Music is History

An encyclopaedic new book by The Roots’ co-frontman Questlove has been released. ‘Music is History’ curates 500 songs from the past half-century that the writer argues have changed the course of popular music, contextualising their place in history and unpacking each track’s significance to reveal their pivotal roles in issues of race, gender, politics and identity.

Works explored include Sun Ra’s apocalyptic jazz composition ‘Nuclear War’, a significant moment within America’s blaxploitation era, says Questlove. Stevie Wonder’s funk-pop classic ‘Sir Duke’ ties science and politics with ‘80s pop culture. And cuts by Tears for Fears, Bill Withers and A Tribe Called Quest appear alongside works from The Police and Curtis Mayfield, as tangents relating to cinema.

‘Music is History’ is the sixth book from the Grammy Award-winning musician, following works such as the memoir ‘Mo’ Meta Blues’, and the ’Mixtape Potluck Cookbook’ — which featured contributions from guests including Natalie Portman and Q-Tip. In 2021, Questlove’s documentary on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, ‘Summer of Soul’, was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, and has since been nominated for a Grammy for Best Music Film.

‘Music is History’ is published via Abrams Image.