cover image Livin’ Just to Find Emotion: Journey and the Story of American Rock

Livin’ Just to Find Emotion: Journey and the Story of American Rock

David Hamilton Golland. Rowman & Littlefield, $33 (312p) ISBN 978-1-5381-8701-2

Monmouth University history professor Golland (A Terrible Thing to Waste) leaves no stone unturned in this fine-grained chronicle of the rock group Journey. Formed in 1973 as a “progressive rock” band, Journey’s lackluster sales had Columbia Records close to ending their contract in 1977, when “crooning tenor” Steve Perry joined as frontman, bringing with him a sound inflected by the smooth, “beguiling” vocals of Black soul singer Sam Cooke. The band’s 1981 album Escape featured such hits as “Who’s Crying Now” and “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which catapulted the group to superstardom. Following a burned-out Perry’s 1987 departure, “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” cemented the band’s legacy as a nostalgic cornerstone of white American culture whose songs are piped through ballparks and used by TV shows and movies. Golland meticulously colors in the band’s artistic conflicts and power struggles, paying particular attention to Perry’s decision to leave, but he’s at his most convincing when he interrogates the racial dynamics at play in the band’s success. Under Perry, Golland contends, the group’s music could border on a “modern form of minstrelsy,” capitalizing on “the racial backlash of the ’70s by producing music rooted in soul and rhythm & blues for a largely white, working-class audience... that didn’t want to listen to Motown because it was ‘too Black’ but was perfectly happy listening to five white dudes play... hot Motown wax.” Golland’s passion and precision make this a pleasure. (Feb.)