David Hajdu begins Love for Sale, his personal history of pop music, in an unexpected place - not with nostalgic reminiscences of the 45s of his youth but with the sheet-music era at the end of the nineteenth century. It was not so much the beginning of popular music - many songs were already popular - as it was the beginning of the popular music industry. And if he's going to understand what his 45s meant to him, this is the place to start: the rise of Tin Pan Alley, of minstrelsy, of million-copy sellers and one-hit wonders and cultural arbiters decrying the baseness, simplicity, and signs of the end of times in popular music. Love for Sale does ultimately spin through more familiar territory - the Cotton Club, the rise of radio, the battle of disco versus punk for the soul of New York as Hajdu made his chops as a critic, the rise of hip-hop, and the current atomisation of the music landscape - but it is always with a unique, insightful, and eloquently presented point of view, as one would expect from one of our most celebrated music critics.
David Hajdu is the music critic for The Nation and a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is the author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn (1996), Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina, and Richard Farina (2001), The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America (2008), and Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture (2009). He lives in Manhattan.