And the Band Played On

  • by Randy Shilts
  • Narrated by Victor Bevine
  • 31 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

By the time Rock Hudson's death in 1985 alerted all America to the danger of the AIDS epidemic, the disease had spread across the nation, killing thousands of people and emerging as the greatest health crisis of the 20th century. America faced a troubling question: What happened? How was this epidemic allowed to spread so far before it was taken seriously?
In answering these questions, Shilts weaves the disparate threads into a coherent story, pinning down every evasion and contradiction at the highest levels of the medical, political, and media establishments. Shilts shows that the epidemic spread wildly because the federal government put budget ahead of the nation's welfare; health authorities placed political expediency before the public health; and scientists were often more concerned with international prestige than saving lives.
Against this backdrop, Shilts tells the heroic stories of individuals in science and politics, public health and the gay community, who struggled to alert the nation to the enormity of the danger it faced. And the Band Played On is both a tribute to these heroic people and a stinging indictment of the institutions that failed the nation so badly.
As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Randy Shilts' book, you'll also receive an exclusive Jim Atlas interview. This interview – where James Atlas interviews Larry Kramer about the life and work of Randy Shilts – begins as soon as the audiobook ends.

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What the Critics Say

"The most thorough, comprehensive exploration of the AIDS epidemic to date.... It is fascinating, frightening, and essential reading." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"And the Band Played On is about the kind of people we have been for the past seven years. That is its terror, and its strength." (The New York Times Book Review)
"A heroic work of journalism." (The New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The subtitle says it all!

If you could sum up And the Band Played On in three words, what would they be?

Shocking, well-told story


What was one of the most memorable moments of And the Band Played On?

The constant conflicts between truth and politics (and money) are just unbelievable--what people did to "protect" their interests while scores of people died is unthinkable, yet it happened.


Which scene was your favorite?

It's all my favorite.


Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I was constantly astounded by the infighting of the various factions that put their own interests in front of public health--and that at times the public's health was completely ignored. The very fact that the blood banks denied there could possibly be a threat was the ultimate triumph of "looking good" over public health and common sense.


Any additional comments?

I tried to read this book many years ago and never made it through even the first few chapters. Listening to it instead made it so much more accessible. Unputdownable!

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- Jan Johnson

Stunning, informative, well-written, but biased.

This book was one of the most interesting non-fiction stories I've encountered in a long time. I was shocked by how little of this story I knew considering that I was alive during the time it was being shaped- it really reinforces the point that is made repeatedly that the media simply ignored what should have been a HUGE story because it affected mainly the gay community. In hindsight, it is simply incredible to hear about stupid, short-sighted decisions made by scientists, journalists, politicians, and even members of the most affected communities. Decisions made because of simple denial, which lead to many avoidable deaths. This includes 2) the shocking decision of blood banks to simply ignore evidence that HIV was a blood-born viral agent, leading to infection of people receiving blood transfusions, 3) the absurdly counter-intuitive decision of scientists and policymakers in the U.S. to ignore or dispute cases of infection in hemophiliacs, IV drug users, children of infected mothers, and those receiving blood transfusions, 4) the intentional under-funding of AIDS research by the Reagan administration despite efforts by Congress to provide additional funding, and 5) decisions by some gay leaders and public health officials to focus almost entirely on civil liberties issues and ignore attempts to curb the rate of infection.

It was also pretty embarrassing as an American to read about the underhanded and dishonest efforts by scientist Robert Gallo to take credit for the work of French scientists, even including fraud- all while ignoring the fact that these shenanigans affected a real epidemic that was claiming real lives.

Shilts is not an objective journalist, often using language that is conclusory and inflammatory. He doesn't just present facts that clearly illustrate that politicians and scientists didn't care about AIDS (then called GRID) because they believed it only affected homosexuals- he says it. And he says it repeatedly. I realize that this rubs a lot of people (particularly journalists) the wrong way because journalists are supposed to be objective in a "just the facts, ma'am" kind of way. Everyone once in a while this grated on me a bit too, but honestly I couldn't get too upset about it because it was pretty hard to draw any conclusion OTHER than Shilts's from the conduct of those described. As a result, the indignation and anger over the recklessness of scientists, public officials, and community leaders felt justified and it didn't bother me as much as it would have in another journalistic context.

The one thing I disagreed with was the continual implication that Gaetan Dugas was the reason the epidemic spread so fast. While I'm sure that Dugas did spread the disease to many, many people, the focus on him in the book unfairly presents him as a sort of villain for the story when he was hardly alone in his continuing to have sex long after he should have considering his diagnosis. I thought Dugas's story was fascinating, and representative of HOW the virus spread so fast within the gay community and masked the obvious truth that no virus targets one sexual orientation over another; however, that was a set of dots that Shilts didn't really focus on. He clearly felt compelled by anger to find fault with various figures (including Dugas) rather than to note and elaborate on the fact that the disease being identified with the gay community was due only to the tragic coincidence that the lethal virus got introduced into the gay community at the exact time that promiscuity was widespread in reaction to the new-found freedom gay men were experiencing at the same exact time. I was ok with Shilts crossing the line of journalistic objectivity when the conclusions he was voicing were fairly obvious, but what he implied regarding Dugas seemed more personal and less fact-driven.

The narrator was perfect for the material- he tone really matches the tone of the text, bias and all.
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- ricketsj

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-11-2009
  • Publisher: Audible Studios