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Love for Sale

Pop Music in America

David Hajdu


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ISBN10: 1250141214
ISBN13: 9781250141217

Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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In Love for Sale: Pop Music in America, from the vaudeville singer Eva Tanguay, the “‘I Don’t Care’ Girl,” who upended Victorian conceptions of feminine property to become one of the biggest stars of her day, to the scandal of Blondie playing disco at CBGB, David Hajdu—one of the most respected music historians of our time—presents an incisive and idiosyncratic history of a form that has repeatedly upset social and cultural expectations.

Hajdu, unbound by the usual tropes of pop music history, gives a star turn to Bessie Smith and the blues queens of the 1920s who brought wildly transgressive sexuality to American audiences decades before rock and roll. And Jimmie Rodgers, a former blackface minstrel performer, who created country music from the songs of rural whites and blacks . . . entwined with the sound of the Swiss yodel.

Surveying the late-nineteenth century to the present era of digital streaming, Love for Sale is as authoritative as it is impassioned, drawing from the critic’s unique history as a besotted fan and lifelong student of pop.


Praise for Love for Sale

“[Love for Sale] is easy to devour for anyone who still feels a pang of nostalgia or despair when walking past a bank branch where a record store used to be . . . [Hajdu] traces the history of pop from the sheet-music past to the streaming present with the friendly authority of a favorite teacher . . . Educational and entertaining.”—Jim Windolf, The New York Times Book Review

Pop music is often dismissed as light, frivolous and artistically bankrupt. But in his new book Love for Sale, music critic David Hajdu argues that it’s one of the most meaningful forms of expression in American culture." Time

"A blend of history, criticism, and autobiography . . . it does touch on most major developments in how pop music has been produced and consumed in the United States from the 1890s through the present."Los Angeles Review of Books

"No, this is not just a standard history of 'Pop Music in America.' This is a very personal and utterly wonderful book about the subject."Buffalo News

Writing in graceful prose, Hajdu nicely balances brisk historical narrative, shrewd cultural analysis, and opinionated personal reflection in an absorbing account of shifting musical landscapes."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt



Of the countless terms for categories of music, from “classical” and “blues” to the secret-password language of micro-genres like “doomcore”...

About the author

David Hajdu

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 Fariña, and Richard Fariña (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.

Copyright Michelle Heimerman

David Hajdu

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