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Ready for a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem for a Changing America Hardcover – July 11, 2013
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“Historians and music lovers alike will be grateful for Mr. Kurlansky’s thorough appreciation of this iconic song.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Mr. Kurlansky has come up with a book that will make you hum its theme song.” —The New York Times
“A fun and informative read about a cool song.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Comprehensive…effective…a strong case for why ‘Dancing in the Street’ would be widely interpreted as a call to action.” —The New Yorker
Praise for Mark Kurlansky
"Every once in a while a writer of particular skill takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight." -- David McCullough
“Fascinating stuff . . . [Kurlansky] has a keen eye for odd facts and natural detail.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Kurlansky continues to prove himself remarkably adept at taking a most unlikely candidate and telling its tale with epic grandeur.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Brilliant… Journalistic skills might be part of a writer’s survival kit, but they infrequently prove to be the foundation for literary success, as they have here. …. Kurlansky has a wonderful ear for the syntax and rhythm of the vernacular… For all the seriousness of Kurlansky’s cultural entanglements, it is nevertheless a delight to experience his sophisticated sense of play and, at times, his outright wicked sense of humor.” —The New York Times Book Review
Top Customer Reviews
While the book is constructed in a fairly coherent and consistent fashion to support these things, I'm not sure it's all that convincing. And I was - and still am - a huge fan of those peak Motown years. I have vivid memories of dancing in the dark smoke-filled "pit" of a GI dive in Germany in 1965 to the captivating sounds of the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go" and "Baby Love," as well as the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself" - a tune I will always associate with learning to do the "mashed potatoes," under the careful tutelage of my Philly friend and roommate, LeRoy Thomas. Yeah, Motown was just becoming huge on the jukeboxes around the world. I heard their tunes in Kassel, Copenhagen and Hamburg that year, all nearly as popular as the Beatles and other Brit bands that were dominating the music charts world wide.
But this book? Well, it's just a bit too much like a history book - which it IS, I realize. It is filled with facts, stories and minor anecdotes about the origins of Motown and how "Dancing in the Street" was written and recorded. And that part I rather enjoyed. It was all the background information about R&B, "race music" and rock and roll's early days that became rather a chore to plow through, because it's all been written before - and I've read a lot of those books already.Read more ›
If there was one thing Berry Gordy Jr. was not looking for it was controversy. As spring melted into summer in 1964 Motown records was well on its way to becoming the most successful independent record label in America. Gordy had perfected a formula for churning out bright, exciting pop tunes that appealed to teens of all races. On July 31, 1964 Motown released a pulsating new single by Martha and the Vandellas. It was supposed to be a party song. What Berry Gordy could not have possibly known was that "Dancing In the Street" would become the anthem for the young people who would take to the streets in the years that followed protesting everything from racial discrimination, our escalating involvement in Vietnam and police brutality. Mark Kurlansky recalls these breathtaking events in his irresistible new book "Ready For a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing In The Street" Became the Anthem For a Changing America". I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about the premise of the book but Kurlansky has managed to pull it off with a great deal of finesse. This is one of the most entertaining books I have read in quite some time.
In the opening chapter of "Ready For a Brand New Beat" Mark Kurlansky reprises the late `40s and early 1950's for his readers.Read more ›
I have to confess, I didn't know that Dancing in the Street was any kind of anthem. I've heard it these past forty years and thought no more about it than that it's a song that almost demands that you dance to it. But it turns out I was wrong about that. If you listen to some of the many cover versions of Dancing in the Street (and Kurlansky has included a list of every cover version to date), you'll find at least several that are less than danceable. Check out the YouTube of a very early Carpenters version that sounds rushed. The version by the Leningrad Cowboys and the Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble is downright scary.
In explaining how different groups used the song as a theme for their causes, Kurlansky points out how composers and singers have little or no control over their works once they're released into the world. If the words that may have been merely a call to get out there and dance, instead inspire people to gather and fight for their rights, it doesn't matter what Marvin Gaye or Martha Reeves or anyone else meant when they recorded the song. Record producer Jon Landau, quoted in the book, says "When work goes out into the public the artist interpretation becomes just another interpretation. It's not necessarily the deepest interpretation. It's just one interpretation."
Kurlansky includes a discography, index, and timeline, but no notes.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Growing up in America of the 60's, Motown was a big part of the soundtrack of my youth. I loved the seemingly endless row of melodic hits that company produced. Still do. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Y. Zohar
In his new book "Ready for a Brand New Beat," Mark Kurlansky makes the argument that "Dancing In the Street," the 1964 smash hit by Martha and the Vadellas, took on... Read morePublished on November 2, 2013 by Trevor Seigler
the Great Berry Gordy Jr had a vision and themes and catch phrases and titles which have people dancing and feeling something that moved the souls with finger snaps and... Read morePublished on September 15, 2013 by MAXIMILLIAN MUHAMMAD
My 38 year old son, a history teacher with a special interest in the Civil Rights movement, and a love of Rock and Roll, devoured this book.Published on September 7, 2013 by M. Silver
The book is OK. It seems a bit thin and I think that Kurlansky has definitely written better books, but If one has an interest in Motown, it is worth a read.Published on August 28, 2013 by JRL
So worth the time if you are a music buff or a lover of history. It looks like we are going to have to protest again like in the 1960's to keep the voting rights for everyone. Read morePublished on August 25, 2013 by Judith Shepherd
All around the world are you ready for a grand new beat, summers here and thats cool and let's dance in the streat!Published on August 9, 2013 by David Kalman
I just finished the book 10 minutes ago. I struggled to finish the last chapter. Kurlansky has a great essay about the social and political insights of this song and he presents... Read morePublished on August 1, 2013 by J. Humphreys
Read this book for a history of Motown and for a synopsis of the Civil Rights Movement, but that's about it. Read morePublished on July 29, 2013 by ec