A Literary Celebration of Black Music Month

Here are a few upcoming and already published books in recognition of Black Music Month.

Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way

Black Broadway provides an entertaining, poignant history of a Broadway of which few are aware. By focusing a spotlight on both performers long forgotten and on those whom we still hold dear, this unique book offers a story well worth telling.

The African-American actors and actresses whose names have shone brightly on Broadway marquees earned their place in history not only through hard work, perseverance, and talent, but also because of the legacy left by those who came before them. Like the doors of many professions, those of the theater world were shut to minorities for decades. While the Civil War may have freed the slaves, it was not until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that the playing field began to level. In this remarkable book, theater producer and historian Stewart F. Lane uses words and pictures to capture this tumultuous century and to highlight the rocky road that black actors have travelled to reach recognition on the Great White Way.

Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic

In Soul Babies, Mark Anthony Neal explains the complexities and contradictions of black life and culture after the end of the Civil Rights era. He traces the emergence of what he calls a “post-soul aesthetic,” a transformation of values that marked a profound change in African American thought and experience. Lively and provocative, Soul Babies offers a valuable new way of thinking about black popular culture and the legacy of the sixties.

What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman's Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal

What Are You Doing Here? investigates how black women musicians and fans navigate the metal, hardcore, and punk music genres that are regularly thought of as inclusive spaces and centered on a community spirit, but fail to block out the race and gender issues that exist in the outside world.

Dawes does an admirable job of studying the complex knot of gender, race, and rock. Drawing on discussions with musicians, sociologists, and fellow fans, Dawes identifies the misconceptions, misogyny, stigmatization, and outright racism that come into play when a woman of color “throws the horns” at a metal show.

Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-HopYuval Taylor and Jake Austen investigate the complex history of black minstrelsy, adopted in the mid-nineteenth century by African American performers who played the grinning blackface fool to entertain black and white audiences. We now consider minstrelsy an embarrassing relic, but once blacks and whites alike saw it as a black art form—and embraced it as such. And, as the authors reveal, black minstrelsy remains deeply relevant to popular black entertainment, particularly in the work of contemporary artists like Dave Chappelle, Flavor Flav, Spike Lee, and Lil Wayne.

Darkest America explores the origins, heyday, and present-day manifestations of this tradition, exploding the myth that it was a form of entertainment that whites foisted on blacks, and shining a sure-to-be controversial light on how these incendiary performances can be not only demeaning but also, paradoxically,
liberating.

Watch Taylor and Austen discuss the book at the Auburn Avenue Research Library.

Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to QuestloveMo’ Meta Blues is a punch-drunk memoir in which Everyone’s Favorite Questlove tells his own story while tackling some of the lates, the greats, the fakes, the philosophers, the heavyweights, and the true originals of the music world. He digs deep into the album cuts of his life and unearths some pivotal moments in black art, hip hop, and pop culture.

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is many things: virtuoso drummer, producer, arranger, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon bandleader, DJ, composer, and tireless Tweeter. He is one of our most ubiquitous cultural tastemakers, and in this, his first book, he reveals his own formative experiences—from growing up in 1970s West Philly as the son of a 1950s doo-wop singer, to finding his own way through the music world and ultimately co-founding and rising up with the Roots, a.k.a., the last hip hop band on Earth.

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