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"Soul Covers" is an engaging look at how three very different rhythm and blues performers--Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Phoebe Snow--used cover songs to negotiate questions of artistic, racial, and personal authenticity. Through close readings of song lyrics and the performers' statements about their lives and work, the literary critic Michael Awkward traces how Franklin, Green, and Snow crafted their own musical identities partly by taking up songs associated with artists such as Dinah Washington, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, George Gershwin, Billie Holiday, and the Supremes.
Awkward sees Franklin's early album "Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington," released shortly after Washington's death in 1964, as an attempt by a struggling young singer to replace her idol as the acknowledged queen of the black female vocal tradition. He contends that Green's album "Call Me" (1973) reveals the performer's attempt to achieve formal coherence by uniting seemingly irreconcilable aspects of his personal history, including his career in popular music and his religious yearnings, as well as his sense of himself as both a cosmopolitan black artist and a forlorn country boy. Turning to Snow's album "Second Childhood" (1976), Awkward suggests that through covers of blues and soul songs, Snow, a white Jewish woman from New York, explored what it means for non-black enthusiasts to perform works considered by many to be black cultural productions. The only book-length examination of the role of remakes in American popular music, "Soul Covers" is itself a refreshing new take on the lives and work of three established soul artists.
"Michael Awkward's Soul Covers signals the beginning of a new era in the critical engagement with African American music of the 1960s and 1970s. Moving beyond the historical overviews and critical biographies that have defined the field, he provides three crucial albums with the kinds of close reading usually reserved for canonical literary texts. His choices are unusual and inspired, offering pathways into a richer understanding of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and the greatly underappreciated Phoebe Snow. Awkward captures the complex music of the era in writing that, like its subjects, has real soul."-Craig Werner, author of A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America "With Soul Covers, Michael Awkward weds his devotion to close reading to his appreciation of rhythm and blues and soul music, creating a book that stands out as unique among the scholarship and criticism on black popular music."-Mark Anthony Neal, author of Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation "Soul Covers is an intriguing book. Awkward's research and interpretative abilities are above reproach, and his enthusiasm for R&B is matched only by his propensity for insightful comment. Moreover, Awkward should be applauded for shedding light on cover songs, a neglected, yet vitally important, feature of popular music in the twentieth century." -- Jason Reid NeoAmericanist "Awkward's analyses are insightful, exciting even. What helps here is the fact that he goes beyond rehearsing tired tenets of the black musical tradition (that often get repackaged and represented as "new understandings"). He also rightfully abandons the convention of reviewing too many familiar folks within the legacies of jazz and the blues... All this makes Awkward's new book worthwhile personal reading and valuable for studying and teaching professionally." -- Vershawn Ashanti Young Souls
|Preface: "How the Parts Relate to the Whole"||p. xiii|
|Introduction: "I Live in the Lyrics": On Truth, Intent, Image, Identity, and Song Covers||p. 1|
|"She's the Next One": Aretha Franklin's Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington and the Black Women's Vocal Legacy||p. 25|
|"Something like Wholeness": Al Green's Call Me and the Struggle for Thematic Integrity||p. 81|
|"Miss Snow, Are You Black?": Second Childhood and the Cultural Politics of Musical Style in the Post-Civil Rights Era||p. 137|
|Coda: "Going Home"||p. 201|
|Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.|
Series: Refiguring American Music
Number Of Pages: 280
Published: 1st May 2007
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.86 x 15.88 x 1.91
Weight (kg): 0.4