Behind Black Music: Two Intriguing Critical Overviews.Boogaloo Boogaloo (shing-a-ling, popcorn music) is a genre of Latin music and dance that was very popular in the United States in the late 1960s. Boogaloo originated in New York City among teenage Cubans and Puerto Ricans. : The Quintessence quin·tes·sence
1. The pure, highly concentrated essence of a thing.
2. The purest or most typical instance: the quintessence of evil.
3. of American Popular Music American popular music had a profound effect on music across the world. The country has seen the rise of popular styles that have had a significant influence on global culture, including ragtime, blues, jazz, rock, R&B, doo wop, gospel, soul, funk, heavy metal, punk, disco, house, by Arthur Kempton Pantheon, June 2003 $27.50, ISBN ISBN
International Standard Book Number
ISBN International Standard Book Number
ISBN n abbr (= International Standard Book Number) → ISBN m 0-375-40612-3
Race Music: Black Cultures From Bebop bebop
Jazz characterized by harmonic complexity, convoluted melodic lines, and frequent shifting of rhythmic accent. In the mid-1940s, a group of musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker, rejected the conventions of to Hip-Hop by Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr. University of California Press "UC Press" redirects here, but this is also an abbreviation for University of Chicago Press
University of California Press, also known as UC Press, is a publishing house associated with the University of California that engages in academic publishing. , June 2003 $29.95, ISBN 0-520-21048-4
As legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane once reflected after reading a Downbeat down·beat
a. The downward stroke made by a conductor to indicate the first beat of a measure.
b. The first beat of a measure.
2. Informal A period of stagnation or inactivity. article deconstructing his sound: "Everybody writing about music don't know what they're talking about." Most serious jazz lovers distrusted many of the declarations coming from noted white so-called music experts, spouting spout·ing
n. Chiefly Pennsylvania & New Jersey
See gutter. See Regional Note at gutter.
a. their academic analysis of black music, a majority of their statements culled from liner notes or press clippings on the artists. That might not be the case here. While two recent books, Boogaloo and Race Music, attempt to dissect dissect /dis·sect/ (di-sekt´) (di-sekt´)
1. to cut apart, or separate.
2. to expose structures of a cadaver for anatomical study.
v. the inner workings of contemporary black music with good intentions and solid research, their authors avoid many of the sweeping generalizations and speculations that plague the bulk of books of this type, and that alone make them worth reading.
The historical and scientific study of music.
musi·co·log Kempton refuses to rely on the usual gloss-over techniques of music writing in his intriguing yet flawed book. He surveys the lives and achievements of talents such as gospel music pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey For the big band trombonist and bandleader, see .
Thomas Andrew Dorsey (July 1, 1899, Villa Rica, Georgia - January 23, 1993, Chicago), is known as "the father of gospel music". Earlier in his life he was a leading blues pianist known as Georgia Tom. , soul crooner Sam Cooke, Motown chief Berry Gordy, blues empress Bessie Smith, soul sister supreme Aretha Franklin, funkmaster George Clinton, among others. Unevenly written with some very stiff translations of what soul is, Kempton, the son of the deeply revered late New York pressman Murray Kempton, put this book together with much of the material gleaned from his old New York Review of Books articles. He frequently falls into a verbose Wordy; long winded. The term is often used as a switch to display the status of some operation. For example, a /v might mean "verbose mode." , heady style that robs the book of the down-home flavor he's writing about.
Kempton, however, has his moments while writing of Sam Cooke, whose dazzling career as a soul balladeer was cut short by his 1964 shooting death in an argument with a hotel night manager in Los Angeles. Photos of the slain singer, clad only in his underwear, filled the front pages of newspapers and fed the sordid rumors surrounding his death. Kempton revisits that fateful night in grisly detail, not leaving out much. Reviews of Boogaloo have noted that the author didn't do many interviews, relying on a previously published biography and press material, and that shows. Cooke deserved better treatment.
In fact, despite its charitable facade, Kempton uses the book to go after some of the biggest names in the history of the music, from Gordy's earlier years as a pimp wannabe to repeated referrals to the criminal pasts of Tupac Shakur and Suge Knight. It's like going on and on about Lil' Kim's store-bought breasts or Mary J. Blige's drug problem. We know all about it. Give us something new. Well, some of the photos are new and rare, but the book stumbles in quite a few places, dwelling on effects rather than causes, on the sordid rather than the sublime.
On the other hand, Ramsey's Race Music delights in its recounting of the musician-author's upbringing on Chicago's South Side, his early days on the music bandstand, and his many influences. His efforts to show the linkage between black community life, the shared history and deep religious tradition provide some glorious moments of reading in this book, celebrating the strength and richness of African American music African American music (also called black music, formerly known as race music) is an umbrella term given to a range of music and musical genres emerging from or influenced by the culture of African Americans, who have long constituted a large ethnic minority of the , from jazz, rhythm and blues rhythm and blues (R&B)
Any of several closely related musical styles developed by African American artists. The various styles were based on a mingling of European influences with jazz rhythms and tonal inflections, particularly syncopation and the flatted blues chords. and gospel.
While Ramsey adds some dollops of cultural theory into the mix, he does uot shy away from Verb 1. shy away from - avoid having to deal with some unpleasant task; "I shy away from this task"
avoid - stay clear from; keep away from; keep out of the way of someone or something; "Her former friends now avoid her" going into the common ties of all of the musical genres so popular in the black community and the world. His excerpts on the traditional house party and sanctified sanc·ti·fy
tr.v. sanc·ti·fied, sanc·ti·fy·ing, sanc·ti·fies
1. To set apart for sacred use; consecrate.
2. To make holy; purify.
3. church service aptly capture the musical swing, emotional depth and heated funk to be found in both elements of the music, all done in a straightforward manner lacking in the Kempton book. The Chicago club scene is also vividly depicted. Even his summaries on the careers of Dizzy Gillespie, Mahalia Jackson, Louis Jordan, Dinah Washington and Cootie Williams are informative, warm and respectful, without a hint of scandal or dirt.
Unlike many current volumes looking at the hip-hop scene, Ramsey's book does not attempt to overplay o·ver·play
v. o·ver·played, o·ver·play·ing, o·ver·plays
a. To present (a dramatic role, for example) in an exaggerated manner.
b. To emphasize or stress unduly. the thug facet of the music, only briefly touching on the hardcore and lewd, but taking more space to indicate its creativity as an art form. He works mightily to draw a parallel between the recorded and performed music and its ever-spreading influence on the larger popular culture. Using films such as Do The Right Thing, Boyz N the Hood and Love Jones, Ramsey plugs their potency into the traditions of daily black life, arguing that the overall sum of the images and music depicted goes beyond the pimp and gangsta mentality seen in a sizeable percentage of hip-hop jams and videos. To dismiss it all as such, Ramsey contends, would be a big mistake.
Ultimately, these are two books that will garner much print and cause some debate. Of the two, Ramsey's work comes closely to achieving it's goal of being a thoughttul, well-researched book, connecting the dots between our music and lives, while Kempton's tome trips on its insistence to dwell on to continue long on or in; to remain absorbed with; to stick to; to make much of; as, to dwell upon a subject; a singer dwells on a note s>.
See also: Dwell the dark underbelly of the music and its major players. The choice between the pair, for the reader, is obvious.
--Reviewed by Robert Fleming Robert Fleming is the author of the forthcoming Intimacy: Erotic Stories of Love, Lust, and Marriage and Havoc After Dark: Tales of Terror.
Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr. by Gary Fishgall, Scribner, October 2003 $26.00, ISBN 0-743-22741-7
In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr. by Wil Haygood, Knopf, October 2003 $26.95, ISBN 0-375 40354-X
It is 1955. Sammy Davis Jr., just 29, has spent eight weeks in a San Bernardino hospital and several more recuperating at Frank Sinatra's Palm Beach estate. Gone in an accident are his lime-green Cadillac convertible and his left eye. Now it's comeback time. He wears a black patch over the recently fitted plastic eye, but his dancing legs are strong. The act, led by his father Sam Sr. and his mentor Will Mastin, is ready. Assembled are Sammy's supporters--Jerry Lewis, Tony Curtis and Judy Garland among others--eager to celebrate the back-on track rise to stardom that this unlikely combo of two old, black hoofers and a young phenom represent. Behind them is a hardscrabble hard·scrab·ble
Earning a bare subsistence, as on the land; marginal: the sharecropper's hardscrabble life.
Barren or marginal farmland.
Adj. 1. vaudeville past. It is, however, their future that opens anew, with young Sammy kneesliding across the stage then singing "That Old Black Magic."
According to Gary Fishgall, author of Gonna Do Great Things, the audience gasps when Davis miscalculates a pivot and bangs his head into the standing microphone. His recovery is classic: "Sorry Frank," Sammy says to the mike. "Didn't see you come in."
The star-studded gathering howls. Later, at the moment when everything is admiration, Sammy removes his eyepatch and sends it flying into the crowd. "It was all scripted," admits one of Davis's entourage to Wil Haygood, whose biography In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr. fails to mention the microphone mishap, but says of that night's triumph: "Sammy had entered the world of Hollywood reverence. It was as if he had vaulted over the sad and painful world of Hollywood and the Negro."
Sammy Davis Jr. was probably the quintessential fly in that proverbial bowl of milk. He headlined in Las Vegas and made films with the '50s fabled Rat Pack. He loved across the color line; marched on "Washington, D.C., with Martin Luther King Jr.; and starred on Broadway twice. But Davis, whose lifetime spanned from vaudeville to hip-hop, also wore blackface as a kid performer, embraced Judaism and kissed Richard Nixon. To some he was a trailblazer; to others, like Redd Foxx, he was "a white guy in black skin" (from Haygood's book).
In two different yet complementary biographies, Haygood, author of King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell Adam Clayton Powell can refer to:
Indeed, in Fishgall's take, prejudice and cultural barriers eventually just bend before Davis's talent. For example, Davis's roiling 10-month stint in basic training in Wyoming (the dancer's first sustained exposure to racial hatred after a childhood spent on the road sheltered by his dad and Mastin) becomes tolerable once he starts organizing Army stage shows. In the end, Fishgall gives us a world in which Sinatra, who often called Davis "Smokey," is the yardstick of mainstream success. We know Davis's personal, financial and romantic demons Demons
See also devil; evil; ghosts; hell; spirits and spiritualism.
one who denies the existence of the devil or demons.
recognition of the existence of demons and goblins. through his external dilemmas.
Where Fishgall describes, Haywood deconstructs: he gets all up in Davis's family and discovers a Cuban heritage the performer seldom, if ever, discussed. Like Fishgall, Haygood finds in the Davis home a distant mother, a loving but anxious father, and an illiterate child ever struggling to please and fit in. Yet Haygood astutely fills his text with historical asides, mini profiles and revealing banter culled from more than 230 interviews. Celebrity observations abound.
Haygood's book is a bit longer than Fishgall's, but it's a livelier read, one that places Davis convincingly within a palpable subtext of racial, sexual and cultural politics.
--Reviewed by Vincent R. Peterson