Thursday, December 13, 2012

Marc Myers

Marc Myers is the author of Why Jazz Happened—the first jazz social history that looks at the unlikely social, economic and technological events that caused jazz styles to change between 1942 and 1972, the music’s golden three decades.

Myers is a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal, where he writes on music and architecture, and he posts daily at, which recently was named “Blog of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Last month I asked the author what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished Sean Wilentz’s 360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story. Wilentz is a professor of history at Princeton University and author of Bob Dylan in America and other books on music and history. It’s a large, coffee table-sized book—which is fabulous, since music history is also about colorful record labels, dramatic album covers, eccentric artists and imposing personalities. You need to see what all of this looked like—from the portraits to the candids—to grasp the importance. But most of all, Wilentz is a first-rate social historian and storyteller who develops a superb narrative. I love music history books that approach their subject as a dramatic work, where the artists and executives are actors in an unfolding story with ups, downs and turning points. This book has it all—with the focus on a single major label that has long dominated the industry back to the earliest days of recording.

I also recently finished Jon Burlingame’s The Music of James Bond, which provides an undercover look at how each Bond film’s theme song and soundtrack came together—the writing and orchestral aspects as well as the intrigue and dirt. Burlingame is a sharp, analytic West Coast journalist and he teaches film-music at the University of Southern California.

Two other books I’ve completed are The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire, by Ted Gioia, a breezy history of songs most favored by jazz artists, and Something to Live for: The Music of Billy Strayhorn by Walter van de Leur, which was written in 2002 and sheds light on the narrow space between Duke Ellington and Strayhorn, his chief composer/arranger.
Read more about Why Jazz Happened at the book’s official site, and visit

--Marshal Zeringue