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Just Listen to This Song I'm Singing: African American History through Song

Overview

Uses the music and lyrics of thirteen African-American songs as a focal point for relating the history of the African-American experience and for telling American musical history.

Uses the music and lyrics of thirteen African-American songs as a focal point for relating the history of the African-American experience and for telling American musical history.

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Overview

Uses the music and lyrics of thirteen African-American songs as a focal point for relating the history of the African-American experience and for telling American musical history.

Uses the music and lyrics of thirteen African-American songs as a focal point for relating the history of the African-American experience and for telling American musical history.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Richard Gercken
This slender book does not live up to its subtitle and introduction. It is part African American history and part musical history, leaving the impression that the author just wrote as much as he knew about each song. But it has a lot of facts, it's fun to read, and will thrill librarians because it contains the lyrics and music of each song it treats. There are thirteen songs, each with a three- or four-page introduction about its origin or composer, the influence the song (or its kind) had on the development of American music, and sometimes, how the song fits into black history and/or American history. Included are spirituals, folk songs, ragtime, blues and one popular spin-off, "The Darktown Strutters' Ball." Silverman understands and appreciates that African slaves "came from societies with oral musical traditions, in which intricate choral and rhythmic ensemble singing and playing were highly developed." Without writing or musical notation, songs "were passed along from singers to listeners, from one generation to the next." Silverman is adept at showing the Biblical background of some songs, but he has a wide historical and musical gap in his omission of hymns and gospel music. Church life has long been one of the most vital aspects of black culture in America, as the author notes when writing about "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" and "Go Down, Moses." While gospel music may have had its widest flowering since the 1960s, Silverman's cut-off date, it existed long before that. This gap makes the book feel incomplete, especially for the reader who does not know Silverman's book Gospel Songs (Chelsea House, 1994). In a book purporting to show African American history through song, one also misses Lift Every Voice and Sing (Walker, 1993) and James Weldon Johnson, who goes unmentioned. Silverman writes smoothly and entertainingly. He could do with fewer exclamation points, a lot fewer quotation marks, more italics, and a sharper-eyed editor: following a textual comment that Sim Webb was Casey Jones's fireman and could not have been an engineer because of his color, the caption under Webb's photograph identifies him as Jones's engineer. The black-and-white photos and drawings and reproductions of sheet music covers are well-chosen and flavorful. But the recordings recommended for each included song are almost all LP records, surely not a readily available format choice for targeted young readers. Given this book's probable location in most libraries, teachers, activity planners, librarians and pianists will likely use it more than young adults. Index. Illus. Photos. Source Notes. Further Reading. VOYA Codes: 4Q 2P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 6 UpThis lively and informative compilation presents 13 unforgettable songs that reflect African American history from the 1860s to the 1960s. The selections range from the hopelessness and despair of slavery songs to the unwavering faith of spirituals, from the hard living and lousy loving of the mournful blues to the upbeat prance of ragtime, from the full-swinging and night-clubbing jazz to the mass-protest songs of a nation's search for equality. Silverman's compassionate and humane narratives are a pleasure to read. They begin with "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore," discussing its origins, Biblical references, and symbolic meanings, and continue on through the powerful rallying anthem of "We Shall Overcome." Archival black-and-white photos or reproductions accompany the detailed descriptions of each of the songs along with a list of recommended recordings. The musical scores for voice and instrument are easy to follow and complete this study of the interrelationship of music and history in America.Selene S. Vasquez, New York Public Library
Sally Estes
Silverman offers a lively look at African American history from the 1860s to the 1960s as it is reflected in song--from "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore," "Go Down, Moses," "John Henry," and "Casey Jones" to Scott Joplin, W. C. Handy, and Jelly Roll Morton, concluding with the 1960s "We Shall Overcome." In each of 13 short chapters, he conveys a sense of the times and the people, showcases the featured song set to music, and provides a short discography for those who would like to hear the song performed. Period illustrations add to the appealing format. Fine for browsing and good supplementary material for American history and black studies. Notes; bibliography of further reading.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781562946739
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Series: Single Titles Ser.
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.74 (w) x 11.36 (h) x 0.48 (d)

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