Light, Alan

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Male. Education: Yale University, graduated, 1988.


During early career, worked as a freelancer, as a fact checker for periodicals Village Voice and 7 Days in New York, NY; Rolling Stone (music magazine), senior writer, 1990-93; Vibe (music magazine), founding music editor, 1993, editor in chief, 1994-97; Spin (music magazine), editor, beginning 1999; cofounder and editor in chief, Tracks Magazine.


(Editor) The Vibe History of Hip Hop, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 1999.

The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Story of the Beastie Boys, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Also editor of Tupac Shakur.


Alan Light is a rock critic and editor who has worked for such music industry magazines as Rolling Stone, Vibe, and Spin. A graduate of Yale, he told Rock Critics interviewers Steven Ward and Scott Woods that he always wanted to pursue the career in which he has found his success: "I never really wanted to be anything else, or even really thought about being anything else. I grew up around a newspaper, my mother was a dance critic in Cincinnati, so going to a performance and then discussing it, forming ideas and opinions, and writing about it were just part of daily life. My dad is a big jazz fan, so I listened to a lot of bebop and swing at home. And then I discovered my mom's Beatles records and pop music on the radio and that was the end of that." He added that he "kept writing through high school and college and on and on. I do of course worry that if I ever really get sick of writing about music, I have no other marketable skills."

After editing two music books, Light completed his first nonfiction work, The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Story of the Beastie Boys. The Beastie Boys, the first hip-hop group to gain a wide popular audience, were a subject he was interested in since writing his college thesis on the band. "I was just fascinated by these three middle-class white kids (almost exactly my age) who had put out this massive hip-hop album," he told Ward and Wood. A Publishers Weekly critic considered the book "entertaining, given Light's insider perch, [but] the book is regrettably an unworthy history." On the other hand, Booklist reviewer Mike Tribby praised The Skills to Pay the Bills as "notably well written … with wit and purpose far too rarely manifested in the rock-biography genre."



Booklist, January 1, 2006, Mike Tribby, review of The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Story of the Beastie Boys, p. 43.

Publishers Weekly, December 12, 2005, review of The Skills to Pay the Bills, p. 56.


All Hip Hop, (October 2, 2006), Jeff Rosenthall, "Alan Light: Fight for Your Right," author interview.

Rock Critics, (October 2, 2006), Steven Ward and Scott Woods, "Still Able to See the Light," author interview.*