"We got the rights to Beatles music and nobody gets the rights to Beatles music," said Robbie Robertson, who will turn 70 in July, and looks extraordinary for his age. "But everybody recognized how important this book is."
The former lead guitarist and lyricist for the seminal rock group The Band, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1994, was talking about his forthcoming children's book, Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music that Changed the World, co-written with his son Sebastian Robertson, who was with his father on the BEA Downtown Author Stage Saturday morning, along with journalist Alan Light, who asked them questions.
Tundra Books will release Legends, Icons & Rebels in October, and it will contain a double-CD featuring the music of all 27 musicians and groups covered in the book. They include The Beatles (of course), the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Louis Jordan (but not the Rolling Stones or The Band).
Though other children’s books, such as The Book of Rock Stars: 24 Musical Icons That Shine Through History, by Kathleen Krull, and The Blues Singers: Ten Who Rocked the World, by Julius Lester, cover much of the same territory as Legends, Icons & Rebels, they don’t contain CDs (and didn’t sell especially well, either). So, when Robertson said, “There’s no other book like this,” he apparently meant that there’s no other children’s book about musicians, written by a rock star, that contains a CD with previously unattainable Beatles music.
The unattainability of Beatles music is something that’s driven home every week to anybody who watches Mad Men, as Don Draper and company live out the 1960s to a Beatles-free soundtrack. That a show this successful can’t get those rights speaks volumes. So, one can only imagine what hoops Robertson had to jump through, what rings he had to kiss, and how much money he had to spend to get the rights to those sacred songs.
I’ve no doubt that the final Beatles text had to be personally approved by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison. And I think it’s safe to assume that the John Lennon section of this completely inoffensive, non-iconoclastic book will, according to the rules of Ono, praise her as a positive influence, and contain no mention of numerology, tarot, astrology, or Colombian witches. And though the book will say that Lennon was shot by a disturbed fan, it will not mention his name.
So, what we have in Legends, Icons & Rebels is a book that parents will buy for their kids, and with any luck at all, the kids, ages 8-13, will read the book, listen to the CDs, and be turned on to some great old music.
Then, when the kids get a little older, and they’re ready for some unvarnished truth about their legends, icons, and rebels, there are books like Nowhere Man that they can grow into. Makes me glad I wrote it.
I was coming from the booth of my distributor, SCB, where I’d picked up a copy of their erotic books catalogue, Revel, where Beaver Street is prominently featured on the same spread as Robin Bougie’s Cinema Sewer. The catalogue was tucked under my arm when I spotted, a couple of booths down, Ann Romney, wife of Mitt, signing advance copies of her book, The Romney Family Table, from Shadow Mountain, due out in October.
I got in line.
“Can you make it out to Bob Rosen,” I said to Romney, handing her the book. (Actually, it’s more of a brochure.)
“Is that R-o-s-e-n?” she asked.
“Very good,” I replied. “I know it’s such a weird and difficult name.”
“I always won the spelling bee,” she said, laughing as she signed book.
As we shook hands and I thanked her, I discreetly admired her beautiful and tasteful ring, sapphire if I’m not mistaken, and, shamefully, I was feeling a dusting of the Ann Romney charm—the charm that had been utilized in an attempt to “humanize” Mitt in his presidential campaign.
Ann Romney, I must admit, had a good vibe. I got the sense that, despite my scruffy and possibly progressive appearance, she genuinely enjoyed our little exchange. Still, there’s no way I’d ever vote for her husband, even if she gave me that sapphire ring.
On the way home from the BEA, I passed, on 10th Avenue near 17th Street, Yoko Ono, dressed in a sharp white blazer, talking to a couple of people on the sidewalk. It was an omen, I thought as I walked by, though an omen of what I have no idea.