The Birth and Death of the Cool

From The Washington Post:

Book This very attractive book, with a cover that subtly recalls a Miles Davis LP from over half a century ago, is a study of how the notion of “cool,” with all its elegance and purity, was co-opted by wretched American corporate types who, in true fairy-tale fashion, killed the cool golden goose that they thought was going to lay them golden eggs. To put it more plainly, the author sets up his work with three short biographies of early jazz icons — Bix Beiderbecke, Lester Young and Miles Davis — and lays out what he thinks they stood for, both in their music and in the outer world.

Then, in just a few following chapters, he takes some dizzying leaps to places where readers may have trouble following him. Gioia's contention is that the mantle of cool passed all too soon from these aloof, original, extremely gifted musicians to another set of equally iconic but very public figures, such as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Jordan and Woods were hired to endorse Nike and General Motors, who traded on their images to sell running shoes and cars. In an evolution of events that no one expected, “square” personalities like Rush Limbaugh began to intone from the radio, Bob Dole endorsed Viagra, and comparatively unprepossessing contestants like Susan Boyle appeared on “Britain's Got Talent.” That, according to the author, signified the end, the death, of the whole idea of “cool.” (The term “square” is mine here. Gioia never uses it.)

More here.