Blog

The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library

A Week of African American Music History, the Soulful Sound

Posted 02/17/21 by Kim P

After leaving the jazz era, it’s time to travel to the 1950’s for some rhythm and blues, or “R&B.” This new music juggernaut combined the musicianship of jazz, the guitar for rhythm, and the bass guitar, now electrified instead of standing tall. Ruth Brown, Etta James, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Nat King Cole, are but a notable few of the artists to come from gospel roots and change the sound of gospel to secular sound. It’s controversial, but so dynamic, that it’s forgiven by the young Black community

Cover of The Death of Rhythm and Blues

The Death of Rhythm and Blues
By George Nelson

From Nelson George, supervising producer and writer of the hit Netflix series, "The Get Down," this passionate and provocative book tells the complete story of black music in the last fifty years, and in doing so outlines the perilous position of black culture within white American society. In a fast-paced narrative, Nelson George’s book chronicles the rise and fall of “race music” and its transformation into the R&B that eventually dominated the airwaves only to find itself diluted and submerged as crossover music.

Cover of Soul Serenade:  Rhythm, Blues and Coming of Age Through Vinyl

Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues and Coming of Age Through Vinyl
By Rashod Ollison

A coming-of-age memoir about a young boy in rural Arkansas who searches for himself and his distant father through soul music, then takes that passion for music and makes it his career. In textured and evocative language, and peppered with unexpected humor, Soul Serenade is an original and captivating coming-of-age story set to an original beat

Cover of Spinning Blues Into Gold:  The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records

Spinning Blues Into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records
By Nadine Cohodas

Chess Records was one of the first record companies to capitalize on the newest sound. This book digs deep into the history-making record company and the artists who made it successful, including Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, Etta James, and Bo Diddley.

Cover of Icons of R&B and Soul:  An Encyclopedia of the Artists Who Revolutionized Rhythm

Icons of R&B and Soul: An Encyclopedia of the Artists Who Revolutionized Rhythm
By Bob Gulla

If R&B and gospel had a baby, it would be soul! Soul music is the complicated combination of blues, gospel, jazz, and country. As we travel on this progressive line, we discover so much energy and expression that it’s hard to keep up with. The radio airwaves burst with talent from every direction during the 1940’s thru the 1980’s, and the genre of soul even birthed new subgenres. In this book, discover more about the godfather (James Brown), the queen (Aretha Franklin) and all the members of the family including the Isley Brothers and Bobby Womack, and the founding members of Motown.

Cover of A Grammy Salute to Music Legends: All-Star Artists Pay Tribute to Their Musical Heroes

A Grammy Salute to Music Legends: All-Star Artists Pay Tribute to Their Musical Heroes
By David Konjoyan, editor

"Each year, The Recording Academy (the organization behind the Grammy Awards) honors a handful of musical giants through its Special Merit Awards, which include the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award, and Technical Grammy Award. And each year, artists and others in the music-making community are invited to write heartfelt tributes to the honorees. These tributes are published in the exclusive Grammy Awards program book distributed to the stars and VIPs in attendance at the Grammy Awards telecast. Sometimes the relationship is obvious (Quincy Jones honoring Michael Jackson), and sometimes the influence is more indirect (Queen s Brian May paying tribute to Doris Day or Patti Smith writing on Jefferson Airplane). This captivating book gathers nearly 20 years worth of these sometimes touching, sometimes humorous, always inspiring essays. For music fans of all kinds, these essays offer a glimpse into how artists are personally affected by their musical heroes, and the debt of gratitude, influence, and inspiration they owe each other" -- AbeBooks.com.

Cover of Soul Music A - Z

Soul Music A - Z
By Hugh Gregory

Soul Music A-Z is an encyclopedia of close to 1000 names from the exciting, funky world of soul music: the singers, musicians, producers, writers, and labels. From the gospel and blues roots to the international modern sounds, from the famous to the obscure, here is an absolutely unparalleled wealth of information and reference. Completely revised and updated with over 300 new entries, comprehensive discographies, and over fifty vivid photographs, this Da Capo edition of Soul Music A-Z will long remain the essential reference for anyone interested in the most vital American music of the last forty years.

Cover of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion

Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion
By Robert Gordon

Set in the world of 1960s and '70s soul music, Respect Yourself is a story of epic heroes in a shady industry. It's about music and musicians -- Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, the Staples Singers, and Booker T. and the M.G.'s, Stax's interracial house band. It's about a small independent company's struggle to survive in a business world of burgeoning conglomerates. And always at the center of the story is Memphis, Tennessee, an explosive city struggling through heated, divisive years. Told by one of our leading music chroniclers, Respect Yourself brings to life this treasured cultural institution and the city that created it.

Cover of I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You: Aretha Franklin, Respect, and the Making of a Soul Music Masterpiece

I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You: Aretha Franklin, Respect, and the Making of a Soul Music Masterpiece
By Matt Dobkin

I’m a product of the 1960’s and ‘70’s music. On Saturday mornings, after dance school, my mom and I would clean our house listening to the album Natural Woman. To this day, the song Natural Woman hits a special chord inside me. Aretha was a feminist before I knew what that meant. She always sang as if her life depended on it. Her voice was magnetic and emotional, refined like Ella Fitzgerald, and gritty like Etta James.

Then, there was James Brown who could get you up from a coma with the funky rhythm from Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, two throwbacks to classic jazz. His sound was effervescent and raw, masculine but smooth and sensual. Who could resist when you’re a teen searching for reason during America’s turbulent times. This music was a soothing balm for healing I an era that included assassinations of civil rights leaders, Dr. King, Malcolm X, and Black Panther leaders, political figure Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and so much more.

Cover of The James Brown Reader: 50 Years of Writing About the Godfather of Soul

The James Brown Reader: 50 Years of Writing About the Godfather of Soul
By Nelson George and Alan Leeds, editors

If you don’t understand the impact that funk and soul had on the world, you have to experience the Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones try to mimic James Brown. It is hilarious but important because Jagger knew greatness when in the presence of tremendous talent. Of course, the talent makes it look so easy. The British Invasion: The Stones focused on JB, The Beatles on Little Richard. Many more musicians in the making studied Motown, Aretha, The Temptations, and other R&B and funk bands like it was a graduation exam. Guess what, it worked. American audiences went wild for these “manufactured” soul sounds. They had Black music to thank for their successes. Let’s hope they did.

Cover of Motown

Motown
By Adam White

What could be better than Motown? If there is such a production company before or since that could churn out hits like this, I have never heard of it. Everyone worldwide wanted the sound coming out of that tiny, little house with egg cartons on the walls of the cinderblock garage on W. Grand Boulevard! Everyone! I was puppy-love struck by the Jackson 5 with tiny little Michael belting out love ballads at age 10. Wow! Who knew it could be like that?

Cover of Motown 25

Motown 25
By West Grand Media

Just in case you were just dropped from another planet and never heard of Motown or Barry Gordy, then this is the movie for you! Performances, behind the scenes footage and a tribute to Gordy are all included.

Please enjoy this week of musical history information and check out the final week coming soon.

Related Content