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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
Music vs The Man by Peter Rowe dives into the intriguing and controversial tales of musical artists who have been incarcerated or had a brush with the law for their expressive music. Rowe gives you a close-up look at the history of the conflict between musicians and authorities. The book starts with an overview of the roots of the conflict where music has been instrumental since the Greek and Roman empires. It also briefly illustrates how the worship of Dionysus became the modern parlance for sex, drugs, and alcohol. Of course, this book would not be complete without delving into how slavery inspired musical creativity from the ships that carried the first African people onto American soil and how it continued in the spirit of jazz. Moreover, it does not limit its subjects to American artists, as it examines prominent foreign artists like Victor Jara, Miriam Makeba, and the Kremlin music scene. Lennon, Sinatra, and the 27 Club are also among the fascinating subjects that complete this study.
The stories in Music vs The Man attest to the power of music has, ranging from being persuasive to coercive. Music is collective and communal and it becomes a powerful tool in inducing feelings and thoughts in others. Peter Rowe makes this clear, having been a part of many concerts and music festivals since the 1960s. His writing opens a door to examine the zeitgeist of our present and how it connects to the past. He has a good music background that allows him to dig deep into the social impact of the artist that he talks about, and he understands the person behind the music, not just the persona. As the Internet reshapes the current music industry, this book is a must-read for everyone to better understand how music as an art form shapes the way we think, and how it becomes a powerful instrument of expression and mobilization. Most of all, you learn how music gives you a feeling of belonging and connection to the artist who creates it.