Acclaimed music historian Marc Myers tells surprising stories in "Anatomy of 55 More Songs"
Marc Myers is an acclaimed author, respected music historian and regular contributor at The Wall Street Journal where he writes on music and the arts, and interviews leading film and TV actors and pop musicians.
In 2007, he founded JazzWax, a leading daily jazz blog that has won three Jazz Journalists Association "Blog of the Year" awards. Marc is the author of 5 critically acclaimed books including his newest work Anatomy of 55 More Songs: The Oral history of Top Hits that Changed Rock, Pop and Soul (Grove Press).
This book follows his 2016 smash Anatomy of a Song. Myers, who grew up in New York City, hash also penned Rock Concert, Why Jazz Happened and How to Make Luck: 7 Secrets Lucky People Use to Succeed.
Anatomy of 55 More Songs, based on his popular column for The Wall Street Journal, tells the story behind 55 rock, pop, R & B, country, and soul-gospel hits through intimate interviews with the artists who wrote and recorded the songs, fellow band members, and the artistic teams behind the tunes.
Myers spoke with WBGO News Director Doug Doyle about his new book. The music historian has selected a variety of songs that have touched listeners where it really matters.
"We don't listen to music with our ears, we actually listen with our heart, with our emotions. I mean the ear is a conduit, but our ears aren't really doing the synthesizing or the breaking down are the reaction, our heart is. When a song touches a heart, when a song really captures us and sweeps us away emotionally, that's when people want to go out and buy it."
In this interview, Myers focuses on several tunes that are great examples of that, including Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By" and Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly with His Song".
The author also expresses why he's a big fan of Steely Dan's "Peg" which featured the background vocals of Michael McDonald. Myers talks about how lead vocalist and keyboardist Donald Fagen and the late guitarist Walter Becker were greatly influenced by orchestral jazz.
"The big influence, this is fascinating from a jazz perspective, their biggest during this period and always in terms of orchestration is Oliver Nelson. They loved the tight-reed harmonies that Oliver was about, the sort of lurking energy that's not always explosive but you always getting the feeling it's there. The pressing of the reeds tightly together to create almost a choral sound."
Myers says his interviewing style produces desired, specially when it comes to getting untold stories from artists.
"I really like to ask dumb questions. The strange thing about a dumb question is that it yields fascinating answers, especially if you shut your mouth and don't say a word after you ask the dumb question, something really interesting happens."
Another one of his favorites to talk is Elvis Costello, the writer and singer of "Accidents Will Happen" which is included the new book.
"I love to talk to Donald Fagen and Elvis Costello because they are so fascinating in how they cobble together a song with so many different references and things they've heard. In this case it's ("Accidents" ) is a confessional, but all the things you're hearing are almost fragments repainted and cobbled together in strange places in this song."
Myers also mentions how Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy" is an example of her talent.
"She's such an incredible musician and singer. People don't realize what a power she is."
The author stresses his plan within each of these "Anatomy" hits is to create a story song within a story song.
You can SEE the entire interview with Marc Myers here.