Neal's (African American studies, SUNY at Albany) cogent, coherent, and comprehensive What the Music Said is arguably the definitive study of the relationship between 20th-century black American music and black American society as a whole. Here, he narrows his focus, addressing very specific topics related to black American music of the past 40 years. Thirteen distinct chapters analyze such subjects as the history of "Nuyorican Soul"; white singer-songwriter Laura Nyro and her groundbreaking 1971 collaboration with black vocal group Labelle; and the firing of BET's talk show host Travis Smiley. Neal's overgenerous peppering of urban slang du jour-flava, fo' sho,' uh-huh, Angie, you all woman, it's big pimpin', baby!-with postmodernist cant makes Songs at times an odd approximation of Joel Chandler Harris interpreting J rgen Habermas. And beyond simply feeling more awkward than clever, this discordant bidialectalism limits the optimal readership to those patrons who are fluent in both idioms. Beyond this caveat, however, Neal's vision is (as always) right on target, and he does analyze important subjects never heretofore treated in depth. Surely worthy of consideration by those academic libraries with a strong interest in contemporary black American cultural studies.-Bill Piekarski, Lackawanna, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Mark Anthony Neal is Associate Professor of Black Popular Culture in the Program in African and African-American Studies at Duke University. Neal is the author of Whatthe Music Said, Soul Babies, and Songs in the Key ofBlack Life, all published by Routledge.