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About the Author

Jody Rosen was born in New York City in 1969. His articles on popular music and the arts have appeared in The New York Times and Salon.com. He lives in Manhattan
Image credit: Photo by Joe Mabel (Wikipedia)

Works by Jody Rosen

Associated Works

Best Music Writing 2010 (2010) — Contributor — 33 copies


Common Knowledge

Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika
Country (for map)
New York City, New York, USA
Places of residence
New York, New York, USA
music critic



There's a good argument to be made that the world doesn't need yet another cultural history of the bicycle, least of all one written by a middle-class New York journalist who was a bike messenger in his student days. You'd have thought that the previous seven or eight of those had pretty much covered all the essential ground. And you'd be right. You already know everything you really need to know about how the bicycle was invented as an aristocratic toy in Regency Europe, how it became an essential, liberating means of transport for disadvantaged people around the world from the 1890s on, how the only slightly later development of the motor car negated that liberating effect in many rich countries, and how cycling became a catalyst for protest and activism in many of those same rich countries from the 1960s onwards.

Rosen tells the story engagingly, so if you've been living on another planet, this would be a good entry point for learning about cycling as an Earth-phenomenon. To be fair, he does also pick up a few threads that earlier writers have missed, although he has to go rather out of his way to find them: we learn about bicycles and sex; the bike culture of Longyearbyen, in Svalbard; the rickshaws of Dhaka; the nascent fixie culture in Beijing; and the royal cyclists of Bhutan. He also brings us up to date on the role of cycling during the Covid lockdowns and BLM protests of recent years. So not a complete waste of time, but it's certainly well over on the "journalism" side of the scale, more of an affectionate tribute to cycling as a worldwide phenomenon than any sort of serious analysis.
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thorold | 1 other review | Jun 11, 2023 |
This book is mainly about how the bicycle has been perceived by the general public and used. It has many details about key inventions including the revival of Karl von Drais's Laufmaschine (the hobbyhorse or Velocipede), which had two wheels but lacked pedals or a drive train, as a child's training bike, and the development of the pneumatic tire. It has a chapter about the use of the bicycle by the North Vietnamese military against the American's aiding the South Vietnamese military. It touches on the decline of bicycle manufacturing and use in China as the government supports the building and use of automobiles for personal transportation, It has a chapter on bicycle rickshaws and the lives of rickshaw-wallahs in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It has some personal refllections by the author on learning to ride, his time as bicycle courier in Boston one summer, and his attempts to ride a fixed gear bike (No freewheel - no coasting!). It considers the slow development of bike lanes on road built for cars, and pure hatred of most motorist for cyclists. Pretty good for a nonserious book.… (more)
BraveKelso | 1 other review | Nov 3, 2022 |
Part biography of Irving Berlin and part biography of the song "White Christmas", this book was very informative for its length. Ironically, Irving Berlin, a Jew, wrote this Christmas song which would become a huge hit and would begin the American craze for Christmas entertainment. Bing Crosby's recording of "White Christmas" would become the best selling single of all time. Bing Crosby first performed it live on Christmas day 1941, and it was one of the main songs of the movie "Holiday Inn" which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in 1942. Unfortunately this book does not include the history of the movie "White Christmas" which took its name from the famous song. Also, the story was sometimes difficult to follow because it did not always flow in a chronological order.

Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant, could not write musical notation and apparently played on the piano using only the black keys. That did not stop him from becoming one of the greatest song writers in American history. Shortly after becoming an American citizen, he was drafted into the US army during World War I. He proceeded to start a troupe which performed for the soldiers, and revived it again during World War II. Berlin was very patriotic and wrote songs that embodied what it was to be American. These songs included: "God Bless America," "Blue Skies," and "Puttin' on the Ritz." He lived to be 101.
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gcamp | 1 other review | Mar 2, 2011 |
The evolution of one song, "White Christmas", is the background to a fascinating story of popular musical tastes, and the influence of Irving Berlin.
dennisjt | 1 other review | Aug 25, 2006 |



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