Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Grown Up All Wrong Book Cover


A glance at the index, where his citations greatly outnumber any other critic's, is ample evidence of how much my old friend and colleague Greil Marcus remained in my thoughts as our ideas, tastes, and methods diverged. This book came to be because Greil suggested I consult Lindsay Waters at Harvard University Press about publishing a collection of my work. Lindsay has been enthusiastic, thought-provoking, and conceptually rigorous from the start. I am especially grateful that he understood how constricting it would be to stick to the canon, however that might be defined.

At The Village Voice and elsewhere, I've owed much to my editors Doug Simmons, M. Mark, Ann Powers, Eric Weisbard, Kit Rachlis, Greil Marcus, Joe Koenenn, Jim Miller, Lisa Kennedy, Craig Marks, Evelyn McDonnell, Richard Goldstein, Sue Cummings, Jonathan Cott, Vince Aletti, and Joy Press. But my warmest thanks are reserved for the endlessly supportive Joe Levy, who helped conceive the Rock & Roll & column where most of the nineties material first appeared, and who out of simple friendship offered invaluable advice on the shape and specifics of this book.

I do love to jaw about music, and so the friends, colleagues, and publicists who have contributed to this work are as innumerable as ever. But several fellow professionals, usually writers whose stock in trade is the ideas and information they shared with me, have proffered extraordinary aid: John Graziano (Emmett Miller), Lenny Kaye (New York Dolls), Robert Palmer (Chuck Berry, Master Musicians of Jajouka), Brian Cullman (Khaled, Lucinda Williams), Tom Gogola (Jimy Hendrix), Greil Marcus (Liliput), Leyla Turkkan (KRS-One), Rob Sheffield and Ira Robbins (Pavement), Gary Giddins (Nat King Cole, Emmett Miller), and Will Friedwald (Nat King Cole). I presume that most of these citations are recent because I've forgotten others, and I apologize to anyone I've overlooked. Although he's cited in the text, I should also mention John Piccarella, whose collaboration on the John Lennon essay was strictly fifty-fifty.

Carola Dibbell is also cited in the text--when my Marshall Crenshaw piece seemed scant, I thought it only fair to crib chunks of hers, since she's the main reason I wrote it, and listened so hard to Crenshaw in the first place. Carola Dibbell is my wife and partner. She is also sometimes my ears. And without her sense of language enriching my life, I would not be the writer I am. Please don't blame her--the stuff you don't like is my fault. But if I ever make you smile, she was probably in there pushing.

Nina Dibbell Christgau is my daughter. She loves music as much as I do, and has been known to hear it better. As I continue to engage with rock and roll, which is fundamentally an art of becoming, she has been and will remain an example and an inspiration.

Grown Up All Wrong, 1998