News & Politics

Dispatches From the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit

This critique of the Democratic party “is proof that fighters still exist and aren’t afraid to speak their minds.”

 “It may seem a little ridiculous for someone like me, a guy in the music business, to be criticizing the Democratic Party and the American left,” Goldberg writes in his literary debut, “but I’m sick and tired of watching the ideas that I believe in lose political ground.”

 The result of his musings is part gossip column, part social commentary, part memoir. But in a nation full of ranting pundits, Goldberg—a music critic turned publicist turned record-producing bigwig (he’s CEO of Artemis Records)—may be one of the few well spoken enough to be convincing in his disapproval.

 The book’s premise lies in the well-trodden argument that the Democrats and their “inside-the-Beltway snobbery” have resulted in the alienation of a generation of young voters due to the party’s failure to keep attuned to pop culture as embodied in rappers like Eminem.

Dispatches catalogs Goldberg’s activism, which hit its peak in the mid-1980s, when he took on Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center and its ratings system by launching a counteroffensive group, Musical Majority. Although Goldberg remains irked by Gore’s “abandonment of a progressive agenda,” he “found her very likable, surprisingly open, and vulnerable. It also became obvious that Tipper Gore loved being on TV as much as I did.”

 Goldberg points fingers, portraying Senator Joseph Lieberman as one of the worst culprits for his attacks on pop culture; Reverend Jesse Jackson’s “independent voice” and George W. Bush’s “regular guy” appeal fare better.

 Goldberg also excels at dropping names, including clients Joan Osborne, LL Cool J, and Led Zeppelin. One of his biggest compliments goes to late Nirvana rocker Kurt Cobain—“one of the few real geniuses I have ever known.” At times I found myself scouring through the names to find Goldberg’s point, but it was always there several pages later.

 Goldberg writes with a balance of equanimity and authority. Though he says, “There are virtually no Democratic voices sticking up for youth culture,” this book is proof that fighters still exist and aren’t afraid to speak their minds.

Danny Goldberg

Miramax Books