In this exceptional cultural history, Atlantic Senior Editor Ronald Brownstein—“one of America's best political journalists (The Economist)—tells the kaleidoscopic story of one monumental year that marked the city of Los Angeles’ creative peak, a glittering moment when popular culture was ahead of politics in predicting what America would become.
Los Angeles in 1974 exerted more influence over popular culture than any other city in America. Los Angeles that year, in fact, dominated popular culture more than it ever had before, or would again. Working in film, recording, and television studios around Sunset Boulevard, living in Brentwood and Beverly Hills or amid the flickering lights of the Hollywood Hills, a cluster of transformative talents produced an explosion in popular culture which reflected the demographic, social, and cultural realities of a changing America. At a time when Richard Nixon won two presidential elections with a message of backlash against the social changes unleashed by the sixties, popular culture was ahead of politics in predicting what America would become. The early 1970s in Los Angeles was the time and the place where conservatives definitively lost the battle to control popular culture.
Rock Me on the Water traces the confluence of movies, music, television, and politics in Los Angeles month by month through that transformative, magical year. Ronald Brownstein reveals how 1974 represented a confrontation between a massive younger generation intent on change, and a political order rooted in the status quo. Today, we are again witnessing a generational cultural divide. Brownstein shows how the voices resistant to change may win the political battle for a time, but they cannot hold back the future.
About the Author
Ronald Brownstein, a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of presidential campaigns, is a senior editor at The Atlantic, and a senior political analyst for CNN. He also served as the national political correspondent and national affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times and covered he White House and national politics for the National Journal. His is the author of six previous books, most recently, The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America.
"Rock Me On The Water documents the high-octane storybook world of Los Angeles in 1974 with masterful intimacy and fearless cultural analysis. His well-rendered portraits of Jackson Browne, Linda Rondstadt, Joni Mitchell, David Geffen and other luminaries of the time are sublime. This is an extremely kinetic historical document, and a testament to Brownstein's lasting importance as both a fact-driven journalist and elegant prose-stylist. A must read!"
— Douglas Brinkley, author of American Moonshot
“Brownstein’s kaleidoscopic account of a historic generational transformation that took place in American culture, American politics, and American life in the crucible of modern Los Angeles during the magical year of 1974. It encapsulates in compelling detail the moment when young people and young ideas were moving in on an older generation, based on the strength of new-found creativity and idealism. It documents the triumphs and failures of that new generation with vividness, humor, and, most of all, deep understanding. Running through every page is the author’s deep love for his adopted home. A beautiful ride through an unforgettable time."
— Jon Landau
“One of the sharpest analysts of American politics, Ron Brownstein in Rock Me on the Water offers a fresh, vivid and insightful look at how politics and popular culture intertwined to reshape American life at a moment of profound generational transition — LA in the early 1970s. It's an electric story filled with gripping personalities, compelling backstage histories, and a clear message for the divided America of today: the forces that fear change can win for a time, but in America the future always gets the last word. A lyrical recreation of a magical moment.”
— Jake Tapper
"....sweeping cultural history....Enriched by interviews with the period’s luminaries, including Warren Beatty and Linda Ronstadt, this astute and wide-ranging account shows how L.A. led the U.S. into an era when the 1960s counterculture became mainstream."
— Publishers Weekly
"An endlessly engaging cultural history that will resonate with anyone alive in 1974."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)