I Wanna Be Me

Rock Music and the Politics of Identity

Theodore Gracyk
Book Cover

PB: $30.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-903-6
Publication: Oct 01

HC: $69.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-902-9
Publication: Oct 01

304 pages
6 x 9

From the Sex Pistols and Eminem to Bonnie Raitt and Ani DiFranco, rockers contribute to our cultural capital

Read the Introduction and an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).


As someone who feels the emotional power of rock and who writes about it as an art form, Theodore Gracyk has been praised for launching "plainspoken arguments destined to change the future of rock and roll," (Publishers Weekly). In I Wanna Be Me, his second book about the music he cares so much about, Gracyk grapples with the ways that rock shapes—limits and expands—our notions of who we can be in the world.

Gracyk sees rock as a mass art, open-ended and open to diverse (but not unlimited) interpretations. Recordings reach millions, drawing people together in communities of listeners who respond viscerally to its sound and intellectually to its messages. As an art form that proclaims its emotional authenticity and resistance to convention, rock music constitutes part of the cultural apparatus from which individuals mold personal and political identities. Going to the heart of this relationship between the music's role in its performers' and fans' self-construction, Gracyk probes questions of gender and appropriation. How can a feminist be a Stones fan or a straight man enjoy the Indigo Girls? Does borrowing music that carries a "racial identity" always add up to exploitation, a charge leveled at Paul Simon's Graceland?

Ranging through forty years of rock history and offering a trove of anecdotes and examples, I Wanna Be Me, like Gracyk's earlier book, "should be cherished, and read, by rockers everywhere" (Salon).

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Sex Pistols' "I Wanna Be Me"

Part I: Frameworks
1. Like a Rolling Stone
2. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood: Issues of Meaning
3. Heard It through the Grapevine
4. You've Really Got a Hold on Me: Paradigms

Part II: Issues of Appropriation
5. All You've Got to Do Is Pick It Up
6. Don't Play That Song
7. Message in the Music
8. Speaking in Tongues

Part III: Gender
9. Act Naturally
10. Così Fan Tutte Meets Tutti Frutti: Rock Performs Gender
11. Rebel Rebel: Proliferating Identities
12. Hello Stranger: Reaching the Uninitiated

Sources of Chapter Titles and Subheadings

About the Author(s)

Theodore Gracyk is Professor of Philosophy at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, and the author of Rhythm and Noise: An Aesthetics of Rock.


In the Series

  • Sound Matters edited by Michael Jarrett

    Using music as the entry point for cultural analysis, books in the series Sound Matters, edited by Michael Jarrett, seek to articulate the values, beliefs, and dreams of the societies that create it. This series invites project proposals whose interdisciplinary approaches to music and cultural analysis will result in innovative, provocative, and accessible results.