Best Music Writing of 2003

Matt Groening

Matt Groening, a rock critic before creating and executive producing The Simpsons, has compiled a wide-ranging anthology of long and thoughtfully researched essays by some of the nation’s most respected music writers, including Greil Marcus, Jay McInerney and Susan Orlean. Though the writing is “the best” of last year—slightly problematic, considering that the book was out in December and had to have been at least a couple of months in production—the subjects range from post-war WWII jazz and ’50s doo-wop to Doug Sahm’s ’60s Tex-rock and the origins and future of hip-hop. Highlights: “Play It Like Your Hair’s On Fire,” Elizabeth Gilbert’s GQ profile of Tom Waits, and “Rocking Around the Clock,” Elvis Costello’s Vanity Fair essay recommending the best music, hour by hour, for a 24-hour period (from 3-4 a.m.: Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, and Billie Holiday).