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Hallelujah! The Real Story of How 1970s Music Came Together

Lots of talk this week about a Jeff Buckley movie with Penn Badgley of “Gossip Girl” as its star. Only, wait a sec: the real Jeff Buckley movie that will be made is based on David Browne‘s book, ” Dream Brother.” Jeff’s mother has approved the movie, and “Dream Brother” will have Buckley’s music in it. Jeff himself has not been cast, although lots of talented actors–even Robert Pattinson--have expressed interest. The Badgley movie, by the way, is all about a 1991 memorial concert given by Jeff in memory of his late father, Tim Buckley. That film, if it’s true to the event it’s covering, wouldn’t really be about Jeff Buckley or his music.

Now David Browne has a new book out called “Fire and Rain.” This is a beautifully wrought compelling recounting of a key year in pop music: how the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and a dozen other artists conspired to release seminal music all in 1970. I couldn’t put it down. The choice of 1970 is a perfect one–the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel broke up, CSNY put out “Deja Vu,” their big work. James Taylor and Carole King were on the verge of coining the term singer songwriter.

The book is full of great tidbits–like Paul Simon teaching a songwriting class at NYU while waiting for “Bridge over Troubled Water” to be released. Art Garfunkel went off to star in “Catch 22.” And Paul McCartney got $135,000 for producing Mary Hopkin‘s hit “Those Were the Days”–and then Allen Klein wanted it deducted from his Beatles paycheck. Browne is exceptionally strong on all the relationships among the California crowd–CSNY, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, etc. “Fire and Rain” is a must read book for anyone who’s interested in the real history of pop music.

PS I wish the New York Times had given the book to Janet Maslin to review, or someone qualified. The guy who did it in today’s paper is a young west coast blogger. He gave “Fire and Rain” a mixed review, then boasted on his own website about reviewing it. Feh on that, I say. The reviewer also thought it would be more interesting to tell the story of 1970 through minor players. Hello? Anyone who lived through that time wants to read what Browne has put together so well–about the main participants, the real culture shapers.