The prize is given annually to the best English language monograph on popular music, said Dr. Elizabeth Lindau, chair of the 2015 Woody Guthrie Award committee for the U.S. branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, which created the award.
A dozen books were eligible for the 2015 award. The committee members chose Weisbard’s book because it’s a comprehensive history of commercial radio formats – the first of its kind – that they believe will be cited by pop music scholars for years to come.
“This book makes popular music fans and scholars rethink our allegiances to particular genres of music, and why we talk about genre so much in the first place,” Lindau said. “It also makes us rethink our collective tendency to dismiss radio-friendly music released since the 1970s. Why are we sometimes suspicious if something gets popularized by radio?
“The whole committee – myself, Robert Fink and Loren Kajikawa – was also bowled over by the amount of vivid detail in this book. It seems like every sentence is packed with facts, citations and song references that show Eric’s painstaking research and deep knowledge of popular music. That’s one thing that impressed the whole committee.”
Weisbard said he was thrilled to receive an award on his work from an organization that has done so much in the United States to encourage popular music studies.
“This book was close to a decade in the making, representing my move in mid-career from journalism and museum work to academia, so the validation for the time I put in and the shift in trajectory is just hugely affirming,” he said. “Finally, getting the Guthrie prize puts me in the company of some of my favorite books in recent years: Karl Hagstrom Miller’s ‘Segregating Sound,’ Steve Waksman’s ‘This Ain’t the Summer of Love’ and Guthrie Ramsey’s ‘Race Music.’”
Weisbard has been an associate professor of American studies at UA since 2009. He’s also been a contributing writer and editor of Spin magazine and the Village Voice.
He received his doctorate in history from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008.