Music Matters, a new series of short books on single acts, publishes its first two titles today, October 3: Why the Ramones Matter by Donna Gaines and Why the Beach Boys Matter by Tom Smucker. As series editor, I am so honored to have helped bring these books into fruition, and look forward to many more volumes in the future. Music Matters is published by the University of Texas press, which means I’m labelmates with some of the smartest people thinking about music right now, including Oliver Wang, Vivien Goldman, and Jessica Hopper. The series would not exist without Stephen Hull, who originally conceived it for University Press of New England; when UNPE announced they were shuttering, we moved to UT. Thanks also to Robert Christgau for bringing me to Stephen; I have to admit, he truly is the dean of rock critics.
For more information, check out the press release.
If you are interested in submitting to the series, send a one-page query explaining why the subject matters, why you are qualified to write about that subject, and what would your writing approach be to myself at Evelyn.McDonnell@LMU.edu and email@example.com. Please write MUSIC MATTERS in the subject line, and give us at least a month to respond.
In the sad, crazy tumult of the passing of the Queen of Soul, coinciding with the start of classes, I forgot to post my tribute to Aretha Franklin, which I was honored to write as the cover story for Billboard‘s tribute issue. Here it is: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/magazine-feature/8471733/aretha-franklin-path-to-greatness-obituary
There’s been a lot of reminiscing about The Village Voice. I contributed to two pieces: The New York Times Popcast podcast, and Billboard‘s roundup of writers remembering their first Voice pieces.
In my list of articles I was blessed to write for the late, great Village Voice, I forgot to include perhaps the most significant: “The Feminine Critique”: the not-so-secret history of women rock critics that reclaimed the legacies of Ellen Willis, Karen Durbin, Jaan Uhelszki, Carola Dibbell, Donna Gaines, and many others and that became the basis of my first book, Rock She Wrote, coedited by Ann Powers. That article also obliquely pointed out one of the failures of the Voice as well, which at that point in its already long career, had not had a female music editor. I now teach a class called The Feminist Critique.
I first became aware of The Village Voice in high school, when my older brother, Brett, used to go the Beloit, Wisconsin, public library to peruse its political investigations and music coverage. We were both discovering punk rock, watching Patti Smith on Saturday Night Live, and we could read about the newest bands from CBGB’s in the Voice. Later, in college, I got assigned to write about it in my one and only journalism class. Within a few years, I was copy editing and writing there, ultimately becoming a senior editor in charge of music. It was a crazy, difficult, exciting place, and the work I did for them — “discovering” Paul Beatty and the rest of the ’90s NYC lit scene bubbling around the incredible Nuyorican Poets Cafe, traveling to New Zealand to write about music, covering Rent as it moved from Downtown to Broadway and beyond, interviewing John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, the creators of a new musical called Hedwig and the Angry Inch; writing about punk drag artists such as Justin Bond and Miss Guy — still defines me. And then there was my one and only cover story, the first major interview with Patti Smith after her husband Fred died and she returned to the stage — an incredible encounter with the woman who made me want to be a rock’n’roll critic, and move to New York, and dive into the sea of possibilities. RIP Voice. Say hi to Aretha.