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Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: The Apollo Theater and American Entertainment Hardcover – April 27, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books; First Edition edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588342697
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588342690
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 8.7 x 11.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,092,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The Apollo Theater has provided a stage for performers and a setting for the creativity of black American music that has hugely influenced American music in general. Recognizing the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Apollo Theater, this book offers essays by entertainment historians, critics, and journalists chronicling the legacy of the storied theater. The Apollo opened in Harlem in 1934 when black musicians faced severe limitations on where they could perform and how far their careers might go. Long before American Idol, the Apollo was offering a chance for talented amateurs to launch their careers, among them, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, James Brown, Dionne Warwick, the Jackson Five, and others. Contributors recall memorable performances, tributes, and rallies, including a celebration of the election of Barack Obama. Photographs enhance this history of the Apollo, which is set against the backdrop of historical changes in musical styles and genres, from burlesque to bebop to rhythm and blues to hip hop, as well as the social and racial changes as segregation ebbed and black music went mainstream. Music lovers and historians will appreciate this tribute. --Vanessa Bush

Review

From CHOICE

This volume--and the 2011 exhibition at the National Museum of African American History and Culture it catalogs--celebrates the history of the Apollo Theater, one of Harlem's most famous attractions. The book is divided into five major sections, which deal with the growth of Harlem in 1914, the Apollo from its birth to the 1940s, the golden years of the 1950s-60s, changes in the 1970s-80s, and the theater's rebirth in the 2000s. Each chapter looks at the entertainers of the era who starred at the Apollo and includes a "spotlight section" on a significant performer (these range from Bessie Smith to Savion Glover). For those born after 1990, the book serves as an excellent account of the civil rights era and the struggle for acceptance of black artists in the US. Entertainers covered include Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Moms Mabley, Smokey Robinson, Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, James Brown, the Jackson 5, and many more. This beautifully illustrated book is a welcome addition to the study of African American performers and their impact on the US as a whole. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. -- M. D. Whitlatch, Buena Vista University

From Library Journal

Here, 26 historians, performers, and critics each describe a part of Apollo Theater history, share their own experience, or spotlight a performer. The Apollo's significance in popular culture and social history is undeniable; performers who survived the critical audience either became stars or got even more famous than they'd been. The list of performers gracing the stage dates back to 1934 and includes the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, "Moms" Mabley, and Cab Calloway. This book—a companion to the 75th-anniversary traveling exhibition of the same name, which begins at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (Apr. 23–Aug. 29, 2010)—is rich in detail and features photos, playbills, and the occasional index card containing longtime Apollo owner Frank Schiffman's critiques of performers. VERDICT For readers with an interest in popular music, New York history, or African American history.—Brian Sherman, McNeese State Univ. Lib., Lake Charles, LA

From Booklist


The Apollo Theater has provided a stage for performers and a setting for the creativity of black American music that has hugely influenced American music in general. Recognizing the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Apollo Theater, this book offers essays by entertainment historians, critics, and journalists chronicling the legacy of the storied theater. The Apollo opened in Harlem in 1934 when black musicians faced severe limitations on where they could perform and how far their careers might go. Long before American Idol, the Apollo was offering a chance for talented amateurs to launch their careers, among them, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, James Brown, Dionne Warwick, the Jackson Five, and others. Contributors recall memorable performances, tributes, and rallies, including a celebration of the election of Barack Obama. Photographs enhance this history of the Apollo, which is set against the backdrop of historical changes in musical styles and genres, from burlesque to bebop to rhythm and blues to hip hop, as well as the social and racial changes as segregation ebbed and black music went mainstream. Music lovers and historians will appreciate this tribute. --Vanessa Bush

“In the heart of Harlem since 1934, the Apollo Theater has proudly stood as the center of the black renaissance movement, a beacon for the cultural history of our people and as important to the world's cultural lexicon as New York's Carnegie Hall, Milan's La Scala Opera House, or Paris's Olympia Theater. Jazz, blues, big-bands such as Ellington's and Basie's, and R & B are America's only indigenous music and the heart and soul of all popular music. Nowhere were they displayed more exuberantly than on the hallowed stage of the Apollo. For seventy-five years the Apollo has stood as the flagship of that legacy, playing an indelible role in building, celebrating, preserving, and promoting our nation's cultural heritage. Those who need proof of that fact can find it right here in this book.”—Quincy Jones, Composer, producer

“This book is nothing short of a treasure trove—a vivid reminder of the years I spent on the Apollo Theater stage, getting my act together and learning alongside show-business legends such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington. It's a joy to know that the world can finally hear the story of a theater that holds such an honored spot in American culture.”—Leslie Uggams, Emmy Award-winning vocalist

“The Apollo Theater has been a part of my life since my mother took me to see James Brown there at a matinee show when I was four years old. I've seen everything from soul to hip-hop, from rallies to movie premieres at that venerable building. This book captures the flavor of one of the most important entertainment venues in America.”—Nelson George, Author, journalist, and filmmaker

“Though the definitive history of American entertainment is, by necessity, a work in progress, much of it is laid out on the pages of this remarkable book. Entertainers of all types—musicians, dancers, and comedians—found a safe home and loyal audiences at the Apollo Theater and made Harlem's 125th Street world-famous. This stellar collection of essays addresses why that happened and what it menas. It makes for a thrilling story.”—Judith Jamison, Artistic Director, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Linda Lou on May 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm trying to maintain a modicum of objectivity in this review (reason revealed in a minute).... This book is absolutely amazing with photos and stories collected by the Smithsonian Institute about the Apollo Theater from just about every source available. Published as the companion to the exhibition of the same name at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, DC, it is a great addition to the collections of any one in the music business and those who just love R&B music history in general. I've been in the record industry for over 4 decades working with many artists from Isaac Hayes to Con Funk Shun (my late husband's band), from MC Hammer to Eminem. As a young photographer in the early 1970's while attending Howard University, I had the honor of going to the Apollo while working for the R&B trio, The Delfonics. This work really captures the magic of the jewel in the crown of theaters along what was known as the "chit'lin circuit". These venues, mostly on the east coast, included the Howard Theater (Washington, DC), Uptown Theater (Philly) Small's Paradise and the Cotton Club (NYC), Royal Peacock (Atlanta), Robert's Show Lounge, Club DeLisa and the Regal Theatre (Chicago), Royal Theatre (Baltimore), Fox Theatre (Detroit), Victory Grill (Austin, TX), Hippodrome Theatre (Richmond, VA), and Ritz Theatre (Jacksonville, FL). were often the only places that African-American entertainers could perform from late 1800s to the mid-1970s. Some of the most notable artists were Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr., Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Redd Foxx, Muddy Waters, Ike & Tina Turner, Richard Pryor, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Etta James, B. B.Read more ›
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By Shae on July 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great detail on what the Apollo is land was like!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this book opens the all the doors to the greatest show place in harlem history, wow, this book has great research and it shows the respect of the greatest artist that ever took it to the stage...all the stories about the apollo that we heard are in this book. between these covers are the best of the best....apollo forever....
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Format: Hardcover
Wow - this is a beautiful and well-written book. What photographs!
Alright, I admit, I work for the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation and of course,
Ella was "discovered" at the Apollo....but still....the book is great and the
exhibit is even better. Kudos to Curator Tuliza Fleming and to Dr. Lonnie Bunch and Dr. John Hasse.
Bravo!
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Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing, beautiful and filled to capacity with information. Its the entire history of the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY. Even the tree of hope. At amateur night at the Apollo, kiss the tree hope stump before coming on stage for luck.

In 1965, the owners of the Apollo Theater donated $5,500 to Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement. The book highlights many Apollo theater acts like James Brown, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald Aretha Franklin and Pearl Bailey.

The history of Harlem is intertwined with the story of the Apollo. Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing tells the story of how Harlem became Harlem, beginning in 1905 with White tenants moving out. The struggles Black renters faced with higher rents.

The text is very readable. Including many quotes and references. There are also personal stories from the artist.

There are amazing photographs of every era at the Apollo Theater beginning in 1914. If this book had no text it would still be worth it. The pictures alone tell many stories.

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing is published by Smithsonian books. In Washington D.C. they've opened an exhibit with the same name to celebrate the 75 anniversay of the Apollo Theater
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