The “mighty” Bob Hilburn

There was a time, actually not that long ago, when rock journalism actually mattered.  I don’t want to come down too hard on the Pitchforks of the world – they have their purpose, I guess – but I miss the perspective of true journalists who shared the genuine passion of the most ardent music fans and had the chops to recite its history from its beginnings right through the modern day.

Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times was one of those journalists and, to this day, remains one of the best reads in the dynamic and evolving music world.

Yes, as Geoff Boucher (also of the Los Angeles Times) points out in his appreciation of Hilburn this week, he does too often “celebrate the four ‘Bs,’ which stood for Bruce, Bob Dylan, Bono and Bruce again”, but he was at the forefront of championing a diverse artist list including such legends as Gram Parsons and Tom Petty along with Rage Against The Machine and the White Stripes.

I have always enjoyed his work, and having left the Times a few years back to focus on other pursuits, Hilburn has re-surfaced with his new book “Corn Flakes with John Lennon: And Other Tales from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Life”, which promises to be a great addition to the collection of any rock music fan.

The Times, with whom he still maintains a working relationship, has provided three great excerpts (here, here, and here) which provide a taste of why author Charles Cross says that “this book captures the very essence of what it means to be someone who loves music.”

Robert Hilburn (center) was the only journalist to chronicle Johnny Cash's concert at Folsom State Prison, January 13, 1968

Robert Hilburn (center) was the only journalist to chronicle Johnny Cash's concert at Folsom State Prison, January 13, 1968

The inside tales of the life of Lennon and the poignant insight that artists such as Bono and Jack White offer helps make this material stand out far above your run-of-the-mill music magazine cover story.

Keep up with his blog at and you’ll see that Hilburn’s opinion still matters in well-written critiques of current music (and movie) releases.  But it’s the treasure chest of material from 35 years of work at the Times that keeps on giving.

Great stuff and with another book likely to follow, the name Robert Hilburn still resonates.  As even Dr. Dre (remembering Hilburn’s early interest in N.W.A.) says, “You tell old man Hilburn I said he’s all right.”

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~ by acm213 on October 14, 2009.

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