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Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race Paperback – June 23, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (June 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822333171
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822333173
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #898,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“In clear, concise, and immensely readable prose, Right to Rock asks important—often uncomfortable but always necessary—questions about the power and limits of racially identified aesthetics in social, artistic, political, and economic contexts. In looking at the triumphs and struggles of rock ’n’ roll bands such as Screaming Headless Torsos, Bad Brains, Living Colour, and Fishbone, Maureen Mahon opens a window on to an American music and culture that has historically sought to disenfranchise, marginalize, and even deny the existence of the vital contributions of African American musical artists from Blind Tom to Me’Shell NdegéOcello. Anyone seeking to understand the ideas behind ‘Black Rock’—whether one hears that phrase as divisive or inclusive—would do well to pick up a copy of Right to Rock and read it.”—Vernon Reid, guitarist, founder of the band Living Colour, and cofounder of the Black Rock Coalition

“Maureen Mahon’s Right to Rock presents a fascinating description of the meaning of rock music for black artists and audiences. Devoted to a form of commercialized leisure for which they are not the target demographic, these committed musicians and listeners write themselves into a story from which they have largely been excluded. Important as a study of a fascinating cultural practice, Right to Rock also makes indispensable contributions to our understanding of larger issues about both the fixity and the fluidity of market categories and social identities.”—George Lipsitz, author of American Studies in a Moment of Danger

About the Author

Maureen Mahon is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the African American Studies Program at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michell G. Goetz on October 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
. When we think of rock `n' roll, the first image that comes to mind is the white male guitarist, or the iconic Led Zeppelin. Ironically, it was not this credited white male who invented rock 'n' roll in the 1940's and 1950's, but southern black artists such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Etta James. It is still debated how large of a role these black artists had in revolutionizing the music industry through the introduction of rock. After the death of Jimi Hendrix, a rock legend, black rock music disappeared from the mainstream. In the post-civil rights era, white Americans popularized rock music, and the culture became associated with white aesthetics rather than black. Throughout the past few decades, the music industry has made it inconceivable to embrace black rocker music into mainstream pop culture. During the 1980's black rock musicians and listeners were ostracized by society for falling out of the black mainstream and norm, and were classified as not being `black enough'. In order to survive in the industry, many black musicians were forced to reconstruct their music and tastes based on the racial identities that existed in society. In 1985 Greg Tate, Konda Mason, and Vernon Reid, became aware of this unfortunate situation and founded the Black Rock Coalition (BRC) in New York City, and in Los Angeles in 1989. In the book Right to Rock, cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon takes an ethnographic approach by observing and participating in the proactive organization and role of the BRC. She states, "Their goal in forming the organization was to bring together musicians and their supporters so they could begin to address the music industry's resistance to black rock (pg. 7).Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JR Hill on November 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
after reading Maureen Mahon's Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race, you will realize, just as I have, that Professor Mahon's work is every bit as much about economics as it is about rock and race. The book is a cleverly crafted critique of the cultural, political, and economic confines that plague African American rock artists and prevent them from achieving success. Mahon not only reveals the pulse of the African American rock scene in the Black Rock Coalition, but also paints a poignant portrait of the business practices that shape the decision-making processes of the major production companies in the United States.

Early in her study Mahon defines the term "cultural capital" as "knowledge, influence, and power based on cultural rather than economic resources." (42) This concept appears time and again throughout Mahon's work, and is especially highlighted by her interviewees who constantly refer to an increased emphasis on the importance and necessity for African American's to have the essence of blackness. Blackness is not solely defined by race, but also by persona - by style and poise, by culture and pride, by language and expression. Blackness does not have to include a passion for rap or hip-hop, and likewise does not have to exclude an interest in rock `n' roll. In fact, as Mahon reminds us, "Rock `n' roll's original architects were African Americans like Little Richard, Ruth Brown, Bo Diddley, Etta James, and Chuck Berry.
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful By H. AL-THANI on December 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Elvis is Black-or at least everything about his legacy is. Rock is not only black, but black rockers are also white; the problem of sales in the Black Rock industry is not the limited number of fans they have-the problem is the unwillingness of music executives to sign on Black Rock artists because of the lack of a fan base. These arguments are simply two of the many that are fired around by Maureen Mahon, the author of the book Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race. Mahon examines the Black Rock Coalition (BRC) and the way in which the "BRC members assert cultural ownership, stressing that African American innovators made central contributions to the development of rock" (19). The central argument of her book is focused around the history of Rock and how it ought to be embraced by black-Americans. According to her study, the history of rock lies in the heritage of African-Americans and thus should return to them. They should "reclaim" it.

And what is Black Rock? Mahon argues "white rock" is really Black as Black artists created this genre-she states that Elvis "borrowed his hip swivels and vocal delivery from black performers." (151) She also states that he succeeded because he "produced the appealing "Negro Sound and Negro Feel" while avoiding the baggage of actually being black" (150). And so Elvis played black music to white audiences and eventually this black music was associated with whites and has been associated with them ever since.

With the labeling of rock under white music, black rock groups have had difficulties in obtaining music contracts. The music industry doesn't want to sign Black rock bands, including black executives.
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