Nearly everyone recognizes how important the Woodstock festival is in the fabric of American rock music; few, however, understand the significance of the actual town Woodstock. Of course, the festival was not held in the town, but the creative output from the town is undeniable when viewed through the lens of history. The subtitle of Barney Hoskyns’ latest book, Small Town Talk, lists the major players that decided to “get it together in the county”: Bob Dylan, the Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. But there were others, such as Paul Butterfield and Todd Rundgren.
Hoskyns collects memories and anecdotes from the atmosphere of the 1960s, based on numerous first-hand interviews, telling tales of the legends of folk rock. So much of the art that was imagined there was pure and honest, and has impacted and continues to impact the world for generations since. Fans of the sixties music scene, especially the brilliance of Dylan, will enjoy this history of the time.
27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse by Howard Sounes (2015)
27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix,
Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse
by Howard Sounes
Da Capo Press, 2015
Drugs, drunkenness, and depression all too often lead to one conclusion: death, especially if you are a famous musician aged 27. From blues legend Robert Johnson to Grateful Dead keyboardist Pigpen McKernan, the list of “27 Club” members is long and varied, but drugs and mental illness played a part in a large number of deaths. There are, of course, some who are more famous than others, and they are the main focus of Howard Sounes’ book, 27: A History of the 27 Club. Sounes examines the life, ascent to fame, descent into madness, and ultimate death of the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors’ Jim Morrison, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.
The in-depth look at these six individuals, their disposition to addictive behaviors, their frantic mood swings and deep depressions, creates a sort of sympathy for them in the reader’s mind. They had the faculty to alter their course, but for whatever reason could not bring themselves to change in time. I have read quite a bit about Hendrix and Morrison in the past, but this was my first real exposure to the rise and fall of the other four musicians and the similarities they shared with each other. I can still remember hearing of Cobain’s demise on the radio in 1994; though I was not a fan of the grunge scene, the significance of the singer’s age was not lost on me.
Sounes does a great job profiling each of the rockers, without offering a solution for future superstars to avoid death, other than perhaps to steer clear of intoxicants and surround yourself with positive people that can help combat bouts of depression. 27: A History of the 27 Club is a worthy addition to the library of classic rock bookworms.