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Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever

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Washington Post staff writer Geoff Edgers takes a deep dive into the story behind "Walk This Way," Aerosmith and Run-DMC's legendary, groundbreaking mashup that forever changed music. The early 1980s were an exciting time for music. Hair metal bands were selling out stadiums, while clubs and house parties in New York City has spawned a new genre of music. At the time, Washington Post staff writer Geoff Edgers takes a deep dive into the story behind "Walk This Way," Aerosmith and Run-DMC's legendary, groundbreaking mashup that forever changed music. The early 1980s were an exciting time for music. Hair metal bands were selling out stadiums, while clubs and house parties in New York City has spawned a new genre of music. At the time, though, hip hop's reach was limited, an artform largely ignored by mainstream radio deejays and the rock-obsessed MTV network. But in 1986, the music world was irrevocably changed when Run-DMC covered Aerosmith's hit "Walk This Way" in the first rock-hip hop collaboration. Other had tried melding styles. This was different, as a pair of iconic arena rockers and the young kings of hip hop shared a studio and started a revolution. The result: Something totally new and instantly popular. Most importantly, "Walk This Way" would be the first rap song to be played on mainstream rock radio. In Walk This Way, Geoff Edgers sets the scene for this unlikely union of rockers and MCs, a mashup that both revived Aerosmith and catapulted hip hop into the mainstream. He tracks the paths of the main artists--Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Joseph "Run" Simmons, and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels--along with other major players on the scene across their lives and careers, illustrating the long road to the revolutionary marriage of rock and hip hop. Deeply researched and written in cinematic style, this music history is a must-read for fans of hip hop, rock, and everything in between.


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Washington Post staff writer Geoff Edgers takes a deep dive into the story behind "Walk This Way," Aerosmith and Run-DMC's legendary, groundbreaking mashup that forever changed music. The early 1980s were an exciting time for music. Hair metal bands were selling out stadiums, while clubs and house parties in New York City has spawned a new genre of music. At the time, Washington Post staff writer Geoff Edgers takes a deep dive into the story behind "Walk This Way," Aerosmith and Run-DMC's legendary, groundbreaking mashup that forever changed music. The early 1980s were an exciting time for music. Hair metal bands were selling out stadiums, while clubs and house parties in New York City has spawned a new genre of music. At the time, though, hip hop's reach was limited, an artform largely ignored by mainstream radio deejays and the rock-obsessed MTV network. But in 1986, the music world was irrevocably changed when Run-DMC covered Aerosmith's hit "Walk This Way" in the first rock-hip hop collaboration. Other had tried melding styles. This was different, as a pair of iconic arena rockers and the young kings of hip hop shared a studio and started a revolution. The result: Something totally new and instantly popular. Most importantly, "Walk This Way" would be the first rap song to be played on mainstream rock radio. In Walk This Way, Geoff Edgers sets the scene for this unlikely union of rockers and MCs, a mashup that both revived Aerosmith and catapulted hip hop into the mainstream. He tracks the paths of the main artists--Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Joseph "Run" Simmons, and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels--along with other major players on the scene across their lives and careers, illustrating the long road to the revolutionary marriage of rock and hip hop. Deeply researched and written in cinematic style, this music history is a must-read for fans of hip hop, rock, and everything in between.

30 review for Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever

  1. 4 out of 5

    Katie B

    I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I had some reservations before reading because while I love the song they worked on together, I wouldn't say I'm a big fan of either group. Thankfully, both the history of the groups and the backstory behind how this unlikely collaboration came to be made for an interesting read. Most of the book is devoted to everything that led up to the making of the song including biographical info about the artists and the history of each group. Whi I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I had some reservations before reading because while I love the song they worked on together, I wouldn't say I'm a big fan of either group. Thankfully, both the history of the groups and the backstory behind how this unlikely collaboration came to be made for an interesting read. Most of the book is devoted to everything that led up to the making of the song including biographical info about the artists and the history of each group. While much of the info is probably known to fans, I did appreciate how the author interviewed both key and bit players for this book which gave it more of a fresh feel rather than relying on old quotes pieced together to tell the story. One thing that did surprise me was how not everyone involved was in agreement that this was a smart move to bring these groups from different genres of music together. Despite the fact it was a hit song and certainly had a cultural impact, there's definitely mixed feelings among some of the participants. Reading their thoughts on the matter was quite fascinating. If you like behind the scenes type entertainment books, I would give this one a chance. Fair warning, you will probably have the song stuck in your head while reading! I won a free advance copy of this book but was under no obligation to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeimy

    Edgers creates parallel chronicles about how Aerosmith and Run D.M.C. rose to fame until the two converge to record “Walk This Way.” Along the way we meet various artists, DJs, VJs, and producers who, in one way or another, played a part in the titular song’s barrier-breaking success.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Bourgeois

    Fascinating story of a watershed moment in the history of pop culture. I didn't think anyone would be capable of writing a full book about this collaboration, but Geoff Edgers did a great job digging into the backstory. His vivid writing style also suits the subject well. My only complaint is that the book sort of ran out of gas at the end, but I guess that's a testament to how much I was enjoying it. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Armand

    Great book. If you are an Aerosmith fan, a Run-DMC fan, or a fan of 80s music, this is a must read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Wise

    I was in high school when Run-DMC hit the mainstream. I was a member of the MTV generation. I vividly remember when "Walk This Way" hit the airwaves. I'd never heard anything like it. I was vaguely aware of Aerosmith, and I knew who Run-DMC were, but I didn't realize you could mix rock and rap until I heard this song. I remember sitting with my best friend, watching MTV on a Friday night, and loving the video. Run-DMC was on one side of a wall and Aerosmith on the other, each trying to play musi I was in high school when Run-DMC hit the mainstream. I was a member of the MTV generation. I vividly remember when "Walk This Way" hit the airwaves. I'd never heard anything like it. I was vaguely aware of Aerosmith, and I knew who Run-DMC were, but I didn't realize you could mix rock and rap until I heard this song. I remember sitting with my best friend, watching MTV on a Friday night, and loving the video. Run-DMC was on one side of a wall and Aerosmith on the other, each trying to play music and each being annoyed with the other...until Steven Tyler broke through the wall and then they hit the stage...together. Cheesy? Yes. But back then, it was revolutionary. Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever is the story of the making of that song. But this book is more than that. It's about the beginning of a massive cultural shift in America, that continues to this day. Prior to Walk This Way, rap was not getting a lot of radio play. Radio was reserved for the likes of the Eagles, Foreigner, and other rock bands. MTV followed radio format and largely played rock and new wave music. It wasn't until this song hit that rap became mainstream and invaded the public consciousness. It made stars of Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, and LL Cool J. The story is told in alternating chapters. One chapter is about Run-DMC and the other about Aerosmith. It also includes such supporting characters as Russell Simmons (brother of Run) and Rick Rubin (record producer legend). It tells so many stories, aside from the making of the song. It talks about culture, race, records making, radio, video. The story was engaging and the book is well-written. You learn things that you may not have known before - that Jam Master Jay wasn't on Run-DMC's first three album covers, but he was the glue that held the guys together and was the most "musically" oriented of the three, or that Joe Perry and Steven Tyler weren't so fond of each other and the other members of Aerosmith were referred to as LI3 (the less important 3). The book charts the rise and fall and rebirth of everyone involved. The story is fascinating. Geoff Edgers has written a really good book, capturing an important moment in this history of American music. This is the song that made Jay-Z, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar possible. This is the song that brought rap music to mainstream America. This is the song that was polarizing to the hip-hop community and even to each band, themselves. The book lays all of this out and is immensely readable. I won a copy of this book and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brad McKenna

    Great read. Aerosmith was my first favorite band. I remember when this collaboration was done, well, perhaps I remember it being in the heavy rotation on MTV; I was only 5 in 1986. The music business is cloaked in drama. I had known that Perry and Whitford leave Aerosmith but I didn't realize how big a role Whitford's replacement, Matt Dufay, had on their lives and how big a role Jimmy Crespo had on The Rock in a Hard Place album. An album, I quite like. Since I was a toddler at the same time Ra Great read. Aerosmith was my first favorite band. I remember when this collaboration was done, well, perhaps I remember it being in the heavy rotation on MTV; I was only 5 in 1986. The music business is cloaked in drama. I had known that Perry and Whitford leave Aerosmith but I didn't realize how big a role Whitford's replacement, Matt Dufay, had on their lives and how big a role Jimmy Crespo had on The Rock in a Hard Place album. An album, I quite like. Since I was a toddler at the same time Rap was, I was not a fan. I couldn't be. I liked rock bands like Aerosmith. I was the demographic, this collaboration was trying to reach. It didn't. Until now. Upon reading the book, I snagged Raising Hell. I loved it. I was not a fan of the racial questions the story behind the collab created though. And on that note, I'll end the review with a bunch of observations. MTV claimed to be following rock radio’s format and wasn’t intentionally racist by not playing rap before Walk This Way. This may be true or it may be naive colorblindness. P. 10 Darryl was a huge comic nerd! P. 21 “It was a reminder that leverage, sometimes, is not about money or fame or what you can threaten, Sometimes, it’s just about being loyal to your buddy sitting next to you on the couch.” p. 29 Given how much they hate each other now, Run’s refusal to record Run DMC’s first album without DMC really makes me want to know what the hell caused the rift. Rick Rubin slept in his parent’s bed until after he was 12. Artists are using “record” to mean both a single song and an album. Wicked confusing. Perry agreed because he saw Rap as (yet another) child of The Blues that he so loves. Def Jam got flack for having white dudes help run the operation. Also they got more opposition from black folk than from white. Run DMC refused to play Walk live, pretty much all the time. “The song basically served as Hip-hop’s Trojan Horse.” p.211 I’m left with the big question: was Walk a sellout? Could Run DMC specifically, and Rap in general, have exploded without a bit of selling out?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    As the daughter of a former Capitol Records employee, I'm offended Edgers couldn't spell Capitol correctly (spelled as Capital Records) or that the editor didn't pick up on it. That's a basic. But I forgive him. He wrote a book that attempts to put this musical collaboration between rap pioneers and on-the-decline rock drug addicts on the decline in a historical context. He succeeds, for the most part. But the book could have been thicker, could have delved into more of the larger and long-term i As the daughter of a former Capitol Records employee, I'm offended Edgers couldn't spell Capitol correctly (spelled as Capital Records) or that the editor didn't pick up on it. That's a basic. But I forgive him. He wrote a book that attempts to put this musical collaboration between rap pioneers and on-the-decline rock drug addicts on the decline in a historical context. He succeeds, for the most part. But the book could have been thicker, could have delved into more of the larger and long-term impact of the song and the collaboration had post-1986, could have delved deeper from the shallow end of "the white guy in rap getting the credit" storyline that was Rick Rubin's involvement in Def Jam, and could have invested more or as much in the post-1986 narratives as he did in the pre-1986 narratives. On the whole it was well done, an easy, fast read. Nicely researched. Pulled some underappreciated players into the narrative and gave them their due.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Koen

    2,5 stars - Decent enough read about how the iconic song came to be. Most of the book is the histories of Aerosmith, Run-DMC, Hip-Hop in general, Russel Simmons and Rick Rubin. The actual interactions between the rappers and the rockers, the recording sessions, the video shoot, are actually just a small part of this story. The collab was thought up by Rubin and arranged by managers, the artists met up in the studio and the song was made. There are some interesting anecdotes there but not too much 2,5 stars - Decent enough read about how the iconic song came to be. Most of the book is the histories of Aerosmith, Run-DMC, Hip-Hop in general, Russel Simmons and Rick Rubin. The actual interactions between the rappers and the rockers, the recording sessions, the video shoot, are actually just a small part of this story. The collab was thought up by Rubin and arranged by managers, the artists met up in the studio and the song was made. There are some interesting anecdotes there but not too much and nothing really new. 'Walk' is a massively important song of course. Edgers does a good job of painting the the different musical cultures in the early eighties, how 'segregated' they were and how 'Walk' broke barriers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence Smith

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I’ve just finished reading this book today. Geoff personally sent it to me. I loved how the chapters were set up with back and fourth between Run-DMX and Aerosmith. Filled with ups and downs with both groups. Very insightful for up and coming musicians like myself. It’s sad how the record industry is cut throat and egotistical. There we good moments as well I’m glad Aerosmith got to climb back up the charts after their long hard journey with drugs. As far as Run DMC it’s unfortunate they didn’t I’ve just finished reading this book today. Geoff personally sent it to me. I loved how the chapters were set up with back and fourth between Run-DMX and Aerosmith. Filled with ups and downs with both groups. Very insightful for up and coming musicians like myself. It’s sad how the record industry is cut throat and egotistical. There we good moments as well I’m glad Aerosmith got to climb back up the charts after their long hard journey with drugs. As far as Run DMC it’s unfortunate they didn’t get to adjust to the new Rap wave in the 90’s but I am forever greatful for what they’ve done. Rest In Peace Larry Smith & Jam Master Jay! - L. Smith Jr. & fuck Amazon they said I couldn’t leave a review

  10. 5 out of 5

    John Deardurff

    Did we need a 288-page book about the history of a single song? Well, if it is this song, then the answer is... Absolutely. But this book is more than just about a song, it is about the history of two historical music groups. One classic rock group and one classic rap group, that individually defined their genre. But, collectively changed rock and rap history with this single song. This book not only dives into the history of both groups and how they were thrown together. But also a brief introd Did we need a 288-page book about the history of a single song? Well, if it is this song, then the answer is... Absolutely. But this book is more than just about a song, it is about the history of two historical music groups. One classic rock group and one classic rap group, that individually defined their genre. But, collectively changed rock and rap history with this single song. This book not only dives into the history of both groups and how they were thrown together. But also a brief introduction to Rap music in general. A great read for a historical, behind the scenes perspective on the collaboration between rock and rap.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    Some of Edgers's most amusing anecdotes regard the video shoot, from Tyler's advice to the rappers on how to rouse yourself for morning music duties (it involves a sexual act) to the singer's frustration at how well-constructed the prop wall was ("It had to have a little tension in it," says Small about Tyler's athletic attempt to bust through). I reviewed Walk This Way for The Current. Some of Edgers's most amusing anecdotes regard the video shoot, from Tyler's advice to the rappers on how to rouse yourself for morning music duties (it involves a sexual act) to the singer's frustration at how well-constructed the prop wall was ("It had to have a little tension in it," says Small about Tyler's athletic attempt to bust through). I reviewed Walk This Way for The Current.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

    Music is perhaps my favorite topic to read about. I like Run-DMC and Aerosmith. I was pretty excited to read this book when I saw my local library carried it. It was ok. Lots of history and people you'd need to know before reading the book, which was fine for me, but maybe not to a novice to the groups. It was a very quick and easy read. Even so, I'm not sure it was really "full book material." Could have easily been a magazine article. Yup might even be ok skimming through a couple Wiki article Music is perhaps my favorite topic to read about. I like Run-DMC and Aerosmith. I was pretty excited to read this book when I saw my local library carried it. It was ok. Lots of history and people you'd need to know before reading the book, which was fine for me, but maybe not to a novice to the groups. It was a very quick and easy read. Even so, I'm not sure it was really "full book material." Could have easily been a magazine article. Yup might even be ok skimming through a couple Wiki articles if the story intrigues you.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amy Roe (Your Book or Mine)

    🎵🎶Review🎵🎶⠀ ⠀ Walk this Way - Run DMC , Aerosmith and the song that changed American music⠀ By Geoff Edgers⠀ ⠀ ⠀ In the 80’s the music scene was dominated by hair bands and heavy metal. Hip Hop was ignored and hadn’t yet reached the masses. But I’m 1986 that all changed when Run-DMC covered Aerosmith's hit "Walk This Way" in the first rock-hip hop collaboration.⠀ ⠀ I’ve read Aerosmith’s book and other rock/hip hop books that reference this event and I’ve loved them all. I’m a huge fan of both rock and h 🎵🎶Review🎵🎶⠀ ⠀ Walk this Way - Run DMC , Aerosmith and the song that changed American music⠀ By Geoff Edgers⠀ ⠀ ⠀ In the 80’s the music scene was dominated by hair bands and heavy metal. Hip Hop was ignored and hadn’t yet reached the masses. But I’m 1986 that all changed when Run-DMC covered Aerosmith's hit "Walk This Way" in the first rock-hip hop collaboration.⠀ ⠀ I’ve read Aerosmith’s book and other rock/hip hop books that reference this event and I’ve loved them all. I’m a huge fan of both rock and hip hop and love the back stories. ⠀ ⠀ I’m giving 4 stars⠀ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Walk This Way is an in-depth portrait of a song, complete with its cultural context and histories of both bands involved in its making. As a song on the first cassette tape I chose to own (at an age where I was unaware of much of the context discussed in this book), it was cool to read up on how it fit within its time as well as how it fit within the timelines of both Aerosmith and Run DMC. A recommended read for fans of the song and/or either group.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    I'm a BIG Run-DMC fan. So I had to to read this book. And for the most part, it did not disappoint. BUT I am not an Aerosmith fan. I maybe like 3 of their songs. So I ended up skimming most of the parts about them. But all of the info on Run-DMC and the making of their cover of Walk This Way is fascinating.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark Medland

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. At first the juxtaposition of the events that led up to the cover of Walk This Way seemed strange - the decline of Aerosmith in the 70s with the rise of Run DMC in the 80s. And then you understand that this song sparked the rebirth of the US Stones and the demise of the Beatles of Hip Hop. As much as I loved this song, I’ll never listen to it the same way after reading this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Fascinating history, and one I'm glad I read. My only gripes were the many names that I could not keep track of. He would introduce someone, then pages later would refer to that someone by last name only, and I had to scramble to figure out who that was. Also, repetitive. One example that comes to mind was being told twice within three pages that Jump was Van Halen's only Number 1 song.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Devon Scheitrum

    I wasn’t particularly a fan of the writing style, and while I understand the importance of a backstory, the introduction of the two groups’ actual collaboration doesn’t show up until page 200. Some fun facts and anecdotes too, but what the book really needed was a better editor (I caught a number of spelling mistakes).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Nelson

    Excellent book, well written, well researched- excellent mini history of hip hop, bits of Aerosmith history- a few gaps from the Aerosmith "Walk This Way" biography filled in, even. Definitely read if you are a music fan.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    A book that should of been a short story or magazine article or at most a short magazine serial. This is a primer on the story of hip-hop told through the lens of the collaboration between Run-DMC and Aerosmith. A decent story but it was entirely too long for the content it provided.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Henry

    Fun build-up but the time spent actually in the studio was fairly uneventful. Aerosmith really loser fuckups weren't they? Only really one good riff/song - and only then when it was dueted with Run DMC

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brett buckner

    Really interesting study of the power of a single song to create a cultural zeitgeist. What was most impressive is that neither Run DMC nor Aerosmith were exactly thrilled with the idea and neither thought much of it at the time. "Walk this Way" wasn't even initially released as a single.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Patrick R. Leber

    Smiled all the way through knowing the song would be released but never knowing just how close this came to never happening. I still say this was the largest single transformation in rock history in my lifetime. Really enjoyed this read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Thom

    Lots of good background stuff in this one.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Scott Schutte

    Interested story, but poorly written and poorly edited (many things that a good editor would have caught).

  26. 4 out of 5

    L.H. Brown

    A great behind the scenes read. Whether you're an Aerosmith fan, a Run-DMC fan, or just a music fan in general; this is the perfect book to add to your personal library.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Du

    This book was a lot of fun. When I was 12, Raising Hell came out. I remember loving Run DMC and hearing the turmoil on the Aerosmith side and the less than high hopes from the Run DMC side was fun.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jr

    Fun read, however I would have liked the author to dive in deeper to the recording and video of the song!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    I obviously know this song and both the artists, but didn't know much background on either act. Interesting history on this classic- wouldn't have guessed that they really didn't understand why they should do the song together, because collaborations like these are so common today.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

    Interesting look at a part of music history Geoff Edgers has written a number of books about musicians. Walk this Way was an interesting look into the process of how the song of the same name became a collaboration between very different musicians; Run-DMC and Aerosmith. I remembered my kids watching MTV and the energy of the song and was curious about the back story. I really felt l got serious insight on the players involved and how the song came to be. I received an advance reader copy via Ne Interesting look at a part of music history Geoff Edgers has written a number of books about musicians. Walk this Way was an interesting look into the process of how the song of the same name became a collaboration between very different musicians; Run-DMC and Aerosmith. I remembered my kids watching MTV and the energy of the song and was curious about the back story. I really felt l got serious insight on the players involved and how the song came to be. I received an advance reader copy via Netgalley.

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