Greil Marcus  

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"Pop culture - the folk culture of the modern market, the culture of the instant, at once subsuming past and future and refusing to acknowledge the reality of either - began about 1948, in the United States and Great Britain." --Lipstick Traces (1989) by Greil Marcus, p. 257.

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Greil Marcus (°1945) is an American author, music journalist and cultural critic. He is notable for works such as Lipstick Traces (1989), a scholarly and literary essay that places rock music in a much broader framework of culture and politics than is customary in pop music journalism.



Marcus was born in San Francisco. He earned an undergraduate degree in American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where he also did graduate work in political science. He has been a rock critic and columnist for Rolling Stone (where he was the first reviews editor, at $30 a week) and other publications, including Creem, the Village Voice and Artforum.


His 1975 book Mystery Train re-defined the parameters of rock music criticism. The book places rock 'n'roll within the context of American cultural archetypes from Moby Dick to Jay Gatsby to Stagger Lee. Marcus's "recognition of the unities in the American imagination that already exist" inspired countless rock scribes.

His next book, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century (1989, developed from an earlier essay), stretched his trademark riffing across a millennium of Western civilization. Positing punk rock as a transhistorical cultural phenomenon, Marcus examined philosophical connections between entities as diverse as the Sex Pistols, the Dadaists, and medieval heretics.

In 1991, Marcus published Dead Elvis, a collection of writings about Elvis Presley, and in 1993 published Ranters and Crowd Pleasers, an examination of post-punk political pop. In 1997, using old Dylan bootlegs as a starting point, Marcus dissected the American subconscious with Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes.

From 1983 to 1989, Marcus was on the Board of Directors for the National Book Critics Circle. He writes the column "Elephant Dancing" for Interview. His latest book, The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy in the American Voice, was recently published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Similar authors


  • Rock and Roll Will Stand (1969), editor
  • Double Feature: Movies & Politics (1972), co-author with Michael Goodwin
  • Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music (1975, sixth edition 2015)
  • Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island (1979), editor and contributor
  • Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century (1989)
  • Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession (1991)
  • In the Fascist Bathroom: Punk in Pop Music, 1977–1992 (1993, originally published as Ranters & Crowd Pleasers)
  • The Dustbin of History (1995)
  • Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes (1997; also published as The Old, Weird America: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes, 2001)
  • Double Trouble: Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley in a Land of No Alternatives (2001)
  • The Manchurian Candidate: BFI Film Classics, 68 (2002)
  • The Rose & the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad (2004), co-editor with Sean Wilentz
  • Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads (2005)
  • The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy in the American Voice (2006)
  • A New Literary History of America (2009), co-editor with Werner Sollors
  • Best Music Writing 2009, 10th anniversary edition (2009), guest editor with Daphne Carr (series editor)
  • When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison (2010)
  • Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968–2010 (2011)
  • The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes (2011)
  • The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years (2011)
  • Conversations with Greil Marcus (2012), edited by Joe Bonomo
  • The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs (2014)
  • Three Songs, Three Singers, Three Nations (2015)
  • Real Life Rock: The Complete Top Ten Columns, 1986–2014 (2015)

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