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Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting.
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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

3.4 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In July 1964, nearly 23-year-old Martha Reeves walked into a house in Detroit with a hand-painted wooden sign above the door that declared “Hitsville U.S.A.” Indeed, Motown was her home away from home. In this compelling, fascinating, and entertaining biography of Martha and the Vandellas’ classic “Dancing in the Street,” versatile Kurlansky (Birdseye, 2012) manages to tell not only the story of a song but also a record label alongside a social history of 1960s America. The famous names associated with Motown are here, including its founder, Berry Gordy Jr., and one of its most iconic singers, Marvin Gaye. But other stories frame the rise and popularity of Motown and form the backbone of the book, including the civil rights movement, the freedom riders, the 1963 March on Washington, the British invasion, the Gulf of Tonkin, the riots in Watts and in other cities across the U.S., and white flight. In addition, Kurlansky discusses the song’s various interpretations—party song, civil rights anthem, black nationalist anthem, feminist anthem—as well as other songs that seem to mimic its lyrics, from the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” to Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in the Street.” A rousing history of an iconic song. --June Sawyers

Review

Praise for Ready for a Brand New Beat
 
“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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1St Edition edition (July 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487227
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487224
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The central premise of Mark Kurlansky's READY FOR A BRAND NEW BEAT is, to begin with, a pretty thin one: How a single Motown record, "Dancing in the Street," became a major unifying factor in the civil rights movement of the sixties. And how the Motown sound in general served to soften the gradual move toward integration by providing a music that appealed to youth of all colors.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
"The goal of Motown was clear in the logo they printed on their record jackets: "The Sound of Young America". It was no longer about black and white. The lucrative market was teenagers and it was biracial. Berry Gordy understood that in this climate the music would have to change, too, and he would have to introduce "a brand new beat", a new sound. He was in search of the Motown sound. And it would have to be a sound that would work well on small transistor radios and car radios, their radios." -- pp. 85-86

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.
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Format: Hardcover
On the way to answering the question of how Dancing in the Street became an anthem for a changing America, Mark Kurlansky tells us how the song was recorded (in two takes!), goes into the history of Motown music and producer Berry Gordy, and races across the civil rights era of the Sixties.

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.
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