Top 60 Robert Hilburn Quotes

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“Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and The Sex Pistols may come and go, but rebellion remains a key part of the rock n’ roll experience. However, that rebellion – the outgrowth of a youthful search for independence and identity – doesn’t always take the same form.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Courtney Love is so famous among journalists for her loquaciousness that the joke is that you don’t have to worry about questions when you interview her – just be sure you have lots of tape.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I think Pearl Jam, greatly inspired by The Who, really did become a sort of musical conscience of a generation. I love such passionate songs as ‘Not for You,’ ‘Wishlist,’ and ‘Long Road.’”

― Robert Hilburn

“To many, Courtney Love smells like rock hype. Reviewers may be excited about her, but the rock audience may be skeptical of the credentials of someone who is more famous for her interviews and her spouse than for her music.”

― Robert Hilburn

“David Bowie, who spent most of the ’70s establishing himself as a master of psychological disguises, is spending the ’80s trying to convince us that he’s just a regular fella – or at least as close to one as a millionaire pop star can be.”

― Robert Hilburn

“In the role of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie seemed in 1972 like a strange alien creature, not so much coming from another planet as from a future age. His purpose: to warn us about a dangerous society where values were to be turned inside out.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Take any celebrity – all we really know is what they choose to tell us or what they show us in public.”

― Robert Hilburn

“It’s important to realize that everybody who went into country music, and most everybody who went into rock and roll in the ’50s, they had no more goal than a hit on the jukebox. Johnny Cash, from the very beginning, had a goal that he wanted to make music that lifted people’s spirits.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I learned how difficult it is to be an artist. There are always compromises. The record company wants you to do this, your fans want you to do this, your family – you can’t concentrate on your work.”

― Robert Hilburn

“It’s a hard thing to be an artist and not give up.”

― Robert Hilburn

“When I began to interview people from the ’60s, my first question was always, ‘What was your favorite record?’”

― Robert Hilburn

“I first met Michael in the early days of the Jackson 5 at the family home in Los Angeles, and the memory that stands out is that Michael, as cute and wide-eyed as an 11-year-old could be, was eager to get through the interview so he could watch cartoons before having to go to bed.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I didn’t know if I should tell people that Johnny Cash had an affair with his sister-in-law while his wife was pregnant. How much does the public need to know about a performer?”

― Robert Hilburn

“Johnny Cash was a good man. He tried to live up to his faith. It was just difficult.”

― Robert Hilburn

“As soon as I started working at the ‘Los Angeles Times,’ people warned me not to get too close to artists because it could make it difficult to review their work, and you can never really tell if the ‘friendship’ is genuine.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Growing up in the icy isolation of Hibbing, Minn., Dylan, who was still Robert Allen Zimmerman then, found comfort in the country, blues, and early rock ‘n’ roll that he heard at night on a Louisiana radio station whose signal came in strong and clear.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Some writers sit down every day for two or three hours, at least, to write, whether they are in the mood or not. Others wait for inspiration.”

― Robert Hilburn

“’Walk on the Wild Side’ was a very catchy song.”

― Robert Hilburn

“What’s amazing is how rock n’ roll lasted. It started losing its commercial power in the late 1990s. But think of swing, which we think of as this big music before rock n’ roll. It only lasted five years in total. So, rock going 50 years is amazing, because young people want new things.”

― Robert Hilburn

“The Internet has changed how young people listen to music. Television programs like ‘American Idol’ changed how people listen to music. It was no longer the songwriters that we celebrated; it was the singers.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Without people like Dylan and the Beatles and people like Paul Simon, I think rock n’ roll would have died out like Dixieland jazz.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Kendrick Lamar is a great, great thinker. He’s a tremendous artist.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I loved Roger Miller.”

― Robert Hilburn

“His belief in the power of music to convey ideas – not just entertain – has filtered down to musicians in every field, from alt-rock to hip-hop, from Bruce Springsteen and U2 to Arcade Fire and Kanye West. Popular music is different because of Johnny Cash.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I was driving to school at Reseda High School – I was a junior, and it was early 1956. I had a ’49 Ford. I was listening to the country station, and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ comes on… It didn’t sound like the stuff I was hearing on the pop stations.”

― Robert Hilburn

“At the ‘L.A. Times,’ I always wanted to write about artists I thought were meaningful. So I interviewed Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Eminem, White Stripes. And I could understand how almost everybody I interviewed had a sense of artistry.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I really thought I knew Johnny Cash. I thought I didn’t need to spend a lot of time researching his life. But I wasn’t within 50 miles of knowing Johnny Cash. I knew he was a good guy and a dedicated artist, but I didn’t know the demons, the struggles he had in his personal life.”

― Robert Hilburn

“When I was in high school in the ’50s, all pop music – Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard – was aimed at teenagers. I loved that stuff.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Through the ’80s, nobody cared about Johnny Cash.”

― Robert Hilburn

“The first time I saw Pearl Jam, I thought Eddie Vedder had seen too many Jim Morrison videos, and I didn’t like the music very much. But by the third album, I really liked them after all.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I didn’t have any idea that Gwen Stefani would evolve into this symbol of womanhood in America, but to me, that’s not a musical story: it’s a fashion story.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Elvis may have been my first hero, but you couldn’t relate to him.”

― Robert Hilburn

“John Cougar Mellencamp – I didn’t like him in the beginning. I liked some of the stuff around the ‘Scarecrow’ period. I go back and forth on him all the time, but I think he’s a good artist. I don’t know if he’s a great artist or not, but he rose above his original level of achievement.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Thanks to the arrival of such spirited and purposeful groups as X, the Blasters, R.E.M., and the Replacements, American rock has made a spectacular comeback.”

― Robert Hilburn

“You had to read what I wrote if you lived in L.A. in 1975 and cared about pop music.”

― Robert Hilburn

“It’s a different world because of the Internet and bloggers. Now, every editor is concerned about speed because every minute counts. Speed is more important than content. Whoever gets a review out first becomes the authority.”

― Robert Hilburn

“If you care about who I want to write about, I’ll write about the people you want to read about.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Even though The Cure helped pioneer the jangly, dance-oriented guitar and keyboard style it continues to embrace, there are other bands that now employ the post-punk style with greater flair. This leaves The Cure’s live presentation seeming a bit anonymous.”

― Robert Hilburn

“The Cure is clearly above average but seemingly unable to rally itself to move to a higher plateau.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I was getting calls in 1970 from teenagers, little girls, and they’d say, ‘Oh, I like your stories about so-and-so so much. How old are you? 20?’ ‘No. Older than that.’ ’30?’ ‘No. Older than that.’ And they’d hang up.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I think there’s a lot of writers who took rock music more seriously: Greil Marcus, Jon Landau.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I thought the message of the artist was more important than the writing style. I tried to be clear; I wanted everyone to be welcome. I think some of the more serious writers wrote to a more elite audience than that. They’re the ones who were defining the seriousness of rock n’ roll.”

― Robert Hilburn

“When I met Johnny Cash, I didn’t know what to ask: where were you born, who was your favorite recording artist, what’s your favorite color – I didn’t know.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Because record companies do not routinely release sales figures the way film studios do, the weekly charts in trade publications like ‘Billboard’ provide the best independent measure of record appeal.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Some people will never take Madonna seriously – just as many never took Marilyn Monroe seriously. Novelty images – especially that of a sex symbol – are hard to erase.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Like David Bowie, Madonna visualizes music so that her best work seems equally designed with the stage or screen in mind – not just the jukebox.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Country music tends to be so sentimental and homespun, it’s easy to stumble into self-parody, but Haggard has brought a freshness to the themes that places him alongside Hank Williams and Willie Nelson as one of the greatest country music writers.”

― Robert Hilburn

“The greatest impact of ‘We Are the World’ seems to have been the video, which lets us see the singers take their turns at the microphone without any sense of star ego.”

― Robert Hilburn

“In 1980, after 10 years at ‘The Times,’ I was at a crossroads in my personal life. I loved my family, but I was also so obsessive about my work that I found myself devoting more and more time to it. I wanted to be everywhere there was a good story, and that meant I had to choose between that and being with the family on important days.”

― Robert Hilburn

“One of my great frustrations for 35 years at the paper was the fact I couldn’t play a record for the reader when I was writing about an artist. How can you describe the beauty of Emmylou Harris’ voice without hearing it, the sensual lilt of a Duane Allman guitar solo without actually hearing it, or the growl of Johnny Rotten without hearing it?”

― Robert Hilburn

“With the Internet today, it is possible to do some mixed media things where you can write about an artist and link to a song or video by that artist. But that was unheard of in the years I was at the paper.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I don’t want to be the cranky old guy, but a lot of critics are too forgiving of mediocre artists. When you see these ‘American Idol’ people on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ being written about as serious artists, there’s something wrong with that. You can erase them from the history of rock n’ roll, and you wouldn’t notice.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I took a musician friend of mine to a Rolling Stone concert once, and all he did was cringe. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, ‘Keith Richards’ guitar is out of tune.’ But ‘Tumbling Dice’ still sounded great to me.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I’m guilty of being perceived as having narrow taste. I went after the artists that I thought were important – Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen and stuff.”

― Robert Hilburn

“I don’t understand why people take Beyonce so seriously. You don’t feel like there’s a living, breathing person. It’s not flesh and blood. It’s just flesh and flesh.”

― Robert Hilburn

“When the Eagles were starting out in the early ’70s, it would have been hard to imagine anyone in the fledgling, country-accented rock group someday seriously challenging the artistic punch of Neil Young or Joni Mitchell.”

― Robert Hilburn

“Artists frequently argue that videos trivialize a song and that touring for months at a time works against the creative process, not to mention maintaining a normal lifestyle. Doing something about these complaints, however, is rare because promotional videos and touring are considered essential elements in building multimillion-unit album sales.”

― Robert Hilburn

“The way he tells it, George Michael was born to be a pop star. It’s as if nothing else really mattered during his childhood. Even the name was part of the pop creation.”

― Robert Hilburn

“By 27, Bob Dylan had already written ‘Highway 61 Revisited,’ the Beatles had released ‘Rubber Soul,’ Bruce Springsteen had recorded ‘Born to Run’ and U2 had delivered ‘The Joshua Tree.’”

― Robert Hilburn

“There’s not a great danger in releasing the first single from an album without a video because the momentum from the last album will cause large numbers of fans to buy it.”

― Robert Hilburn
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