A Friend of the Devil: The Glorification of the Outlaw in Song, from Robin Hood to Rap

John_Kruth John Kruth

Our very own John Kruth has just published another book, and it looks great.

A Friend of the Devil: The Glorification of the Outlaw in Song, from Robin Hood to Rap, by John Kruth

“This book is a fun and informative historical survey of songs that lionize notorious brigands from Ireland to Brazil, Italy to Australia, to the drug lords of Mexico and the inner-city gangs of the United States. For centuries each of these cultures have continued to romanticize criminals, raising them to the status of heroic figures through poetry, stories, song, and more recently film. A Friend of the Devil tracks the true story of these legendary bandits behind the songs that deify them, while looking at society’s role in both creating outlaws, and our perpetual need for a new hero. The book also delves into why socially minded, truth-seeking artists, including Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, wrote and sang songs about such cold-blooded killers as Pretty Boy Floyd and Joey Gallo, purposefully perpetuating their myths in lieu of an honest portrayal of these bad men. A Friend of the Devil features new interviews with dozens of contemporary songwriters, including Steve Earle, Richard Thompson, Taj Mahal, and Dr. John along with authors Michael Ondaatje and Ishmael Reed. Illustrated with a series of photographs by the author of songwriters and singers of outlaw ballads that include Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Aaron Neville, John Prine, and Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes.”

Here’s an interview on the subject with Esthetic Lens contributor Oliver Trager:

His previous books include This Bird Has Flown: The Enduring Beauty of Rubber Soul, Fifty Years On (2015), Rhapsody in Black: The Life and Music of Roy Orbison (2013), To Live’s to Fly: The Ballad of the Late, Great Townes Van Zandt (2008), and Bright Moments: The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk (2000).