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A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America Revised Edition Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0472031474
ISBN-10: 0472031473
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An ambitious and comprehensive look at the deep connection between race and music in America, Werner's book is filled with provocative insights. Why, for instance, did "funkateers and feminists, progressives and puritans, rockers and reactionaries" band together in an "unholy alliance" against disco, destroying "the last remaining musical scene that was in any sense racially mixed"Aa scene that made crossover stars of women, African-Americans and gay men? Werner (Up Around the Bend), a professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, is enlightening without being overwhelming. Tracing the gospel, blues and jazz "impulses" through American, English and Jamaican music, he shows how the threads of music spun under the oppression of slavery and inequality have been woven into all types of popular and innovative music. One of the high notes of the book is his vivid description of how, as disco petered out, hip-hop and rap emerged in the burnt-out, battle-scarred terrain of the South Bronx. Cut off from the increasingly "upwardly mobile" Studio 54 scene, the locals developed their own dance music, drawing on snippets from the history of popular music and particularly on the techniques of Jamaican street-party DJs. Werner's breadth of knowledge is impressive. He writes with equal clarity aboutAand respect forAgospel icon Mahalia Jackson (who "placed black women and their voices at the center of the freedom struggle") and Public Enemy (who expressed a "combination of political intelligence and street realism"). In America, where most people live in spaces rigidly defined by race and ethnicity, Werner shows how music still has the power to bring people together.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Werner (Playing the Changes: From Afro-Modernism to the Jazz Impulse, Univ. of Illinois, 1994) charts the integrative influence of African American-based music on race relations in the United States from the 1950s to the present. Generally following a chronological approach, he divides the book into 65 brief chapters that loosely relate to three major musical themes: a redemptive gospel strain, jazz innovation, and blues realism. Werner most clearly explores the link between music and race in chapters on soul, disco, funk, house, and rap, explaining the connections between Motown and the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., Public Enemy's rap against a Reaganized America, and Aretha Franklin's place in the late 1960s black power movement. At his worst, Werner drifts into academic overintellectualizations of straightforward artists and their songs and overambitiously tries to deal with the scope of African American music while ignoring most of postwar jazz. Although it sometimes resembles an uneven, disjointed series of lectures revolving around opinion rather than research, this book still offers academics and lay readers a provocative, passionate glimpse at the core meaning and effects of postwar American popular music.?David P. Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press; Revised Edition edition (January 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472031473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472031474
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Talk about a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, the popular music literature out there seems to fall into two camps. The first populates journalism school dropouts who, because of their love for the music, feel the need to share their passion with the whole wide world. Their writings are usually superficial and they're the crowd Dylan complained about when he said (paraphrase), "they're a bunch of 40 year olds writing for a bunch of 10 year olds." The other group is made up of academics who, though often having brilliant insights, are more often impenetrable to the masses of popular music listeners. Indeed, this ilk is just as likely to write *about* listeners rather than for them.
Craig Werner skillfully accomplishes what only a handful have done before him: marrying the insights of a well read, thoughtful academic with a down-to-earth (way far away from any ivory tower), yet passionate style of writing. Using the "calls" and "responses" found in black music (and communities) and the "impulses" of gospel, blues and jazz, Werner seamlessly connects such varied artists as Mahalia Jackson, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, Public Enemy, Madonna, Prince, Duke Ellington, Ani Difranco, and seemingly hundreds more. Though the "huh?" factor may be high at times (the jazz impulse includes Neil Young's "Arc"), through fresh, direct insights an "oh yeah" factor always neutralizes it (usually within a page or two).
The subtitle of the book suggests this is an explanation of "music, race and the soul of America." Well, it's not. This is merely Werner's "response," based on the many "calls" he writes of in his book. This is now my "response" to Werner's "call" - Wow, you gotta read this book.
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Format: Paperback
Craig Werner takes us on a lively guided tour of American popular music over the past several decades, focusing on how this music reflects--and promises, in a certain sense, to heal--the enduring racial chasm in American life. It is funny, tragic, and always engaging. The writing is often brilliant and always to the point. This is probably the best book about American music that I have ever read. Werner does such an excellent job, not only writing about the music itself, which he does with remarkable clarity and intelligence, but in placing the music in the historical context from which it emerged. This would be a great book for 20th century American history courses, courses about the 1960s, courses about African American history and culture. This is a book about the soundtrack of our lives, and how it speaks to the lasting dilemmas of race.
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Format: Paperback
Marvellous stuff. Possibly the best book to be written about music and popular culture for quite some time. Determinedly in the tradition of Greil Marcus & Peter Guralnick, the book re-writes the now well-told tale of "rock" music's history, from what is perhaps the only true perspective - that is, race. Read it.
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Format: Paperback
A newly revised, expanded, and updated edition, A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race, And The Soul Of America by Craig Werner (Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin) is an informative and "reader friendly" survey of forty years worth of music and events in African-American history which played such an influential role in shaping the path of the American popular culture. Professor Werner manages to present an engaging and knowledgeable perspective of Afro-American music's intimate connection with its composers, performers, and audiences, while carving a vivid picture of the political credit it deserves. Very strongly recommended for Black Studies, Music History, and American Popular Culture library collections, A Change Is Gonna Come is both the perfect scholarly reference and an ideal nostalgic documentation of the history of African-American influence upon their own ethnic musical traditions.
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