Book Reviews

Marc Myers – Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits that Changed Rock, R&B and Pop

(Grove Press)

Music journalist Marc Myers’ third book, Anatomy Of A Song, is a love letter to music and its biggest fans. Chronicling 45 hit songs in a four decade stretch from the early 50s to the early 90s, the book tells the stories behind our favorite classic sing-alongs. The story of every song begins with a quick narration by Myers, introducing basic history along with what was going on with other music of that time. The rest of the story is told through intimate interviews with the musicians, songwriters, producers, and more who worked on the track.

By the end of each song deconstruction, readers will happily anticipate turning the page for the next tell-all story. From Grace Slick admitting that she’s “not a genius” but she “doesn’t suck” to Roger Waters of Pink Floyd encouraging “anyone who marches to a different drum” to stand up for themselves, every artist featured evokes charm, humility, wisdom, and humor — characteristics that might not otherwise be known by listeners but are kindly revealed by Myers’ in-depth interviews. In this collection, readers learn how The Kinks inspired future hard-rock bands, that John Sebastian of Lovin’ Spoonful was just another fan in the crowd at Woodstock before he played the stage solo, how Elvis Costello penned “Red Shoes” in a pocket-sized journal while on the train, about the connection Cyndi Lauper has to Miles Davis, and so much more.

One phrase repeated often throughout the book is “That’s what you hear on the record”. The simplicity and predictability of it unites each musician beyond just their music but in the knowledge of their art, the ambition to create it, and the passion to share it. A simple sentence that many provide in these interviews as if offering a gift to their listeners. In Anatomy Of A Song, iconic artists share the influences who have led them to art, the meanings behind their chart-topping records, and, most deliciously, what they think of their own work. Marc Myers does a job well done curating a comprehensive history of 45 top hits and the hard work behind them.

-Savannah Davanzo

Got something to say?