Steve Morse is probably the only person in town who can say he shared a bottle of Jack with Bruce Springsteen, slapped high fives with Jim Morrison and had Bono give a speech at his retirement party.
With experiences like that, the former head music writer for The Boston Globe could teach a class in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. That’s exactly what the folks at Berklee College of Music thought: They handpicked Morse to come up with a 12-session online class called Rock History, beginning this week.
The timing couldn’t be better, as rock ‘n’ roll is finally reaching an age where a historical context is becoming a necessity (The Rolling Stones celebrate 50 years together this month!). Younger music fans and musicians such as Berklee students should be able to learn about some of the figures that Wikipedia might forget. Morse says his course begins in the ’30s, touching upon rock’s origins in the blues.
“In the early years, it’s easier because in the ’50s there’s a finite number of performers,” Morse says, “but when you get into the ’80s, especially in the MTV era and the explosion of the one-hit wonders, and the alternative and metal explosions, that’s when it seems like an infinite number of possibilities to deal with.”
But the infinite amount of artists is just a minor challenge; Morse lived through so much of this history. He estimates that while he was at the Globe, he went to about 250 concerts every year for 30 years.
“I tell people that in between my marriages I went to 300 a year,” he says with a full-bodied laugh. “It’s been an ultimate challenge to synthesize all of this information from my life and keep it on an academic level and also put in personal touches and weave it together.”
With so many unique experiences, one has to wonder if Morse will ever write an autobiography.
“I started a memoir, and eventually hope to finish it,” he says. “But everybody’s got a memoir these days. How many people have a rock history course at Berklee?”
Berklee (slight return)
This is not the first time Morse has worked for Berklee. After graduating from Brown and teaching social studies for two years, Berklee hired him to work on a newsletter.
“Within five months I was booted,” he says, after someone caught him calling the Globe to pitch stories. He has a sense of humor about how he’s come full-circle since the early 1970s.
“I felt I owed Berklee something after fizzling out and getting fired all those years ago.”