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One Nation under a Groove: Motown and American Culture

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In its heyday Motown Records was a household word, one of the most famous and successful black-owned businesses in American history, and, arguably, the most significant of all American independent record labels. How it got to be that way and how it changed the face of American popular culture are the subjects of this concise study of Berry Gordy's phenomenal creation. Author Gerald Early tells the story of the cultural and historical conditions that made Motown Records possible, including the dramatic shifts in ...
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Overview

In its heyday Motown Records was a household word, one of the most famous and successful black-owned businesses in American history, and, arguably, the most significant of all American independent record labels. How it got to be that way and how it changed the face of American popular culture are the subjects of this concise study of Berry Gordy's phenomenal creation. Author Gerald Early tells the story of the cultural and historical conditions that made Motown Records possible, including the dramatic shifts in American popular music of the time, changes in race relations and racial attitudes, and the rise of a black urban population. Early concentrates in particular on the 1960s and 70s, when Motown had its biggest impact on American musical tastes and styles.

With this revised and expanded edition, the author provides an up-to-date bibliography of the major books that have been written about Motown Records specifically, and black American music generally. Plus, new appendices feature interviews with four of the major creators of the Motown Sound: Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye.

About the Author:
Gerald Early is an award-winning music, sports, and popular-culture scholar. He is Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters in the Department of Arts and Sciences at Washington University. His book, The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture, won the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this elegant, far-ranging essay, African American studies professor Early (The Culture of Bruising) offers a portrait of the revolutionary as a decidedly bourgeois family man and businessman-Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., stage manager of ``the most shining moment of the American black in popular culture.'' Borrowing crossover boxing hero Joe Louis's gloves and Booker T. Washington's bootstraps, Gordy combined black and American identities in a music ``that neither bleached nor blackened,'' even if it was created, produced and-most significantly-popularized entirely by blacks. Readers hoping for a complete history or a critical equivalent of The Big Chill soundtrack will be disappointed; Early is less interested in particular songs or artists than in the overarching, if never fully described, ``Motown sound'' authored by Gordy himself with the help of in-house songwriters and producers. (Artists were never permitted to write songs or produce, and even diva Diana Ross was never allowed to become more than just the most exalted member of the Motown ``family.'') This is a heady mix of cultural studies and nostalgia, only occasionally bogged down in a slight mist of academicism. (June)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780880014724
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/1996
  • Pages: 135
  • Product dimensions: 5.05 (w) x 7.43 (h) x 0.47 (d)

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