Music world innovators — from Chuck Berry to The Beatles, Bob Marley to Joni Mitchell — take the spotlight in a new book and CD project created by Robbie Robertson for young readers.
Released today, Legends, Icons and Rebels: Music That Changed the World is a labour of love from Canadian music legend Robertson, his composer son Sebastian and artist managers Jared Levine and Jim Guerinot.
The book explores the stories behind 27 groundbreaking artists and how their music influenced popular culture. Songs by the artists are featured on the accompanying 2-CD set.
It was his son's past experience working with young children that first sparked the idea, Robertson told Jian Ghomeshi on CBC's cultural affairs show Q.
"He would play the normal kids' music...and every once in awhile he would slip in one by Marvin Gaye or Johnny Cash and something happened. The room just lit up. You could see it affecting these young kids," he said.
"I was obsessed with music — I was always searching, always reaching. Consequently, my kids, when they grew up in this house, they heard all of these people. It was a natural thing. [But] Sebastian said to me: 'Some kids don't get that.'"
The pair teamed up with friends Levine and Guerinot to develop what they hoped would be an easy way for the younger generation to build a good pop music foundation.
"The world has never been the same since these people made music. They had such a tremendous impact on the course of music forever and you can see that baton being passed down to artists today," Robertson said.
For Guerinot, whose four children were all under the age of 13 while he worked on the book-and-album project, telling stories that are accessible and relatable was important.
"If you can discuss Paul McCartney meeting George Harrison when they’re in fifth grade, all of a sudden it gets very real," he said.
"You start talking about George as a fifth grader, then as a 17-year-old playing eight sets a night in Germany. Kids know 17-year-olds. They know 10-year-olds. It takes [these innovators] off this incredibly iconic pedestal they've been used to and gives them a much more human form."
Click on the audio link to hear Robertson and Guerinot talk to Ghomeshi about Legends, Icons and Rebels: Music That Changed the World, the difficulty of choosing who makes the cut and being honest about flawed musical greats.