Robert Hilburn,
Cornflakes with John Lennon
(Rodale Press, 2009)

Cornflakes with John Lennon is a refreshing rockumentary that encompasses L.A. Times editor Robert Hilburn's professional and personal accounts and musical reflections. Inspired by old rock 'n' roll ( Elvis in particular), Hilburn immediately became besotted with the music, a journey that has taken him from a teenager to a grandfather with the same enthusiasm.

Hilburn is a man who does not just review, but has such deep insight into the core of the music that John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and even Bob Dylan took his beneficial criticism and put it into their work. Hilburn's eclectic musical passion ranges from Dylan, Johnny Cash, Nirvana and the White Stripes. Throughout the decades, Hilburn never lost his approbation for the original artists who inspired him, but he is a man who can easily appreciate the ever-evolving genres of the times.

It is extremely rare when a rock critic is so admired by the artists themselves. The title of the book is an insight into just how much Hilburn was allowed to cross that professional to personal relationship. Indeed there were cornflakes with Lennon, cartoons with Michael Jackson, a prison visit with Cash and set-list alterations from Springsteen when Springsteen was accused by Hilburn of doing a set of greatest hits rather than nurturing his new material.

I was also glad to read of Hilburn's distaste of "reality music" such as American Idol and X Factor, as well as the ongoing problem of illegal music downloads.

This takes us all back to how music speaks to us as individuals. Rock 'n' roll spoke to Hilburn, in his own words, "with intimacy and grace," and was a force that inspired him. Music of today seems disposable by comparison.

review by
Risa Duff

5 June 2010

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