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Sound Bites: Big Ideas in Popular Music

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Sound Bites: Big Ideas in Popular Music

Sound Bites: Big Ideas in Popular Music

"[Writing about music adds] an irreplaceable dimension to our experience of the artform. As long as humans crave music, they will also long to share their experiences of it.”
—From the introduction by Geeta Dayal

In Sound Bites: Big Ideas in Popular Music, writers reflect on the immense impact of popular music on our culture, our lives, and our ways of thinking about the world. The 30 selections in this exciting new collection explore popular music across genres and consider varied aspects of creating, listening, and performing. Inside you’ll find:

  • Acclaimed authors, including James Baldwin, Bobbie Ann Mason, David Remnick, Sonia Sanchez, and Tracy K. Smith
  • Writing on memory, fandom, patriotism, science, and soul
  • Essays, short stories, lyrics, memoirs, and poetry

Please note, this book contains mature content.


Don't You Wonder, Sometimes?
Tracy K. Smith
Voice and Hammer: Harry Belafonte's Unfinished Fight*
Jeff Sharlet
Lush Life
John McCluskey, Jr.
Electronic Dance Music's Love Affair with Ecstasy: A History*
Nash Jenkins
Langston Hughes
I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love: A Paean 2 Prince
Hilton Als
Amor Prohibido*
Jeff Winkler
Thieves in the Night
Dante Smith, Talib Kweli Greene, and Charles Njapa
Simon Critchley


When Whitney Hit the High Note
Danyel Smith
Black Flag
John Albert
Millie Jackson's Country Roots
Jalylah Burrell
Beatlemania: A Love Story
Devin McKinney
Sonny's Blues
James Baldwin
A Poem for Ella Fitzgerald
Sonia Sanchez
Elvis Presley*
Bobbie Ann Mason
Star Child*
Margo Jefferson
When Johnny Cash Visisted Leavenworth
Albert Nussbaum
Soul Survivor
David Remnick


Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock
Sherman Alexie
Why the Shirelles Mattered
Susan J. Douglas
Bill Holm
Salsa y La Naturaleza: How a Willie Colón Song Taught Me About Queerness and Love
Gabby Rivera
Brainworms, Sticky Music, and Catchy Tunes
Oliver Sacks
Reluctant Exegesis: "(I Bless the Rains Down In) Africa"
Steve Almond
Good Citations: The Rise of the Rock Curator*
Simon Reynolds
Beginning to See the Light
Ellen Willis
Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past*
Eric Spitznagel
Just a Little Bit: Loudness
Ben Ratliff
Let's Talk About Love
Carl Wilson

*Indicates a selection taken from a longer work.