The popular musician and founding member of The Roots explores modern American history alongside his own experiences navigating that history by contemplating the resonant music of the last half century.
Questlove is more curator than historian, more aficionado than analyst. He remains the inveterate music nerd, always quick to name-drop, share anecdotes and demonstrate the breadth of his incomparable knowledge. But as productive as he has been in recent years, and with such a consistent and sweeping output of work, even Questlove can’t help but occasionally repeat himself ... As it happens with even the best storytellers, Questlove unfortunately—and one hopes unwittingly—at times plagiarizes his own work [from previous books] ... Notwithstanding these pardonable oversights, Music Is History is an entertaining, informative and far-reaching work, meticulously excavating American culture and history with the eye of a seasoned cratedigger.
Listening to music is one of life’s simple pleasures. And sadly, as with life, there are many ways to ruin it. An artist...might write a book that does its best to make listening to music sound like a chore. Music Is History, by Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson, is one of those books ... Questlove often ends up asking meandering questions ... One of the book’s strengths is the way in which Questlove tucks in subtle details about the lives of important artists, encouraging us to think more deeply about the songs we love and the people who made them ... The book is a master class in music trivia, and the prickly nature of music obsessives ... But in his effort to find out how we know what we know, Questlove often becomes distracted, introducing countless asides and failing to distinguish serious thoughts from the casual musings of the wandering mind ... And then there are moments in which he writes about women in ways that may make some feel uncomfortable.
Questlove does more than just offer musical analysis: he puts the songs into context and digs into deep cuts and artists sometimes lost to history as he considers how we create history and how we think about popular music and culture ... Questlove's playlists...will make readers want to stop and listen ... This inspired volume continues Questlove's thoughtful and thought-provoking work and is an enduring analysis of the effects of music on personal, political, and cultural histories.