Destructive Desires: Rhythm and Blues Culture and the Politics of Racial Equality

Destructive Desires: Rhythm and Blues Culture and the Politics of Racial Equality

by Robert J. Patterson


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Despite rhythm and blues culture’s undeniable role in molding, reflecting, and reshaping black cultural production, consciousness, and politics, it has yet to receive the serious scholarly examination it deserves. Destructive Desires corrects this omission by analyzing how post-Civil Rights era rhythm and blues culture articulates competing and conflicting political, social, familial, and economic desires within and for African American communities. As an important form of black cultural production, rhythm and blues music helps us to understand black political and cultural desires and longings in light of neo-liberalism’s increased codification in America’s racial politics and policies since the 1970s. Robert J. Patterson provides a thorough analysis of four artists—Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Adina Howard, Whitney Houston, and Toni Braxton—to examine black cultural longings by demonstrating how our reading of specific moments in their lives, careers, and performances serve as metacommentaries for broader issues in black culture and politics.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781978803589
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication date: 04/05/2019
Edition description: None
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

ROBERT J. PATTERSON is a professor of African American Studies and served as the inaugural chair of the Department of African American Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He is the editor of Black Cultural Production After Civil Rights, a coeditor of The Psychic Hold of Slavery: Legacies in American Expressive Culture (Rutgers University Press),  and author of Exodus Politics: Civil Rights and Leadership in African American Literature and Culture.

Table of Contents

Preface: RJP and the Rhythm and Blues Imagination ix

Introduction: (Re)Reading Destructive Desires and Cultural Longings in Post-Civil Rights Era Rhythm and Blues Culture, Life, and Politics 1

1 Reading Race, Gender, and Sex: Black Intimate Relations, Black Inequality, and the Rhythm and Blues Imagination 30

2 "Whip Appeal": Reading Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds 61

3 "Freak Like Me": Reading Adina Howard 93

4 "Didn't We Almost Have It All?": Reading Whitney Houston 125

Epilogue: "It's Just Another Sad Love Song": Reading Toni Braxton 165

Appendix A Select List of Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds's Songs 171

Appendix B Select Awards and Honors 183

Appendix C Robert J. Patterson Interviews Adina Howard 193

Acknowledgments 199

Notes 203

Bibliography 225

Index 237

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