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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.

This production is part of our Audible Modern Vanguard line, a collection of important works from groundbreaking authors.
©1987 Randy Shilts (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

"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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What listeners say about And the Band Played On

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A real time capsule

Shilts offers a first hand report of AIDS hitting the newly liberated gay communities of San Francisco and New York at the start of the 80s and goes on to provide a masterpiece of journalism encompassing the reaction of community leaders, the community itself, scientists, politicians, journalists and the US healthcare industry in the shape of hospitals and blood banks. It works as a tragedy, an epidemiological who-done-it, history and drama. Most of the players don't come out of it with unblemished reputations, Ronald Reagan, the blood banks and Dr Robert Gallo being disreputable stand-outs amongst stiff competition. It's gripping, infuriating and touching in equal measure and a great listen but you'll need to be ready to listen to a lot of material about fisting, rimming and the extremely lively bath-house scene. Not my bag particularly but for all sorts of reasons it's entirely appropriate that the book deals with them frankly.

I had some personal questions about the way Shilts flips from reporting verifiable facts to offering us the thoughts of some of the protagonists which I'm struggling to see how he'd know. I was also occasionally irked by the narrator's very dramatic style which seemed to be trying offer Shilts' reporting an additional emotional umph that it didn't really require. These are all small things though. It's no plot spoiler to say (because it doesn't appear in the book) that Shilts opted not to be tested for AIDS until the book was complete in order to avoid biasing his reporting. He was diagnosed shortly after its completion and died in 1994. So this is a real monument to his talent.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Comprehensive and interesting

Good social history using real life stories as a narrative structure. I was interested in the epidemiology of the disease as it emerged but also learned alot about gay rights in 1980s USA. Astonished at how late blood transfusion was recognised as transmitting virus, found this shocking and a lessen to UK on verge of privatising blood banks. The narrator is fine, no silly voices or over-acting. Highly recomended.

3 people found this helpful

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Superb piece of journalism

Where does And the Band Played On rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Full insight into american AIDS history.

Any additional comments?

Book is not 79 hours long, its about 32 hours long, wish Audible would correct that. I fell for the trick as I'm a sucker for a very long listens. However, the book was well worth it.

2 people found this helpful

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Essential history

This is not an easy read, but is very detailed, interesting and well sourced.

Essential history of the queer community.

The narration is slow and once or twice there were some dodgy accents, but overall ok. I listened on 1.5-2x speed.

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Eye opening

A history of a tragedy, written fiercely and narrated with great skill.

I was born in 1989 so my history of the AIDs crisis is somewhat after the fact. The story of the disease, but more importantly of the people, opened my eyes to a recent history that had passed me by.

The story feels eerily similar to Chernobyl, from the indifference of the government to the bravery of the victims.

The book takes 15 minutes to truly catch fire, but the next 30 hours are sensational.

I cannot recommend strongly enough.

1 person found this helpful

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Outstanding

Unbelievably good early history of the AIDS epidemic from an American perspective. It covers the people and communities effected, the politics, and the science all in great detail. It's detail, however, does not get in the way of the story which is riveting from start to finish.

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  • Mr
  • 05-02-18

Wonderful & Heartbreaking

I loved every second if this book. It was fascinating and Heartbreaking in equal measures. A must read!

1 person found this helpful

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  • 17-03-17

Very Good.

Very well performed, produced and edited.
The book is informative and often shocking. Revealing the flaws in early HIV/AIDS policy in the US from the first diagnosis to Reagan's first official speech on the subject.

the audiobook although detailed moves swiftly around the different organisations and people as the epidemic unfolds.

Sympathetic without being mawkish the book brings home the tragedy of the disease.

Not just a LGBT, a book for anyone interested.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant

A real eye opener funny in places heart breaking in others. I had no idea how awful AIDS really was this gives some idea of the suffering but the real tragedy was the response of different groups,; government, health care, the gay community everyone.
Well worth a read

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Patient zero

Radiolabs patient zero podcast was the reason for listening to this and I'm so glad it spiked my curiosity. Patient zero isn't really the story here. Political indifference and negligence along with public apathy is staggering. Times have changed thank goodness. Randy Shilts is a hero

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jan Mitchell Johnson
  • 19-03-13

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!

19 people found this helpful

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  • Lisa
  • 30-06-14

I, too, had forgotten

This book is meticulously researched by a reporter who followed the entire story from beginning to end. And he pulls no punches - there is plenty of blame to go around. Politicians, gay leadership, scientists, journalists, business people, they all contributed to the crisis that was AIDS in the 1980s.

Shilts unravels the story piece by piece. What keeps you listening is the "And what happened next?" pacing. He brings to life the heroes and humans. It's truly a masterpiece and I thank Audible for producing this work. Without Audible the Audible Modern Vanguard publishing house, this work would not exist in this format.

Rarely has an 80 hour book so completely captured me. I swallowed this book in large chunks over a couple of weeks. I'm in the process of re-listening at a slower pace. If you are old enough to remember the Reagan administration, I believe this book will capture you as well.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Patricia
  • 06-10-13

Important book performed well.

What did you love best about And the Band Played On?

This book is a highly informative and deeply moving. Its relevance extends beyond the AIDS crisis to public health (and other political) issues generally.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Ron L. Caldwell
  • 23-07-11

A-plus journalism

Shilts managed to write three of the most important works of nonfiction touching on gay people in the twentieth century. This book is one that is so carefully researched and intelligently presented that it really brings one into the complex mindsets that pervaded the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

It's broad in its geographical scope, yet stunningly personal, too. It shows us that the people who fought for the rights of people with aids often fought bitterly among themselves. It reveals the horrendous complacency and silence of the Reagan administration that might well be characterized as criminally negligent.

Shilts himself would succumb to AIDS not so many years after the events chronicled in this book. It stands as a living monument to his intelligence and humanity. It's a book everyone should read.

8 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • James Gordon
  • 19-08-09

Sadness Redux

The definitive book mirroring the early days of the AIDS crisis. The late Randy Shilts details the disease from the points of view of the medical investigators, the press, the public and most painfully those who lived with the ravages of the virus. Looking back on the crisis from the vantage of medical advancements and the deaths that came too soon, one can only wonder what might have been. Sad and enlightening, I highly recommend this classic. It's history we must learn from.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Tom Dawkins
  • 18-05-18

An incredible piece of journalism and history,

This is an epic, extraordinary, infuriating and hard-to-put-down work of journalism. Very highly recommended for anyone interested in not only the history of AIDS and gay America but on how individuals and systems respond to a crisis, and the battle between memory and forgetting, dignity and denial, community rights and individual egos. A truly monumental and essential book.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Autodidact
  • 09-11-17

required reading

a human story told with grace and brilliance. a tragedy of the first degree, still unfolding bolstered by Reagan stalling and general bigotry of the USA Stunning, moving and a must read

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kristin
  • 29-06-11

Wow...I had forgotten....

Had forgotten how incredible this story is. As everyone mentioned, I was the HBO movie and it really touched me. I was an 80’s child and remember the ‘scramble’ that the discovery caused; my mom was freaking out because she enjoyed the 70’s. :o) I was disappointed to learn about the presidents lack of concern. At least all of that has changed. It took several weeks of course. I had to stop and listen to another book for awhile; had to get away from the frank language and the denial.

2 people found this helpful

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  • S. Roberts
  • 08-11-18

Awesome ...

And enlightening. I loss friends to AIDS. I learned a lot more about the baths; in particularly the Club Baths that was in Chicago. I didn’t realize it was a chain. No, I had no interest, but some of my friends did — an now deceased.

I also learned how bigotry help the spreading of AIDS. Today, that same bigotry is hitting the USA in a mighty way ... YES, the [b]and plays on. This books is a must read.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kenny Cook
  • 19-04-18

A must read

So we never forget, this book is a must read. This epidemic didn't have to be as bad as it is, politicians and power hungry scientists made it worse.

1 person found this helpful