Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music Short Essay - Answer Key

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1. How does Greil Marcus define "artist" in the prologue?

Greil Marcus defines an artist as someone who challenges and changes a culture. Using Little Richard as his example, he tells that Little Richard is an artist because he "disrupted an era . . . broke rules, created a form . . . gave shape to a vitality that wailed silently in each of us until he found a voice for it" (3). It was the change that he and other rock 'n' rollers created in their culture but also that fact that they were voicing what the people could not say themselves that makes him an artist in Greil's mind.

2. Describe the example of an artist that Greil Marcus uses in the prologue. Who is an artist and why? Why are the other people in the example not artists?

Marcus begins the prologue with an anecdote about Little Richard interrupting John Simon, a critic, and Erich Segal, a writer, as they argue about whether Love Story is art. Marcus tells that Little Richard was the only artist on stage because his work disrupts and provokes. While Segal's book was popular, it was not something that challenged the readers. No one else on the stage created in the same way Little Richard did and, for this reason, Marcus does not deign them to be artists.

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