I like reading books that provide a behind-the-scenes look at seminal events in history and culture. Recently, I finished Fire And Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, And The Lost Story Of 1970 by David Browne. The book takes a glimpse at the making of four classic albums from the dawn of the seventies: The Beatles’ Let It Be, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James, and Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s Deja Vu. I’m a fan off all these artists, with the exception of CSNY, and the stories behind these records were truly fascinating.
Placing these musical stories against the backdrop of the years events…like the Kent State shootings, the Apollo 13 terror and triumph, and the Weather Underground bombings…Browne chronicles how the tempestuous sixties melted, both historically and musically, into the less turbulent seventies. Looking at these albums and what followed them, it’s easy to see the turn from the experimental music of the hippie era to the more introspective, lighter works that followed.
In addition to catching a glimpse at the making of four famous albums, I was drawn in by the chronicles of the demise of the Beatles…through the eyes of all four of them, the severing of ties between Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, the self destruction of the supergroup CSNY, and the emergence of James Taylor into a reluctant, heroin addicted cultural hero. The turns in the lives of the music superstars made for compelling reading, even when I knew what was going to happen to them.
Fire And Rain is a truly worthwhile read for amateur music historians like me, as well as lovers of classic rock and those who appreciate cultural history. I learned a lot, even about the artists with whom I was most familiar. Check it out…you’ll be glad you did.