Wilco: Learning How to Die chronicles the history of experimental rock band Wilco. Written by Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot, the book opens with bandleader Jeff Tweedy’s small-town beginnings and goes on to cover Uncle Tupelo’s career and the birth of Wilco. There is very little information online about Tweedy’s childhood, so Learning How to Die’s opening sections were invaluable. (For me, it was like reading like a superhero origin story.)
Pivotal Tweedy moments, like his introduction to Jay Farrar and their subsequent formation of Uncle Tupelo, are detailed. I’ve never really gotten into Uncle Tupelo, but their legacy is undeniable, and learning about their formative years widened my appreciation. Tweedy and Farrar’s songwriting process was particularly interesting. Their professional relationship was a minefield of warped expectations and miscommunications, and it grew increasingly volatile as the boys’ egos developed and the band’s star rose. Quotes from those closest to them are also included. These offer a broader picture and made an oft sensationalised rivalry richer and more nuanced.
The Wilco narrative here unfolds chronologically, with each half culminating in a major conflict: Tweedy versus Farrar, and Tweedy versus Jay Bennett. Since these incidents are well-documented, even casual Wilco fans will anticipate them, giving the book a great quasi sense of tension. Continue reading