Book Review: 33 Revolutions Per Page

Tall tales of Texas and beyond

33 Revolutions Per Page

Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins

by Diane Diekman
University of Illinois Press, 280 pp., $29.95

Diane Diekman acknowledges the challenge of chronicling Marty Robbins' life before she even begins, noting in her preface that throughout the entirety of her interviews, "He seemed to be universally loved, admired, and respected." Robbins was regarded not only for his versatile songwriting – a beloved canon spanning three decades, and everything from teen pop standards to classic Western ballads – but also for his level of commitment to the responsibility of stardom on and off the stage. His generosity and classiness set him as the epitome of the Grand Ole Opry star, while his celebrated excursions onto the NASCAR track in the Seventies garnered him an appreciation beyond country music. Still, while Robbins hewed to a strict moral compass, Diekman does an admirable job of exploring the psychology of a shy, dirt-poor guitar strummer named Martin David Robinson who, as a fan-driven superstar, found his conservative traditionalism wrangling with country music's shifting norms through the Sixties and Seventies. Given the lack of revelations, salacious or otherwise, Diekman propels the narrative with impressive detail and energy, leaving the reader with an impression that can only echo the admiration and respect of those who knew him.

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