A host of authors, activists and artists — including Pete Townshend, Bruce Springsteen, Nona Hendryx, Dion DiMucci, Tom Morello, Jackson Browne and Steven Van Zandt — will take part in Land of Hope and Dreams: A Celebration of Dave Marsh’s Work and Vision, during three weeks of online sessions beginning Friday (April 30).
One of the most influential music critics of his generation, Marsh, 71, was among the first editors of Creem magazine, wrote extensively for Rolling Stone and other publications, has authored 25 books (including two best-selling biographies of Bruce Springsteen), co-founded the newsletter Rock & Rap Confidential, and currently hosts “Kick Out the Jams” and other programs on SiriusXM.
He also is a co-founder and trustee of the Kristen Ann Carr Fund, named for the late daughter of Marsh and wife Barbara Carr, who died of sarcoma in 1993 at age 21. The fund is dedicated to supporting research in the treatment and cure of sarcoma, and improving the lives of young adult cancer patients and their families.
Across five decades, through his writing about music, Marsh has offered insights into issues of community, class, race, politics, health, the environment, the music industry and more.
“Dave Marsh has been a force in music culture since the late 1960s,” Jon Landau, manager of Bruce Springsteen and Marsh’s longtime friend, tells Billboard. “Whether it’s through his many books, his countless reviews, his journalism, or his radio shows, one thing has remained constant — he always brings his love of the music to everything he touches.”
Landau will open the celebration Friday in conversation with author Caryn Rose, whose works include Raise Your Hand: Adventures of an American Springsteen Fan in Europe. Townshend, who was profiled in Marsh’s 1983 biography, Before I Get Old: The Story of the Who, will offer his comments at that time as well.
On May 6, a conversation between Jackson Browne and Steven Van Zandt will be hosted by Danny Alexander, teacher, author (Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige) and longtime associate editor of Rock & Rap Confidential.
Marsh “helped build alliances that fought against racial and class bigotry and for free speech, voting rights, economic justice — inside and outside the music industry — environmental justice, universal health care, cancer research, as well as visions of human liberation,” says Alexander. “Perhaps more than anyone I know, he taught me what that old Woody Guthrie line meant: ‘Nobody wins unless everybody wins.’”
On May 7, Lauren Onkey, senior director of NPR Music, will moderate a panel discussion titled “Listening Past the Myths,” with music writers Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus, Ann Powers and Greg Tate.
The following day, May 8, Onkey will host a conversation with Springsteen and Nona Hendryx, in a session that also will feature a message from, and performance by, Dion DiMucci.
Onkey and Alexander are members of the event’s nine-person organizing committee, along with writer Daniel Wolff, the author, most recently, of Grown-Up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913.
Wolff will talk with Marsh during a session on May 14.
Noting that the online sessions were “named after a Bruce Springsteen song envisioning an inclusive community,” the organizers state on their website that “the Land of Hope and Dreams event grew out of a desire to celebrate and honor Dave Marsh’s work as a writer, critic, activist, and radio host. In the spirit of that community-building impulse, the discussions will be less about Dave the person than about the impact he’s had and continues to have on those overlapping worlds.”
But praise for Marsh himself has come from many quarters.
Steve Leeds, vp talent and industry affairs at SiriusXM, has known Marsh since the writer was at Creem. “He was reviewing the J. Geils Band as I was working at Atlantic Records” where the band was then signed, Leeds recalled. When Marsh published Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story in 1979, recalls Leeds, “I am proud to say I was his promo guy and set up interviews and in stores and giveaways at key radio stations.” Later, when Leeds joined Sirius in 2005 [before its merger with XM Satellite Radio], “Dave was among the first people I recommended to join the company as he had amazing rock cred,” he says. “On his weekly radio show he champions numerous unknown artists and gives them their first break.”
Acknowledging Marsh’s work with the Kristen Ann Carr Fund, Leeds adds, “He knows doctors as well as rockers. I have had friends who, thanks to Dave, received medical treatment that in some cases saved or extended their lives.”
Organizers note this celebration will include conversations among two or three participants and larger panels, with an emphasis on Marsh’s books and other writings. Topics of the panels include: “Creem and the Origins of Rock Writing;” “On Listening;” “Music and Activism: Race and Class;” “Music and Activism: Health Care and Justice;” “Who Needs the Music Industry?;” “Music and the Media;” “Music and Community;” “Music and Education: Where the Spirit of Learning and Teaching Should Meet;” and “Songs and Stories.”
The stories that Marsh has written throughout his career have been shaped by a world view succinctly described in a statement by Rage Against the Machine co-founder Tom Morello: “Dave has always been a tireless advocate of justice, human rights, and rock n roll,” says Morello. “His pen and voice are an important player in the history of the music we love and the struggle for a more just and decent world.”