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A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America

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". . . extraordinarily far-reaching. . . . highly accessible." -Notes "No one has written this way about music in a long, long time. Lucid, insightful, with real spiritual, political, intellectual, and emotional grasp of the whole picture. A book about why music matters, and how, and to whom." -Dave Marsh, author of Louie, Louie and Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story "Th ". . . extraordinarily far-reaching. . . . highly accessible." -Notes "No one has written this way about music in a long, long time. Lucid, insightful, with real spiritual, political, intellectual, and emotional grasp of the whole picture. A book about why music matters, and how, and to whom." -Dave Marsh, author of Louie, Louie and Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story "This book is urgently needed: a comprehensive look at the various forms of black popular music, both as music and as seen in a larger social context. No one can do this better than Craig Werner." -Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University "[Werner has] mastered the extremely difficult art of writing about music as both an aesthetic and social force that conveys, implies, symbolizes, and represents ideas as well as emotion, but without reducing its complexities and ambiguities to merely didactic categories." -African American Review A Change Is Gonna Come is the story of more than four decades of enormously influential black music, from the hopeful, angry refrains of the Freedom movement, to the slick pop of Motown; from the disco inferno to the Million Man March; from Woodstock's "Summer of Love" to the war in Vietnam and the race riots that inspired Marvin Gaye to write "What's Going On." Originally published in 1998, A Change Is Gonna Come drew the attention of scholars and general readers alike. This new edition, featuring four new and updated chapters, will reintroduce Werner's seminal study of black music to a new generation of readers. Craig Werner is Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin, and author of many books, including Playing the Changes: From Afro-Modernism to the Jazz Impulse and Up Around the Bend: An Oral History of Creedence Clearwater Revival. His most recent book is Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul.


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". . . extraordinarily far-reaching. . . . highly accessible." -Notes "No one has written this way about music in a long, long time. Lucid, insightful, with real spiritual, political, intellectual, and emotional grasp of the whole picture. A book about why music matters, and how, and to whom." -Dave Marsh, author of Louie, Louie and Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story "Th ". . . extraordinarily far-reaching. . . . highly accessible." -Notes "No one has written this way about music in a long, long time. Lucid, insightful, with real spiritual, political, intellectual, and emotional grasp of the whole picture. A book about why music matters, and how, and to whom." -Dave Marsh, author of Louie, Louie and Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story "This book is urgently needed: a comprehensive look at the various forms of black popular music, both as music and as seen in a larger social context. No one can do this better than Craig Werner." -Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University "[Werner has] mastered the extremely difficult art of writing about music as both an aesthetic and social force that conveys, implies, symbolizes, and represents ideas as well as emotion, but without reducing its complexities and ambiguities to merely didactic categories." -African American Review A Change Is Gonna Come is the story of more than four decades of enormously influential black music, from the hopeful, angry refrains of the Freedom movement, to the slick pop of Motown; from the disco inferno to the Million Man March; from Woodstock's "Summer of Love" to the war in Vietnam and the race riots that inspired Marvin Gaye to write "What's Going On." Originally published in 1998, A Change Is Gonna Come drew the attention of scholars and general readers alike. This new edition, featuring four new and updated chapters, will reintroduce Werner's seminal study of black music to a new generation of readers. Craig Werner is Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin, and author of many books, including Playing the Changes: From Afro-Modernism to the Jazz Impulse and Up Around the Bend: An Oral History of Creedence Clearwater Revival. His most recent book is Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul.

30 review for A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    I will admit right up front to being dear friends with the author. In fact, he's probably reading this review. I am not sure this would affect my impressions of the book; I took forever to read this book because I took the time to actually read it: no skimming, no skipping. Underlining and notes. Often, if I had my iPod with me, I'd listen to snippets of the songs being discussed. Gospel impulse, blues impulse, jazz impulse. Masking. Hidden meanings. Getting over. It's easy for a beginner like m I will admit right up front to being dear friends with the author. In fact, he's probably reading this review. I am not sure this would affect my impressions of the book; I took forever to read this book because I took the time to actually read it: no skimming, no skipping. Underlining and notes. Often, if I had my iPod with me, I'd listen to snippets of the songs being discussed. Gospel impulse, blues impulse, jazz impulse. Masking. Hidden meanings. Getting over. It's easy for a beginner like me to follow but is going to have plenty of meat for someone more educated to bite into. Most importantly, it makes me want to buy all these albums I've never heard, and listen to the ones I do own with new ears. And I'm less likely to write off genres I don't like (ahem, punk), because he's reminding me that everyone has something to say.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Megan Nelson

    Read this for a class in college. Very eye opening to how music affects culture and vice versa

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joe O'Donnell

    1CA Change is Gonna Come 1D is a hugely ambitious attempt to explore the roots of Black music in America (from the blues to hip-hop), the political conditions this music emerged from, and how that music went on to influence political organisations like the Civil Rights Movement. The goal of the author Craig Werner, Professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin, is to cover all of the "moments of resistance, celebration, (and) joy" that have reverberated through black music ac 1CA Change is Gonna Come 1D is a hugely ambitious attempt to explore the roots of Black music in America (from the blues to hip-hop), the political conditions this music emerged from, and how that music went on to influence political organisations like the Civil Rights Movement. The goal of the author Craig Werner, Professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin, is to cover all of the "moments of resistance, celebration, (and) joy" that have reverberated through black music across the last 50 years. It is a hugely comprehensive study of how race and protest have driven the music of the last half century. This means 1CA Change is Gonna Come 1D sweeps in everything from civil rights and the Vietnam War through to the Aids epidemic and Bill Clinton 19s triangulations; and, in musical terms, it encompasses everything from Sam Cooke and Sly Stone, on to Curtis Mayfield and Bob Marley, through to Public Enemy and the conscious hip-hop of the 1990s. The great joys in Werner 19s text are the unexpected tangents he drifts off on and the unlikely connections he makes; for example, his analysis of the black roots of such white artists as Bruce Springsteen and The Clash, and the debt that early hip-hop owes to Jamaican soundsystem culture. While Werner is undoubtedly an adherent of the progressive left, he is not afraid to excoriate his own side. One of many surprising arguments he puts forward is how he believes the ham-fisted way that Affirmative Action was introduced ushered in the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. Werner is also eager to critically re-evaluate genres previously left out of the traditional narrative about rock and politics. He describes how the much-reviled Disco scene of the late 1970s actually offered an arena where women, blacks and gays could feel a sense of freedom and unity. 1CA Change is Gonna Come 1D was originally published in 1998 and, as an analysis of the interchange between music and political activism, it has perhaps been surpassed by such works as Dorian Lynskey 19s 1C33 Revolutions per minute 1D. And, at times, this is quite a sad book, given how many of the political hopes of artists and activists alike for black empowerment remain unfulfilled, with much of their original idealism burnt out through a mixture of addiction, disillusionment or compromise. In effect, 1CA Change is Gonna Come 1D serves as an elegy for the lost dream of Martin Luther King.

  4. 4 out of 5

    DJ Yossarian

    This has to be one of the best books on popular music I've ever read. Werner's knowledge is encyclopedic and his reach expansive -- he covers the performers I'd expect him to cover, and connects them to other musicians and writers in ways I wouldn't have anticipated. Every few pages I felt the impulse to explore some new piece of music he'd just dissected, or revisit a well-known piece from a fresh perspective he'd just given me. He provides excellent historical and social context for the musica This has to be one of the best books on popular music I've ever read. Werner's knowledge is encyclopedic and his reach expansive -- he covers the performers I'd expect him to cover, and connects them to other musicians and writers in ways I wouldn't have anticipated. Every few pages I felt the impulse to explore some new piece of music he'd just dissected, or revisit a well-known piece from a fresh perspective he'd just given me. He provides excellent historical and social context for the musical analysis, and each of the 64 chapters gets its own Notes section in the back. Each of the five sections also gets its own Playlist, which is going to keep me busy for years to come. Particularly strong chapters included the ones on the birth of Southern Soul, Hendrix and the sound of Vietnam, Curtis Mayfield, the (Republican) Southern Strategy, Wattstax, P-Funk, and OutKast and the Dirty South, although every chapter is solid. There are a few flaws, but no showstoppers. At times it seems like he's trying a bit too hard to shoehorn the evidence into his framework of Gospel Impulse/Blues Impulse/Jazz Impulse/Call & Response, but given that he got props from Bruce Springsteen after a show for identifying those impulses in The Boss's music, I'm going to defer to the dude's expertise. He's on slightly less solid ground with the punks, overlooking the funk in for instance The Contortions/James Chance/James White, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Bush Tetras, etc, as well as not mentioning pioneering reggae punks Bad Brains. But it's true that most of the punk/early postpunk bands influenced by black music were British (Gang of Four, Slits, Mekons, Au Pairs, A Certain Ratio), and may have fallen outside the scope of his argument. He does cover the Clash pretty accurately. Anyway, go read this now.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Werner quotes James Baldwin from the story “Sonny’s Blues” - “For, while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.” (34) Werner situates the music in a larger political and social context from one (white) author’s perspective. Well researched history, excellent artistic examples, and definitely not a new story in the time of Trump.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jed Hobson

    Werner does not simply present abundant facts and anecdotes to the reader in regards to the recent history of black music in America, instead he weaves a tapestry (beautiful at times, sobering at others) that connects the songs, artists, and movements into a comprehensive road map. Terms such as the blues, gospel, and jazz impulses serve as Werner's compass and legend, as he guides the reader through a truly incredible journey. In my opinion, the only thing really missing from this book is the s Werner does not simply present abundant facts and anecdotes to the reader in regards to the recent history of black music in America, instead he weaves a tapestry (beautiful at times, sobering at others) that connects the songs, artists, and movements into a comprehensive road map. Terms such as the blues, gospel, and jazz impulses serve as Werner's compass and legend, as he guides the reader through a truly incredible journey. In my opinion, the only thing really missing from this book is the soundtrack in CD form.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kallan Phillips

    In depth, and compelling discussion of the ways in which soul music has defined, or been defined by social and political events in the United States. Unlike other books I've read, the music is always a touchstone - which makes it a particularly good read. Werner's references to the various impulses (blues, gospel and jazz) can be a bit vague, but in other parts make a good deal of sense out of the social differences between the genres.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Today, I was reminded that I love this man, Craig Werner. I read _A Change Is Gonna Come_ a little while back, but never picked up the revised and updated version ('til two days ago). I am seeking all good discussions or beginnings of discussions of gospel and this text helps me think about it (and its impulse). The last four chapters of Werner's book are new (on newer soul/r&b/gospel/etc), so I looked at them. Like my fave Sam Cooke track to play in the car, the whole thing is "wonderful."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Darren Blades

    An excellent book as the author Craig Werner takes the reader on a musical journey of a blend of musical genres, juxtaposed against the sociopolitical moving landscape of America from the 1920's to the 21st Century. Craig Werner also highlights the importance of black music during the civil rights movement, as an important moment in the history of America.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    See my review at LivinginStereo.com: http://livinginstereo.com/?p=103

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    A very enjoyable read, though also one that's extremely fragmented and struggles to arrange its enormous amount of social, political and musical history into a single overall structure.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nick Hupton

    A very interesting read for anyone interested in the history of American (and British in some cases) music and its effect on race relations in the United States.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Shear

    I took this course in college (taught by the author). I took it a Summer that the book was not available from the publisher so we never had to read it. I have always wanted to though.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    Immensely readable and I learned a ton about American music.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Hampton

    Terrific tour through mid to late 20th century music scene, with sharp insights on the social context of much of it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    John

    non fiction

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is one of the best books I ever read in college.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joe Rasmussen

    One of my favorites of all time. Changed both the way I listen to music and the way I view history.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Wright

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Lederman

  21. 5 out of 5

    Namelessnarrator

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rafe Shohet

  23. 5 out of 5

    David

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  25. 4 out of 5

    London Lane

  26. 5 out of 5

    Colin Finan

  27. 4 out of 5

    amy martin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Harlee

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bilal Ali

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell

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