have been Questlove admitting one of his biggest regrets: Imagine being asked by President Obama to make a playlist for him and procrastinating until it's too late. Then you're asked to DJ a party at the White House and you overthink it so much that the president has to come and ask you to play some music the children can dance to. Thought this was a very vulnerable moment, and oddly - one that made Questlove seem much more relatable, rather than an all-knowing authority in music.

Overall, I'm glad I have read this book. Thank you Netgalley and RB Media for providing me with an advance edition of the audiobook!
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Questlove has earned his place as a musical and cultural authority. This book is further evidence of that. But, the book is much more than a celebrity autobiography using songs as a device. Questlove grapples seriously with the processes of music history and cultural history. And, the book does historical work that I appreciate, potentially shifting what we might otherwise consider settled debates.
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Music is... history in a number of formats.

First, it's a history of Questlove himself, marking the half-century mark of his life by looking back at songs from each of the years of his existence--at least until the year-30 mark. The year 1971 marked not only the genesis of Amir Khalib "Questlove" Thompson, but also the seminal TV show, Soul Train. Questlove was raised on Soul Train in the way that other kids of the era followed Captain Kangaroo or Sesame Street, which explains his savant-like appreciation of music. Indeed, Questlove was building his record collection in primary school--a collection that has grown to more than 70,000, as its collector has become a famous bandleader and world-class DJ.

Second, it's a history of the United States over the past half-century. At the beginning of each year/chapter, Questlove recounts noted events--with a special focus on black history of the era. This was a special interest to me, because I also turned 50 this year, just 8 days after Amir, so these were significant events in my life, too. But while I expected musical expertise, I was surprised by Questlove's emphasis on "historicity," not only what happened, but what they meant to a diverse set of communities. Questlove understand that history isn't made by its subjects/ actors, whose stories are often distorted or diminished, and that makes him comfortable sharing his own perspectives and taking readers into the process of history-making, as well as historic appreciation.

Third, Music Is History of black music in the past half-century, with a specific focus on the development of hip-hop. In early chapters of the 70s, Questlove illustrates funk and its followers in music, leading dramatically up to the breakthrough of Michael Jackson in the dawn of the 1980s. In 1988, he features Public Enemy, showing how their sound mixed funk with other key sources of the 1970s while advancing a strident political message. By the mid-90s, Questlove himself is a part of the hip-hop scene, with a literal front-row seat (at the Source Awards in 1995) when the East-Coast vs West-Coast broke into a violent feud, eventually claiming the lives of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. In the 00s, he is a producer for D'Angelo and recounting sessions with Amy Winehouse and others.

This is a tour-de-force book. Many of its first-hand accounts will be featured in histories for scores of years to come.

I listened to the audiobook, which was sent to me by NetGalley and RecordedBooks in exchange for this honest review. Questlove narrates the book along with some cameos from his friends. His enthusiasm for the topic really carries the narrative, and there are clips of music at the beginning of the chapters. I wished, however, for the book-book, because many of the chapters end with thorough playlists of songs that he recommends. This was hard to write down as I was driving or doing chores. I also wished I could have heard the songs referenced in each chapter to enhance his insights and memories.

Whether you're a Gen Xer like me, or you're a younger person hoping for a whole heap of the history of hip-hop, you should buy this book. You will enjoy it.
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I started with the audiobook because I thought I would be able to hear samples from songs to get a full multi-media experience.  Unfortunately the only samples are not of the songs he is describing but very short sampling of his own work (which I like too).  But given this, I enjoyed this book so much I went and also got a copy of the hardcover book so I could easily access all of the songs.  What's great about the audiobook is Questlove's narration -- he has a beautiful voice and I could hear the passion as he talked about the memories and influence specific songs and artists have had on his life and career.  He also has some other voices read different parts (not as compelling) and uses distorted sound in places to make a point.  Questlove is a music nerd in the best possible way and his book helped me look at music in my life too with a new perspective.  I also loved his humility  that shines through in this book.  A great read and I recommend it.
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<i>Music is History</i> explores music and history of the past fifty years.

This book was different than what I was expecting, which is more on me than the book.  In my high school U.S. history class, the teacher was very into music, and we looked at the way history was tied to the songs that came out in a unit of that class, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s.  I was expecting to this book to be like that, but mostly, this book listed a few of the big news events of each year at the beginning of the chapter, then discussed music’s history for the year.  There were a few times when the two crossed over, but it wasn’t nearly as often as I had anticipated.  Questlove also talks about the influence the songs chosen had on his own life.  It was an interesting read, just not what I had anticipated going into it.  I did appreciate that on the audiobook, we got to hear his band playing music at times.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me an audio ARC of this book.
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This was a really interesting book that only Questlove could write. It was a series of songs and their impact on music history throughout Questlove's life. A couple of the tangents didn't feel worthwhile to going into but I love hearing Quest talk about music, you can tell how passionate he is about it all. A quick listen where you can learn some things about culture and music history. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review!
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A really interesting personal / pop culture / societal history from ?uestlove, drummer and bandleader of the Roots. the book is structured chronologically for every year of his life (although much of the 21st century gets smooshed together at the end, which is a bit disappointing). Each chapter begins with some highlights of the year and then dives deep into a particular song (usually) from that year and what it meant to entertainment/musical culture and (more importantly) what it meant to ?uestlove and his life.

There's a lot of interesting meditations here on the power of music, and influences, and (in the later years) how family and friendship affect you in unexpected ways. I loved hearing how he approaches creating music wih the roots and sets as a DJ (check out his killer post-Oscars playlist here: ). and I got exposed to some 70s and 80s soul I didn't know about and was reminded about music I haven't heard in too long (my word was Thriller a great album).

And his narration is great!  On the whole, a really good book that made me think a lot about the power of music in my life.
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Music Is History
RB Media, Recorded Books

Questlove narrates his own writing in his own voice, in the audiobook version of Music is History. The narrative plays as if he is having a deep one on one conversation with each listener, giving his personal perspective of music and how it flows in history from 1971 to the present. His enthusiasm and knowledge is compelling, as he traces the role of music as an influence over the decades in terms of diversity, social issues, and historical happenings. I now think deeper about the songs and their influences presented in the book, learning about new ones to me and revisiting some from my past. 
Thank you to Net Galley and RB Media, Recorded Books for the advance audiobook and opportunity to provide my unbiased review.
#MusicIsHistory #NetGalley
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Music is History was a thoughtful selection of history made relevant by music, and music made relevant by history. Questlove was a passionate storyteller, combining personal narrative, historical events, and cultural perspective. This book provides a quick list of what happened during that year, and it was interesting to have such a multifaceted timeline presented. I especially enjoyed how some of the highlighted historical events were off of the beaten path. The only thing that would have made this more enjoyable for me is if I had a more in-depth knowledge of the music that Questlove discusses. He talks so specifically about music itself, and particular artists, and I couldn't always follow that part of the conversation. However, if you are a true connoisseur of music from the 70s & 80s especially, you will be able to appreciate all the nuance of this book. Questlove did a fantastic job with the narration, and listening to him added a lot to the book for me.
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If you're not familiar with Questlove (you probably are), he's worth an online search. I am especially glad to have previewed this book via audio narrated by the author, as there is a heavy personal component to the text—best to hear directly from the source. There were also some musical moments (typically fun) and some sound effects (sometimes jarring and usually silly, but OK).

As a music lover myself—and being only a few years older than the author—I was interested in both the historical connections and Questlove's personal commentary. Each chapter starts with a list of some of the year's notable events. Overall, the content was fascinating and the presentation was impactful, somber, delightful, or funny, as warranted by the subject at hand.

Thank you, NetGalley and RB Media, for the audio ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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Music is History took me on a beautiful ride.  Questlove is a phenomenal storyteller and teacher.  I will go back and listen to the audio of this book, and purchase the physical copy of this book because I learned so much from this book.  I did not know a lot of the backstories, the why's and the who's, and Questlove did an amazing job of taking us from the present to the past, and towards the future.  The future that I hope once there he will write a "Music is History" B side to complete what is our history through music.  If you enjoy music, if you work in the music industry in any capacity, this book is a go-to reference book that will also, get you in your feelings.  I have cried, I laughed, and I did a lot of thinking while listening to this book.  I would even pause and be like wait a minute and pass the word of one of the many new tidbits of information I learned onto others.  Music is History is the gift that keeps on giving!  
Thank you Questlove, we are so lucky to have you in our music history.
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So, this was awesome.  I listened to the audiobook version and Questlove was an amazing narrator.   I ended up finishing this in two days….it was that good.  Whether you are a music and/or history buff or have little knowledge about either, you’ll enjoy this book.  Questlove was able to do what is so hard to do with history sometimes….put things in perspective in relation to everything else that happens to be going on in the world at the same time.   There’s a quote in the book “whenever history is happening,, theres more than *one* history happening.  Different people see things things differently and there is an opposite side….. a different version of the same story….or history.  He weaves and twists and intertwines music and how it related to the world and society in such a way that makes it seem effortless.  I loved every minute.
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Music is History by Questlove "feels like both a popular history of contemporary America and a conversation with one of music's most influential and unique voices."

I absolutely adore Questlove. I often watch his live dj sets on instagram and was blown away by his Sundance jury award winning documentary Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).

The audiobook opens with him spinning a set and jumping straight into the beautiful history he has so meticulously researched. The focus period of this anthology of music is 1971 to present. His narration enhances his subject and is beautifully told. As do the audio clips he includes from the time periods and events discussed. 

Record storage albums, the invention of the LP, how history was experienced, learned and understood through music--there is just such a wealth of cool knowledge here.

I am thrilled that this chronicle is out there for all to enjoy!

Publication Date: October 19th, 2021

Thank you to @NetGalley & @RBMedia for the advanced copy of the audiobook in exchange for an unbiased review.

#MusicisHistory #NetGalley #bookstagram #books #bookrecommendations #bookblog #book #bookstagrammer #questlove #history #music
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Questlove: “There are many nonparallel histories, messily intertwined, multiply interdependent, and they remind you that you can't learn one without the other, and also that anything you're seeing is also something you're not seeing." 

I LOVED this book that reminds me that there is no history that is not documented in music. Our history on this planet and our own personal history are both shaped by and documented by singers, songwriters, arrangers, and musicians. Questlove speaks about this history passionately. I cannot recommend this book enough. I listened to an advanced copy on audiobook and it was terrific.
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