Dave Laing

David William Laing (9 January 1947 – 7 January 2019)[1][2] was an English writer, editor, and broadcaster, specialising in the history and development of pop and rock music. He was a research fellow at the universities of Westminster and Liverpool.

Dave Laing
Dave Laing 01.jpg
Laing in 2012
David William Laing

(1947-01-09)9 January 1947
Died7 January 2019(2019-01-07) (aged 71)
OccupationMusic journalist, author, editor


Laing was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and attended King's College School in Wimbledon, where he joined his first band. He began studies at St Catherine's College, Cambridge, but left in 1967 without graduating and moved to London. He started writing music articles and his first book, The Sound of Our Time (1970), while working in clerical jobs. He then took a degree in English and sociology at the University of Sussex, where he met fellow writer Phil Hardy. Laing also worked with Val Wilmer on an unpublished history of coal mining communities.[2]

In 1971 he published one of the first extended analyses of a pop musician's recordings, Buddy Holly. At the suggestion of writer Charlie Gillett,[2] Laing became editor of the monthly British music magazine Let It Rock, from October 1972 to October 1973.[3] His other books include The Electric Muse: the story of Folk into Rock (with Karl Dallas, Robin Denselow and Robert Shelton, 1975), and One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock (1985). In the mid-1970s Laing was co-editor of one of the first reference books on rock music, The Encyclopedia of Rock.[4] In 1978 he published The Marxist Theory of Art, written after moving to Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire.[2]

He co-authored, with Phil Hardy, The Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music (1995), and co-wrote, with Sarah Davis, The Guerrilla Guide to the Music Business (2001). Laing was an editor of the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World.[5] He also wrote widely in music magazines and newspapers, including The Guardian.[6] As of 2016, he was the managing editor of the journal Popular Music History and co-editor of the Icons of Pop Music book series.[7]

He died of cancer in 2019, aged 71.[2]


  1. ^ Dave Laing at WorldCat. Retrieved 3 July 2013
  2. ^ a b c d e Russell, Tony (14 January 2019). "Dave Laing obituary". theguardian.com. Archived from the original on 15 January 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  3. ^ Laing, Dave (October 2010). ""The World's Best Rock Read": Let It Rock 1972–1975". Popular Music and Society.
  4. ^ Justin D. Burton, "JPMS Online: POP/IASPM-US Sounds of the City Issue, David Laing", IASPM-US, 22 October 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  5. ^ Author profile at Equinox Books. Retrieved 2 July 2013
  6. ^ Dave Laing profile at The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  7. ^ "The Contributors". Popular Music. cambridge.org. 35 (2): iii. May 2016. Retrieved 1 February 2019.