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The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader

Histories and Debates

Fourth Edition

David Brackett

Publication Date - 17 July 2019

ISBN: 9780190843595

624 pages

In Stock

Traces the evolution of diverse streams of American popular music from the 1920s to the present


Featuring more than 100 readings from a wide range of sources and writers, The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader has established itself as the #1 reader on the market for popular music studies. It provides a rich and engaging introduction to the development of American popular music and the important social and cultural issues raised by its study. Editor David Brackett brings together a vast array of selections from sources that include mainstream and specialized magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals, interviews, and autobiographies of musicians and other music industry insiders.

New to this Edition

  • A total of sixteen new selections from a variety of sources--including mainstream and specialized magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals, and more--exposes students to different styles of writing and analysis
  • New essays covering the impact of technology and mass media address topics like streaming audio, the interconnectedness of social media, and the legal battles over file-sharing
  • New articles on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Kim Gordon, Patti Smith, and "Riot Grrrls" will inspire class assignments and discussions of classic rock, punk, and 1990s feminist indie music
  • Critical overviews of the 1970s and 1980s by leading critics Lester Bangs and Robert Christgau provide students with essential recent historical context
  • New selections exploring today's rap, hip-hop, and contemporary pop scenes include discussions of the resurgence of political engagement in recent African American popular music (with features on Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar) and an account of the meteoric rise in popularity of EDM


  • Offers selections from virtually all of the writers now recognized as the most important to the development of popular music studies
  • Addresses important social and cultural issues raised by the study of popular music, including race, class conflict, gender roles, and regional or geographical differences and reception
  • Integrates first-person accounts and interviews, adding to the richness and diversity of the documents
  • Introduces aesthetic issues including the importance of art versus commerce, and how or why a particular style might or might not be considered music at all
  • Contains a wealth of readings covering a broad range of eras, styles, genres, and issues, including groundbreaking criticisms of disco, hip-hop, rap, and techno
  • Includes suggestions for further reading and discography selections at the end of each chapter
  • Edited by a well-known scholar in the field of popular music studies, whose introductions and headnotes offer contextual background for many elements of popular music history in America

About the Author(s)

David Brackett is Professor of Musicology at McGill University.


"I really appreciate the historical approach that David Brackett utilizes in The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader. I think that students get a different perspective by reading rock's history 'in the time' written by people as it occurred. Students enjoy this; it demonstrates that history is a process."--Edward Whitelock, Gordon State College

"The range of The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader is excellent. My students enjoy this book because the readings are manageable and engaging. The headnotes give enough context for students to be able to make sense of the issues raised by the readings. This is the strongest primary source reader on popular music available."--Gregory Weinstein, Davidson College

Table of Contents

    PART 1. BEFORE 1950
    1. Irving Berlin in Tin Pan Alley
    Charles Hamm,"Irving Berlin and the Crucible of God"
    2. Technology, the Dawn of Modern Popular Music, and the "King of Jazz"
    Paul Whiteman and Mary Margaret McBride," On Wax"
    3. Big Band Swing Music: Race and Power in the Music Business
    Marvin Freedman," Black Music's on Top; White Jazz Stagnant"
    Irving Kolodin," The Dance Band Business: A Study in Black and White"
    4. Solo Pop Singers and New Forms of Fandom
    Martha Weinman Lear, "The Bobby Sox Have Wilted, but the Memory Remains Fresh"
    5. Hillbilly and Race Music
    Kyle Crichton, "Thar's Gold in Them Hillbillies"
    6. Blues People and the Classic Blues
    LeRoi Jones, from Blues People: The Negro Experience in White America and the Music that Developed from It
    7. The Empress of the Blues
    Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff, from Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz as Told by the Men Who Made It
    8. At the Crossroads with Son House
    Jerry Gilbert, "Son House (Part 1): Living King of the Delta"
    9. Jumpin' the Blues with Louis Jordan
    Down Beat, "Bands Dug by the Beat: Louis Jordan"
    Arnold Shaw, from Honkers and Shouters: The Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues
    10. On the Bandstand with Johnny Otis
    Johnny Otis, from Upside Your Head! Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue
    11. The Producers Answer Back: The Emergence of the "Indie" Record Company
    Bill Simon, "Indies' Surprise Survival: Small Labels' Ingenuity and Skill Pay Off"
    Arnold Shaw, from Honkers and Shouters: The Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues
    12. Country Music as Folk Music, Country Music as Novelty
    Billboard, "American Folk Tunes: Cowboy and Hillbilly Tunes and Tunesters"
    Newsweek, "Corn of Plenty"
    PART 2. THE 1950s
    13. Country Music Approaches the Mainstream
    Rufus Jarman, "Country Music Goes to Town"
    14. Rhythm and Blues in the Early 1950s: B. B. King
    Arnold Shaw, from Honkers and Shouters: The Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues
    15. "The House that Ruth Brown Built"
    Ruth Brown (with Andrew Yule), from Miss Rhythm: The Autobiography of Ruth Brown, Rhythm and Blues Legend
    16. Ray Charles, or, When Saturday Night Mixed It Up with Sunday Morning
    Ray Charles and David Ritz, from Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story
    17. Jerry Wexler: A Life in R&B
    Jerry Wexler and David Ritz, from Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music
    18. The Growing Threat of Rhythm and Blues
    Variety, "Top Names Now Singing the Blues as Newcomers Roll on R&B Tide"
    Variety, "A Warning to the Music Business"
    19. From Rhythm and Blues to Rock 'n' Roll: The Songs of Chuck Berry
    Norman Jopling, "Chuck Berry: Rock Lives!"
    20. Little Richard: Boldly Going Where No Man Had Gone Before
    Charles White, from The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock
    21. Elvis Presley, Sam Phillips, and Rockabilly
    Elizabeth Kaye, "Sam Phillips Interview"
    22. Rock 'n' Roll Meets the Popular Press
    23. The Chicago Defender Defends Rock 'n' Roll
    Rob Roy, "Bias Against 'Rock 'n' Roll' Latest Bombshell in Dixie"
    24. The Music Industry Fight Against Rock 'n' Roll: Dick Clark's Teen-Pop Empire and the Payola Scandal
    Peter Bunzel, "Music Biz Goes Round and Round: It Comes Out Clarkola"
    New York Age, "Mr. Clark and Colored Payola"
    PART 3. THE 1960s
    25. The Brill Building and the Girl Groups
    Charlotte Greig, from Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Girl Groups from the 50s On . . .
    26. From Surf to Smile
    Richard Cromelin, "Interview with Brian Wilson"
    27. Urban Folk Revival
    Gene Bluestein, "Songs of the Silent Generation"
    Time, "Folk Singing: Sibyl with Guitar"
    28. Bringing It All Back Home: Dylan at Newport
    Irwin Silber, "Newport Folk Festival, 1965"
    Paul Nelson, "Newport Folk Festival, 1965"
    29. "For a Man to Be At Ease, He Must Not Tell All He Knows, Nor Say All He Sees"
    John Cohen and Happy Traum, "An Interview with Bob Dylan'"
    30. From R&B to Soul
    Jerry Wexler and David Ritz, from Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music
    31. No Town Like Motown
    Harvey Kubernik, "Berry Gordy: A Conversation with Mr. Motown"
    32. The Godfather of Soul and the Beginnings of Funk
    James Brown (with Bruce Tucker), from The Godfather of Soul
    33. "The Blues Changes from Day to Day"
    Jim Delehant, "Otis Redding Interview"
    34. Aretha Franklin Earns Respect
    Phyl Garland, "Aretha Franklin--'Sister Soul': Eclipsed Singer Gains New Heights"
    35. The Beatles, the "British Invasion," and Cultural Respectability
    William Mann, "What Songs the Beatles Sang . . ."
    Theodore Strongin, "Musicologically . . ."
    36. A Hard Day's Night and Beatlemania
    Andrew Sarris, "Bravo Beatles!"
    Barbara Ehrenreich, et al., "Beatlemania: Girls Just Want to Have Fun"
    37. Two Takes on Sergeant Pepper
    Tom Philips, "Review of Sergeant Pepper: The Album as Art Form"
    Richard Goldstein, "I Blew My Cool through the New York Times"
    38. The British Art School Blues
    Giorgio Gomelsky, "The Rolling Stones Stake a Claim in the R&B Race".
    39. The Stones versus the Beatles
    Ellen Willis, "Records: Rock, Etc.--The Big Ones"
    40. If You're Goin' to San Francisco . . .
    Ralph J. Gleason, "Dead Like Live Thunder"
    41. The Kozmic Blues of Janis Joplin
    Nat Hentoff, "We Look at Our Parents and . . ."
    42. Jimi Hendrix and the Electronic Guitar
    Bob Dawbarn, "Second Dimension: Jimi Hendrix in Action"
    43. Rock Meets the Avant-Garde: Frank Zappa
    Sally Kempton, "Zappa and the Mothers: Ugly Can Be Beautiful"
    Richard Goldstein, "Pop Eye: Evaluating Media"
    44. Festivals: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    J. R. Young, "Review of Various Artists, Woodstock"
    George Paul Csicsery, "Altamont, California, December 6, 1969"
    PART 4. THE 1970s
    47. The Sound of Autobiography: Singer-Songwriters, Carole King
    Robert Windeler, "Carole King: 'You Can Get to Know Me through My Music'"
    48. Exclusive Joni Mitchell Interview
    Penny Valentine, "Joni Mitchell: An Interview (part 1)"

    49. Sly Stone: "The Myth of Staggerlee"
    Greil Marcus, from Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music

    50. Not-So-"Little" Stevie Wonder
    Ben Fong-Torres, "The Formerly Little Stevie Wonder"

    51. Parliament Drops the Bomb
    W. A. Brower,"George Clinton: Ultimate Liberator of Constipated Notions"

    52. Heavy Metal Meets the Counterculture
    John Mendelsohn, "Review of Led Zeppelin"
    Ed Kelleher, "Black Sabbath Don't Scare Nobody"

    53. Led Zeppelin Speaks!
    Dave Schulps, "The Crunge: Jimmy Page Gives a History Lesson"

    54. "I Have No Message Whatsoever"
    Cameron Crowe, "David Bowie Interview"

    55. Rock Me Amadeus
    Domenic Milano, "Keith Emerson"
    Tim Morse, from Yesstories: Yes in Their Own Words

    56. The Global Phenomenon of Reggae
    Robert Hilburn, "Third-World Theme of Bob Marley"

    57. Get On Up Disco
    Andrew Kopkind, "The Dialectic of Disco: Gay Music Goes Straight"

    58. Punk: The Sound of Criticism?
    James Wolcott, "A Conservative Impulse in the New Rock Underground"

    59. Punk Crosses the Atlantic
    Caroline Coon, "Rebels Against the System"

    60. Punk to New Wave?
    Stephen Holden, "The B-52s' American Graffiti"

    61. UK New Wave 355
    Allan Jones, "The Elvis (Costello, That Is) Interview"

    PART 5 The 1980s

    62. Thriller Begets the "King of Pop"
    Greg Tate, "I'm White! What's Wrong with Michael Jackson"
    Daryl Easlea, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough: Bruce Swedien Remembers the Times with Michael Jackson"

    63. Madonna and the Performance of Identity
    Camille Paglia, "Venus of the Radio Waves"

    64. Bruce Springsteen: Reborn in the USA
    David Marsh, "Little Egypt from Asbury Park-and Bruce Springsteen Don't Crawl on His Belly, Neither"
    Simon Frith, "The Real Thing-Bruce Springsteen"

    65. R&B in the 1980s: To Cross Over or Not to Cross Over?
    Nelson George, from The Death of Rhythm and Blues

    66. Heavy Metal Thunders On!
    J. D. Considine, "Purity and Power-Total, Unswerving Devotion to Heavy Metal Form: Judas Priest and the Scorpions"

    67. Metal in the Late Eighties: Glam or Thrash?
    Richard Gehr, "Metallica"

    68. Parents Want to Know: Heavy Metal, the PMRC, and the Public Debate over Decency
    "Record Labeling: Hearing before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Senate, 99th Congress, September 19, 1985"

    69. Postpunk Goes Indie
    Al Flipside, "What Is This Thing Called Hardcore?"

    70. Hip-Hop, Don't Stop
    Robert Ford, Jr., "B-Beats Bombarding Bronx: Mobile DJ Starts Something with Oldie R&B Disks"
    Robert Ford, Jr., "Jive Talking N.Y. DJs Rapping Away in Black Discos"

    71. "The Music Is a Mirror"
    Harry Allen, "Hip Hop Madness: From Def Jams to Cold Lampin', Rap Is Our Music"
    Carol Cooper, "Girls Ain't Nothin' but Trouble"

    72. Where Rap and Heavy Metal Converge
    Jon Pareles, "There's a New Sound in Pop Music: Bigotry"

    PART 6 The 1990s and Beyond

    73. Hip-Hop into the 1990s: Gangstas, Fly Girls, and the Big Bling-Bling
    J. D. Considine, "Fear of a Rap Planet"

    74. Nuthin' but a "G" Thang
    Touré, "Snoop Dogg's Gentle Hip Hop Growl"

    75. Keeping It a Little Too Real
    Sam Gideon Anso and Charles Rappleye, "Rap Sheet"
    Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, "Party Over"

    Natasha Stovall, "Town Criers"

    76. Women in Rap
    Christopher John Farley, "Hip-Hop Nation"

    77. The Beat Goes On
    Renee Graham, "Eminem's Old Words Aren't Hip-Hop's Biggest Problem"

    78. From Indie to Alternative to . . . Seattle?
    Dave DiMartino, "A Seattle Slew"

    79. Grunge Turns to Scrunge
    Eric Weisbard, "Over and Out: Indie Rock Values in the Age of Alternative Million Sellers"

    80. "We Are the World"?
    George Lipsitz, "Immigration and Assimilation: Rai, Reggae, and Bhangramuffin"

    81. Genre or Gender? The Resurgence of the Singer-Songwriter
    Robert L. Doerschuk, "Tori Amos: Pain for Sale"

    82. Public Policy and Pop Music History Collide
    Jenny Toomey, "Empire of the Air"

    83. Electronica Is in the House
    Simon Reynolds, "Historia Electronica Preface"

    84. R&B Divas Go Retro
    Ann Powers, "The New Conscience of Pop Music"

    85. Country in the Post-Urban Cowboy Era 520
    Mark Cooper, "Garth Brooks: Meet Nashville's New Breed Of Generously Stetsoned Crooner"
    Charles Taylor, "Chicks Against the Machine"

    86. Performance as Simulacrum, Boy Bands, and Other 21st-Century Epiphanies
    Joshua Clover, "Jukebox Culture: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Boy Band"
    Nina C. Ayoub, "Idol

    87. Lady Gaga and the Triumph of Camp
    Sasha Frere-Jones, "Ladies Wild: How Not Dumb Is Gaga?"

    88. The End of History, the Mass-Marketing of Trivia, and a World of Copies without Originals
    Jay Babcock, "The Kids Aren't Alright . . . They're Amazing"
    Robert Everett-Green, "Ruled by Frankenmusic"
    Eliot Van Buskirk, "Why File Sharing Will Save Hollywood, Music"

    Selected Bibliography 561
    Index 567