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Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination
     

Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination

by Jack Hamilton
 

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By the time Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, the idea of a black man playing lead guitar in a rock band seemed exotic. Yet a mere ten years earlier, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley had stood among the most influential rock and roll performers. Why did rock and roll become “white”? Just around Midnight reveals the interplay of popular music and racial

Overview

By the time Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, the idea of a black man playing lead guitar in a rock band seemed exotic. Yet a mere ten years earlier, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley had stood among the most influential rock and roll performers. Why did rock and roll become “white”? Just around Midnight reveals the interplay of popular music and racial thought that was responsible for this shift within the music industry and in the minds of fans.

Rooted in rhythm-and-blues pioneered by black musicians, 1950s rock and roll was racially inclusive and attracted listeners and performers across the color line. In the 1960s, however, rock and roll gave way to rock: a new musical ideal regarded as more serious, more artistic—and the province of white musicians. Decoding the racial discourses that have distorted standard histories of rock music, Jack Hamilton underscores how ideas of “authenticity” have blinded us to rock’s inextricably interracial artistic enterprise.

According to the standard storyline, the authentic white musician was guided by an individual creative vision, whereas black musicians were deemed authentic only when they stayed true to black tradition. Serious rock became white because only white musicians could be original without being accused of betraying their race. Juxtaposing Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, and many others, Hamilton challenges the racial categories that oversimplified the sixties revolution and provides a deeper appreciation of the twists and turns that kept the music alive.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Alan Light
…this is not a book looking for easy solutions. Hamilton…offers a long-overdue look at the racial dynamics of rock in the 1960s, which he argues is far more fluid than it appears at first glance…The book is most revelatory when challenging lazy conventional wisdom.
Los Angeles Review of Books - Colin Vanderburg
From Little Richard and Chuck Berry to the Dominoes, Ike Turner, and Howlin’ Wolf, rock and roll’s founding figures were African American, yet ‘rock’ as we know and hear it now is coded white…In some of his sharpest passages, Hamilton shows how much rockism’s whiteness depended on [the] confining ideas of blackness…He contributes a new and valuable piece to a larger and still contentious project: the struggle against the essentialization of racial and ethnic identity.
Chronicle of Higher Education - Kevin J. H. Dettmar
Ambitious and rewarding… Just around Midnight seeks to tell the story of [black] erasure [from rock ‘n’ roll], and it does so quite compellingly by bringing together artists and songs that our implicitly segregationist narratives have encouraged us to keep apart.
Times Higher Education - Emma Rees
Brilliant…[A] valuable engagement with the unheard narrative of race in rock and roll.
Josh Kun
This new listening to the black-and-white racial politics of rock in the 1960s is full of rich insights, provocative thinking, and persuasive writing. As the revolutions of critical race and ethnic studies continue to reveal new generations of critics born in their wake, revisitations of rock history like this one will be crucial to rethinking the musical past.
Daphne Brooks
To the age-old cries that ‘rock is dead,’ Jack Hamilton’s book says, ‘Think again!’ Just around Midnight considers the often-elided racial mythologies, cross-cultural intimacies, and racially-charged aesthetic obfuscations that haunt the foundations of American popular music culture. For anyone who remains easily seduced by the romance of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame canon-building, this book is a necessary read.
Emily Lordi
As musically detailed as it is theoretically expansive, Just around Midnight reveals that popular music of the 1960s was defined by more vibrant interracial collaborations and more violent anti-black erasures than we could have imagined. This is a beautifully written and provocatively argued work of intellect, heart, and soul.
Arts Fuse - Adam Ellsworth
Extraordinary…Hamilton doesn’t pretend to have all the answers in Just around Midnight but he asks all the right questions. It challenges so much of what we’ve taken for granted about rock and roll history that one reading won’t do…Any future book that deals with the social and racial aspects of popular music in the 20th century will have to contend with Just around Midnight. The bar has been raised.
From the Publisher
"[Hamilton] contributes a new and valuable piece to a larger and still contentious project: the struggle against the essentialization of racial and ethnic identity." —Los Angeles Review of Books

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674416598
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
09/26/2016
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
191,891
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Jack Hamilton is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Media Studies at the University of Virginia.

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