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David Frankel on Greil Marcus’s “The Cowboy Philosopher”

Two pages from Artforum 24, no. 7 (March 1986). Greil Marcus, “The Cowboy Philosopher.”

I GREW UP IN THE BRITISH ISLES, and my ninth birthday fell a couple of weeks after the English release of “Please Please Me,” the Beatles’ second single and first big hit, in January 1963, so I make no apologies for saying: For my generation, rock music was a basic and crucial condition of life. It communicated on a level that simultaneously bypassed critical thought (I did say I was nine, I think?) and then, as we passed through our teens, was peculiarly, infinitely subject to it, or what passed for it in our developing minds. Today, listening to music I’ve known for up to and over five decades, I surprisingly often still find myself saying, Oh, what a wonderful musician, and spinning off into pondering what makes me think so. There may, however, be more primary questions: Am I just too nostalgic to let go? Or do we all somehow, as relative infants, have the insight and knowledge

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