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In Rebels Wit Attitude, music writer and professor Iain Ellis throws a spotlight on the history of humor as a weapon of anti-establishment rebellion, paying tribute to the great rebel humorists in American rock history and investigating comedy and laughter as the catalyst and main expressive force in these artists' work. The performers who are the subject of Ellis's study are not merely funny people - they are those whose art exudes defiance and resistance, whether aimed at social structures and mores, political systems, aesthetic practices, or the music industry itself. Subversive rock humor has emerged as a formidable force of modern art, building a reputation for rock music as a rebellious - sometimes dangerous - form of expression that can dismay the adult mainstream as it empowers the youth culture. In this study of rock's impact on youth through the decades, Ellis proves that the most subversive rock humorists serve as the conscience of our culture. They chastise pretensions, satirize hypocrisy, and pour scorn on power, corruption, and lies. Discussing the work of iconic figures as diverse as Chuck Berry, Lou Reed, the Ramones, the Talking Heads, the Beastie Boys, Missy Elliott, Ellis examines the nature of the rock humorist, asking why and in what ways each performer uses humor as a weapon of resistance to various status quos. The commentary on these artists' work is the basis for a deeper discussion of the historical foundations and other socio-cultural contexts of humorous art, and Ellis delves into the larger issues of politics, nationality, geography, generation, art, social class, race, gender and sexuality that surround his subject. The chapters, divided by decade, include introductory sections outlining each decade's defining forces and contextual features. While lyrics constitute Ellis's primary field of analysis, his exploration goes well beyond that, moving into a discussion and interpretation of image, performance, product, and musical content.


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