Lift Every Voice: The History of African American Music

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Overview

Lift Every Voice traces the roots of black music in Africa and slavery and its evolution in the United States from the end of slavery to the present day. The music's creators, consumers, and distributors are all part of the story. Musical genres such as spirituals, ragtime, the blues, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, rock, soul, and hip-hop-as well as black contributions to classical, country, and other American music forms-depict the continuities and innovations that mark both the music and the history of African Americans. A rich selection of documents help to define the place of music within African American communities and the nation as a whole.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Peretti (history, Western Connecticut State Univ.; The Creation of Jazz) undertakes the daunting task of summarizing the history of African American music from slave hollers to gangsta rap within social, economic, and racial contexts. He lays a solid foundation with an examination of African and American slave music, spirituals, and minstrelsy and continues with a good description of syncopated ragtime and a thumbnail sketch of the beginnings of the blues. In the most successful section, Peretti describes the origins of jazz during the 1920s from the marriage of ragtime and the blues. He also discusses, e.g., classical music, jazz avant-garde, gospel, soul, and the birth of rock 'n' roll. Peretti ends with a disappointing chapter on more recent music like Motown, funk, disco, and hip-hop, making a few missteps along the way (e.g., characterizing house music as early rap; referring to the Notorious B.I.G. as Christopher Smalls rather than Christopher Wallace). Overall, however, Peretti scores more often than he misses in the ambitious task of capturing the many and varied contributions of African Americans to our musical heritage. Recommended as a college text or as a brief overview for general readers.
—Dave Szatmary

The Journal of Popular Culture
Lift Every Voice is distinguished by its unique scope and intended audience. . . . These texts do the important work of bringing readers into contact with actual manifestations of the culture(s) analyzed throughout the book. . . . It performs its function admirably.
Journal of American History
Peretti skillfully synthesizes decades of scholarship. He makes complicated music understandable by the layperson. He makes many insightful connections between African American music and its African antecedents. It is refreshing and rare (if not unprecedented) to see sections on classical, gospel, and avant-garde music referenced in the same context as blues, jazz, and soul music. And Peretti's analysis of the unequalled chart success of Michael Jackson's Thriller album is the best attempt I have seen to ascertain why the album resonates so strongly in African American culture and among audiences worldwide.
Journal Of Popular Culture
Lift Every Voice is distinguished by its unique scope and intended audience. . . . These texts do the important work of bringing readers into contact with actual manifestations of the culture(s) analyzed throughout the book. . . . It performs its function admirably.
Journal Of American History
Peretti skillfully synthesizes decades of scholarship. He makes complicated music understandable by the layperson. He makes many insightful connections between African American music and its African antecedents. It is refreshing and rare (if not unprecedented) to see sections on classical, gospel, and avant-garde music referenced in the same context as blues, jazz, and soul music. And Peretti's analysis of the unequalled chart success of Michael Jackson's Thriller album is the best attempt I have seen to ascertain why the album resonates so strongly in African American culture and among audiences worldwide.
Waldo E. Martin Jr.
This is an impressive and highly readable short narrative history of African American music. Peretti's treatment of the social and cultural dimensions of the music is especially compelling.
Gerald Early
A well-researched and well-written introduction to the riches of African American music and its cultural context. An excellent book for the undergraduate classroom or the general reader.
Journal of American Folklore
Burton W. Peretti’s Lift Every Voice contributes to a much-needed discussion of African American musical history by providing an important, albeit brief, visitation of the social issues entwined in the professional experience of some of the United States’ most important and influential artists. While there is no shortage of works that interpret the how and why of influential trends and performers, there is a need for books that provide a succinct who, what, when, and where of African American music since the 1970s. This type of “blue collar” scholarship, particularly focused on more modern music, would greatly add to the currently available literature. Lift Every Voice speaks to this need not only as a contribution to scholarship in African American music, but to a broader understanding of American society.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742558113
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/16/2008
  • Series: African American History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Burton W. Peretti is professor of history at Western Connecticut State University and author of Jazz in American Culture.
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Table of Contents

Glossary of Musical Terms

Chronology of Selected Dates

Introduction 1

1 From West Africa to Slavery 7

2 Jubilee and Tin Pan Alley: Contrasting Sounds of Freedom 33

3 The Rise of Ragtime and the Blues 57

4 The Emergence of Jazz 79

5 Jazz at the Philharmonic: The Jazz Avant-Garde and Black Classical Expression 101

6 Gospel, Freedom Songs, and the Struggle for Equality 125

7 Black Popular Music as Big Business 149

Documents 171

Selected Bibliography and Discography 207

Index 213

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