I Read Jeff Tweedy’s ‘World Within a Song.’

steve cuocci
3 min readMar 28, 2024

I only just recently “got into” Wilco. Sure, I’d heard Yankee Hotel Foxtrot before. It’s a seminal indie record. It’s ImPoRtAnT. But I didn’t really claim myself as a fan of the band and the music they created until finding out just how rad A Ghost Is Born is and then falling in love with Jeff Tweedy’s 2018 solo record WARM. It was last year’s Cousin that confirmed it. Now I’m hooked. Now I’m in.

I saw that Tweedy was also writing a book last year and added it to my Want to Read list and was very happy to see that I received it for Christmas. It was smaller than I expected, a bit stout, not as thick, but I was joyful to see what he thought about some music. I wanted to see what songs he felt were worthy of his time. Not only his time to write about them, but also my time to listen to them.

I will tell you that while reading this book, his chosen songs are merely the tip of the iceberg. There are 50 in all, and they range from soul to rock to punk to R&B to things like ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. And while the titles and arrangements of the songs set the tone for what he’s about to dive into, it’s the kernels of memory that he shares that are the most moving pieces of information we receive. I can feel the way he sat in his bedroom obsessing over shitty records he would later love. I can see the sights of vast open gas station parking lots on a 2AM freeway between venues. I can feel the goosebumps he feels when he hears these songs for the first time and the fiftieth time. I can feel the way he wants to offer gratitude for all of the people around him who listened to the songs before him, with him, because of him.

This book is precisely the book I was looking for this year. I’d been grappling with my own feelings of How to write about music, How to share music, How to appreciate music. This book affirms that I’m doing the right thing, not only with my words but with my endless voyage to find good music that feels great.

Within these passages about music, I found so many little anecdotes to laugh at and to feel a deep sense of camaraderie with Jeff about. But even more so, quick little notes on how it feels to be in a band with people. How it feels to know about the Beatles and even moreso how it feels to introduce someone to the Beatles. How it feels to trust. How it feels to love. How it feels to feel good. This book has added a context not only to Tweedy’s personal works, but also to so many more artists and musicians and albums and songs. I’ve already been deeply entrenched in a commune with the spirit and the soul of Music, but this book provided a whole new codex with which to translate the very special, very intimate language of Music and how it speaks directly to our hearts.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an endless hunger for new music. For anyone who is always seeking the perfect song that might rest behind their favorite song. For anyone who feels like they’re missing out on finding a new band if they don’t take a chance on just one more new record from a band they’ve never heard of. This is a book brimming with the human experience, and its passageways are paved with the endless love of Song.