Vulture: The 4 Best Rock Chronicles You’ve Never Heard of

From novelist Jeff Jackson: These titles provided insights into key aspects of rock and roll that play out in my novel, but they drew blank stares from most of my music-loving friends. I’d like to change that.

greenberg_love coverThis book has the dubious honor of having been into one of the most famous unproduced screenplays. It’s been acclaimed by Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Stanley Crouch, and Greil Marcus; Martin Scorsese once planned to direct it; and David Lynch is currently raising funds to make it. This remarkable literary work pierces the foundational myth of rock and roll — bluesman Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil in exchange for musical genius.


Greenberg visited the Mississippi Delta in the 1970s to interview Johnson’s surviving friends, one of whom later said he “put an end to all the lies and crap about Robert Johnson’s life.” He evokes the circuit of small juke joints, the bustle of musical competition, and the sharp intelligence of Johnson himself. But there’s also a dream logic infusing the scenes, honoring the deep mystery at the heart of the music.


Greenberg himself is an interesting character. His documentary, Land of Look Behind, captured the pathos and chaos of Bob Marley’s funeral, and his only other published work, Every Night the Trees Disappear, chronicles the making of his sometime collaborator Werner Herzog’s Heart of Glass. But Love in Vain remains his great testament, a seamless combination of fact and fable in which each bolsters the other.


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Published in: Vulture
By: Jeff Jackson