Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Rolling Stone editor speaks about state of rock and roll

Rolling Stone Music Editor Joe Levy defended popular music and encouraged students to take their passions seriously when he spoke on the status of rock and roll to a group of UW-Madison students Tuesday.

“The things that shaped my life, like comic books, rock and roll, and television were important, even if they weren’t considered art,” Levy said. “These were things that were easy, and they matter.”

Levy, who spoke at UW’s branch of the Jewish student organization, Hillel, is responsible for all the musical content seen in the 35-year-old magazine, which he said has changed tremendously since its birth. In the course of his career, the Yale graduate has encountered musical icons such as Paul McCartney, David Bowie and Mick Jagger.

Sophomore Lauren Stein, who arranged for Levy’s visit to campus, said he is invaluable in his field.

“He’s the best at what he does,” Stein said.

Levy said rock and roll, which he estimates to be 45 to 50 years old, has a broad classification, which is expanding constantly — and he is central to defining as a Rolling Stone editor.

“It’s Elvis to Britney,” he said. “Probably especially Britney.”

It’s the popularity of such music that makes it important, Levy stated.

“There isn’t a soul in the world who isn’t passionate about Britney,” he said. “They either love her or they hate her.”

His love of pop culture has drawn criticism from music journalists. Neil Strauss from the New York Times called Levy, “an unabashed, self-righteous propagandist for pop music’s ephemeral pleasures. In other words, indie-rock was over, he had a reservation at Union Square Café with Elastica, and hey, we’re a winner, baby!”

Levy said critics often hastily discredit popular culture.

“There is a seriousness and a meaning to art for a mass audience which is too easily dismissed,” he said.

He outlined for the crowd his initial goals at the magazine: to show pop culture is worthy of respect and to show that the popular audience defines pop culture.

“It’s not that people go for this stuff because it’s cheap, there’s something to it,” Levy said. “Popular audience is constantly defining popular culture for the better.”

Levy told students 30 to 40 thousand albums are released every year and said it is virtually impossible to listen to everything.

Rolling Stone has a circulation of 1.5 million. It is important in shaping the identity of teenagers, Levy said.

So what’s next in popular culture?

“If I knew, I’d make a whole lot of money doing something else,” he joked.

Levy said although teen pop is not over, the audience is shrinking. He said singer/songwriters like Alicia Keyes are becoming bigger.

“The teen audience is tired of pre-packaged stuff, and they want someone who writes their own material,” he said.

He also expressed interest over independent rock bands, highlighting a divorced duo from Detroit who he called “one of the most exciting bands working right now.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *