United Breaks Guitars reviewed

In March 2008, indie singer Dave Carroll of the Halifax band Sons of Maxwell checked his well-loved Taylor 710ce guitar on a United Airlines flight to Chicago. Both the band and their instruments were en route to Nebraska, and their flight would take them through a transfer at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. That is where the trouble began. Ironically, when United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s guitar, the events that followed broke his career wide open. Dave’s award-winning talent, already well known to many, was introduced suddenly to millions when his 2009 YouTube music video United Breaks Guitars went viral, becoming a worldwide sensation.

In May of this year, Dave Carroll published the complete story of United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media, a page-turner written in four parts. Part One chronicles the negligent handling of his $3,500Taylor guitar, which was thrown around by baggage handlers in plain view of passengers; the complete disinterest of every United service agent he spoke to during and after the incident; and, the ensuing wild-goose chase he had with United agents around the world over a dogged and frustrating seven-month period.

Dave wrote of some of his favourite songs inspired by some of his most important life experiences on his Taylor. And, in chapter two, Dave recalls how they met in 1999, which had me laughing out loud. You could say Dave and his Taylor were in a meaningful, long-term relationship. Dave draws us in immediately, striking just the right tone with his now widely recognized good humour and sincerity. These qualities Dave might ascribe to his upbringing in a childhood home filled with song and humour. In his book, Dave credits his father Max Carroll for his Irish love of music and his willingness to seize the moment. When asked about his Celtic heritage, Dave explains that Carroll is Irish from the O’Carroll clan. Then, true to form he launches into another story from the road.

“When I was touring Ireland for the first time,” says Dave, “we played this spot in Donegal called McGrory’s of Culdaf. We did our show and afterword in the pub there was a group of super talented Celtic players jamming for fun. We sat with them and traded some songs, and when I told them my name they played me a song written in 1200 AD, following the death of a noble woman with the same last name. When they finished, one of them said ‘welcome home’. That was cool!”

Dave’s enthusiasm for storytelling and for meaningful connections pervades his book. Part Two is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the making of United Breaks Guitars (UBG), a video that has reached over 150 million people and been named one of the five most important videos in Google’s history. Part Three reflects on business practices and attitudes toward customer service, on our value as individual customers, and on the exponential power of social media and our meaningful connections to one another. Part Four is a window into Dave’s personal and professional insights, opportunities and experiences in the wake of his viral UBG trilogy on YouTube. In his book, Dave has appended the lyrics and free downloads for each of the UBG songs and several other significant tunes mentioned.

Dave Carroll’s story, United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media, exposes a fluid, articulate and clever evolution of ideas. I found myself cheering him on again and hoping that social media and business teachers and students worldwide will get their hands on his book. I envisioned business travellers and people from all walks of life grabbing the book off a shelf at airport bookstores (if they ever find distribution there). I imagined them all nose deep in the pages, chuckling, pondering and reading with interest from cover to cover, as I did. ~ Tina Capalbo