June 25, 2011 12:05 am

Fire and Rain

Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970, by David Browne, Da Capo Press, RRP£16.99, 392 pages

If 1969 was rock music’s annus mirabilis (The Beatles’ Abbey Road, Led Zeppelin’s debut, Woodstock), things fell apart in 1970: Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died, and the Fab Four, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Simon & Garfunkel all split.

In Fire and Rain, David Browne surveys the musical legacy of 1970, viewing the demise of those iconic acts as emblematic of a wider “upheaval and collapse” in US society. He shows how student protests, terrorist bombings in New York, and President Nixon’s racially divisive “southern strategy” rived the country, just as greed and warring egos did for the era’s greatest bands.

Browne admits a long-held admiration for the artists he considers, and he is inclined to treat his subjects rather too reverently. Nevertheless, his attention to detail lends this compelling book a depth and richness rarely found in rock biography.

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