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Africana Studies: Topics in Popular Music Culture and Music Biographies

Topics in Popular Music Culture and Music Biographies

Books pertaining to blues, jazz and popular music biographies.


Blues Biographies

Blind Lemon Jefferson: His Life, His Death, and His Legacy by Robert L. Uzzel
ML420.J443 U9 2002  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_BlindLemonJefferson.jpg From
"Between 1926 and his untimely death in 1929, Blind Lemon Jefferson was the largest-selling black blues singer in the United States. Blind from birth, Lemon wandered the streets of Wortham, Groesbeck, Marlin, and Kosse in Central Texas, playing his guitar and soliciting contributions with his tin cup. In 1912 he caught a train for Dallas, where he performed in the famous Deep Ellum district. He was discovered by a talent scout for Paramount Records and taken to Chicago in 1925."
Robert Johnson by Samuel Barclay Charters and Robert Johnson
ML420.J65 C4  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_PopBiographies_RobertJohnson.jpg From
"One of America’s most respected authorities on the blues has delved deeply into the recorded legacy of Robert Johnson, transcribing each of his songs with dedicated accuracy and distilling the meaning of every sound and phrase."
Muddy Waters: The Mojo Man by Martin T. Williams
ML410.M82 W55 1963  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_MuddyWaters.jpg From
"A sharecropper on a Mississippi plantation, a bootlegger, gambler, ladies' man, and dynamic blues singer and guitarist-Muddy Waters's life is traced in this original biography of the legendary blues man from the early twentieth century to his death in 1983. Interviews with key industry figures such as James Cotton, Willie Smith, Junior Wells, Jimmy Rogers, B. B. King, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, and Marshall Chess prove to be a source of priceless anecdotes and lend substance and texture to this compelling portrait of a blues pioneer."
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Stormy Monday: The T-Bone Walker Story by Helen Oakley Dance
ML419.W27 D3 1987  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_StormyMonday.jpg From
"This biography of the blues guitarist is based on a large number of interviews with Walker himself as well as with members of his family and fellow musicians. It offers an insider's account of the life of a blues musician, from wild living on the road to a contented family life at home."
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Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B.B. King by King, B. B., Ritz, David.
ML420.K473 A3 1999  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_BluesAllAroundMe.jpg From
"More than just an autobiography, this book also gives insight into the twentieth century social history. B.B.King's career has spanned more than sixty years and his story is for anyone even remotely interested in blues, rock or just a rise from rags to riches."
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Jimi Hendrix: The Man, The Magic, The Truth by Sharon Lawrence
ML420.H46 L39 2005  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_JimiHendrix.jpg From
"The genius we never understood. . . . The man we never knew. . . . The truth we never heard. . . . The music we never forgot. . . . A revealing portrait of a legend by a close and trusted friend."
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Damn Right I've Got the Blues: Buddy Guy and the Blues Roots of Rock-and-Roll by Wilcock, Donald E., Guy, Buddy, Siciliano, Rick.
ML419.G89 W5 1993  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_PopBiographies_DamnRightI'veGottheBlues.jpg From the book cover:
"Buddy Guy is the link between Chicago blues and two generations of Rock-and-Roll. His impassioned vocals and stinging guitar riffs were spawned in Louisiana at the taproot of country blues, tightened in Chicago under the tutelage of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf, and ingrained in the heart of music fans around the world by the rock stars he has influenced."
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Jazz Biographies

King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era by Edward A. Berlin
ML410.J67 B4 1995  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_KingofRagtime.jpg From
"Joplin knew he had a distinctive talent and so did several well-placed contemporaries, yet he never realized widespread acclaim during his lifetime (1868-1917). If he were alive today he could revel in the unique ways his music has placed him at the top: concert artists' repertoire; film music; an annual festival; even a postage stamp." - Kathleen Sparkman, Baylor Univ., Waco, Tex.
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A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe by Badger, Reid
ML422.E87 B2 1995  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_ALifeinRagtime.jpg From
"James Reese Europe was a pivotal composer-conductor who helped jazz's evolution away from ragtime--a significant-enough accomplishment, especially considering Reese's relatively short life (he was murdered at 39 in 1919). But Badger's engrossing biography proves that Europe was an American hero both in front of and far away from an orchestra." - Aaron Cohen
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Jelly Roll Morton by Martin T. Williams
ML410.M82 W55 1963  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_PopBiographies_JellyRollMorton.jpg From the book cover:
"Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton, the subject of this volume, launched his musical career in the early 1900's and managed, during the course of a lifetime of piano playing and jazz orchestration that ended in 1941, to encompass the musical worlds of ragtime and jazz. A puzzlingly complex man, a diamond-toothed-dandy, an audacious braggart, Morton pursued a variety of careers and identities, but in spite of himself, there was an integrity to his craft and art which came back to him in his most adverse moments. In him jazz produced one of its best composers, one of its best leaders, one of its best masters of form, and one of its few theorists. More important, in Jelly Roll Morton, jazz produced one of its first real artists."
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King Oliver by Martin T. Williams
ML419.O55 W5 1961  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_PopBiographies_KingOliver.jpg From the book cover:
"King Oliver, the subject of this volume, was and is as much a kind of culture hero as a source of aesthetic respect to followers of jazz throughout the United States, Great Britain, and France. Joseph Oliver's story has elements of tragedy but his music has a certain blend of pride, dignity, fortitude, hope, and finally joy that is his alone. Of his work he once said: 'This is my music, the music I stand for. I am proud of it; I give it to you.' These words and the music of 'King' Oliver have great significance in the history of jazz."
Louis: the Louis Armstrong Story, 1900-1971 by Max. Jones and John Chilton
ML419.A76 J66 1988  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_LouisArmstrongStory.jpg From the book cover:
"As trumpet player and singer, Louis Armstrong is the single most important figure in jazz history, and one of the most influential musicians-in any category-in this century. He was also, as this book relates, a wonderful character: actor, clown, raconteur, a tough kid when he came to Chicago from New Orleans who mellowed into one of the music's true statesmen. This biography includes not only a gripping narrative written by two of the most reliable jazz historians, but also a chronology, film list, and selection of photos."
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Duke Ellington by James Lincoln Collier
ML410.E555 C6 1987  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_DukeEllington.jpg From
"Although he came to music rather late, Ellington's dignity, willingness to take risks and sense for organization enabled him to assemble and keep together one of music's longest-lasting bands. In language rich with the textures of jazz itself, Collier explains how jazz functions (e.g., through layering), and uses Ellington's personality to demonstrate strengths and weaknesses in his music."
Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Count Basie by Count Basie and Albert Murray
ML422.B37 A3 1985  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_GoodMorningBlues.jpg From
"In these long, rambling memoirs, skillfully put together from tape recordings, the Count recollects his experiences as a traveling pianist in Missouri and Oklahoma, as a member (with Hot Lips Page and Jimmie Rushing) of the Blue Devils, as organist in a silent-movie house, with Bennie Moten's orchestra in Kansas City, and as leader of one of the greatest jazz bands of all time..."
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You Just Fight for Your Life: the Story of Lester Young by Frank Büchmann-Møller
ML419.Y685 B8 1990  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_YouJustFightForYourLife.jpg From
"Lester Young has been called the most influential jazz musician between Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, yet this biography of the late saxophonist joins only two or three others on the subject. The author has examined recordings, periodicals, and military records and has interviewed Young's surviving associates to illustrate how Young's work with Count Basie and others led to a career at once celebrated and plagued by Young's chemical dependencies until his death in 1959. Jazz enthusiasts will enjoy a touching tale well told, and researchers may benefit from the appendixes listing Young's bandsmen and his professional jobs and engagements over the decades." - Paul Baker, CUNA , Inc., Madison, Wis.
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James P. Johnson: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Scott E. Brown and Robert Hilbert
Reference ML417.J644 B7 1986  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_PopBiographies_JamesPJohnson.jpg From
"Known to serious students of jazz as the 'Father of Stride Piano,' James P. Johnson has only recently begun to receive the acclaim he merits. Born in New Brunswick, NJ and reared in the cultural hotbed of Harlem, Johnson spanned the ragtime era, through the roaring twenties (to which he contributed its theme song the Charleston) and into the swing era. Part I is a chronological biography, with listings of his musical revues, extended compositions, film work, and all other song and instrumental pieces; a comprehensive bibliography; and photos. Part II is an exhaustive discography."
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Chasin' the Bird: The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker by Brian Priestley
ML419.P37 P72 2006  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_ChasintheBird.jpg From
"...Addicted to drugs and alcohol, and with a tangled private life, Parker died young, and a legend grew up about his tragic genius. Chasin' the Bird is a completely revised and expanded edition of the short biography of Charlie Parker by Brian Priestley,... which quickly established itself as the most succinct, accurate and readable book on Parker. This edition, which is twice the length of the original, incorporates material which has come to light since the first edition was published. It also provides an expanded discussion of performances and recordings, with a complete discography, notes and bibliography."
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Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis by Jack Chambers
ML419.D38 C4 1998  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_Milestones.jpg From the publisher:
In this "lucid, objective account of (Davis's) musical development, Chambers masterfully reconstructs the sounds and events in Davis's life." (Down Beat)
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John Coltrane by Bill Cole
ML419.C658 C6 1993  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_JohnColtrane.jpg From the publisher:
"Here is the book that distinguished music critic Leonard Feather called a 'brilliantly perceptive examination of the forces that shaped Coltrane's brief life.' Illustrating the influence of African folklore and spirituality on Coltrane's work and sound, Bill Cole creates an innovative portrait of the legendary tenor saxophonist. With illustrative diagrams, a discography, and more than twenty photographs, this is an essential addition to every jazz fan's library."
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Mingus, A Critical Biography by Brian Priestley
ML418.M56 P7 1984  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_Mingus.jpg From the publisher:
"...In this new biography Brian Priestley has written a masterly study of Mingus’s dynamic career from the early years in Swing, to the escapades of the Bebop era, through his musical maturity in the ’50s when he directed a band that redefined collective improvisation in jazz. Woven in with exacting assessments of Mingus’s artistic legacy is the story of his volatile, unpredictable, sometimes dangerous personality. The book views Mingus as a black artist increasingly politicized by his situation, but also unreliable as a witness to his own persecution...the best biography of a jazz musician we have ever seen."
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Miles, Ornette, Cecil: Jazz Beyond Jazz by Howard Mandel
Reserve ML385 .M235 2008  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_MilesOrnetteCecil.jpg From the publisher:
"The groundbreaking music of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, and Cecil Taylor -- three African-Americans known to a broad-based audience by their first names alone -- have impacted successive waves of musicians, not only in jazz but across the musical spectrum. Born within four years of each other, but with dissimilar family backgrounds and distinctly different personal temperaments, Miles, Ornette, and Cecil are individually and collectively American originals...Each has transcended the musical field to influence African-American and American culture..."

Pop Biographies

Aretha Franklin: Lady Soul by Leslie Gourse
ML3930.F73 G6 1995  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_ArethaFranklinLadySoul.jpg from:
"Gourse chronicles the personal life and musical development of the multidimensional singer, whose voice and music have been influenced by blues, gospel, soul, and jazz. The daughter of a Baptist minister, Franklin made her first gospel recording at age 14; by age 18, she had signed with Columbia Records... This detailed and well-written book meets a need for solid biographies of famous African American women. It will also appeal to students of music and history looking for an interesting, well-researched title..." - Robin Works Davis, Hurst Public Library, TX
Miss Rhythm: The Autobiography of Ruth Brown, Rhythm and Blues Legend by Ruth Brown and Andrew Yule
ML420.B7693 M5 1996  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_MissRhythm.jpg From the publisher:
"...A chance encounter with Redd Foxx in the mid-1970s led to a comeback that included the part of Motormouth Maybelle in the movie Hairspray, a Tony Award-winning performance in the Broadway show Black and Blue and a Grammy Award-winning album, Blues on Broadway. Since her career was reignited, Brown has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...She and Yule (Fast Fade) tell the story of her colorful life in boisterous detail, from her childhood in Virginia and North Carolina-where she got her musical training through singing spirituals in a church choir-to her present renewed fame."
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Of Minnie the Moocher & Me by Cab Calloway and Bryant Rollins
ML420.C251 A3  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_OfMinnietheMoocher.jpg From the book jacket:
"From the back streets of Baltimore where he hustled as a kid, through the jazz clubs of Chicago in the raw and roaring twenties to the Cotton Club, Hollywood, Paris, and beyond, here in his own words is the story of Cab Calloway--the man who made Minnie the Moocher a household heroine and became one of the most respected jazz musicians and best loved entertainers in America."
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Ray Charles: Man and Music by Michael Lydon
ML420.C43 L93 1998  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_RayCharles.jpg from Publishers Weekly:
"...Lydon (Boogie Lightning) is informative and engaging when discussing Charles's prolific output...his 1963 album Ingredients in a Recipe of Soul is described as 'musical meat-and-potatoes blended in a stew of blues-jazz-C&W-R&B-and-pop' and the discography he includes is a useful guide to a career spanning 50 years. His examination of Charles's life is just as enlightening...Lydon depicts him as stubborn and controlling, as when he netted an unheard-of contract with ABC Records in 1959 that allowed him to own his master tapes, making him the exemplary 'artist as a businessman-producer.'..."
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The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America by James Sullivan
ML420.B769 S85 2008  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_TheHardestWorkingMan.jpg from Publishers Weekly:
"...At the center of the book is Brown's concert at the Boston Garden on the night following Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968. Because of rising tensions among African-Americans in the city, Mayor Kevin White's first impulse was to cancel Brown's concert. Yet realizing that ticket holders might be just as angry over a canceled concert as they might be impassioned to riot by a raucous one, he and Brown worked out a deal to allow the concert to go on...Sullivan only briefly traces Brown's rise and fall as a musician from his early days in Edgefield, S.C., to his death in Augusta, Ga., as he recovers a facet of James Brown as a political and racial leader."

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Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder by Mark Ribowsky
ML410 .W7 R53 2010  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_SignedSealedDelivered.jpg from Publishers Weekly:
"From the rollicking debut of Fingertips—Part 2 to the funk piano and synthesizers of Superstition to the political rap of Superstition, Stevie Wonder's brilliant music has managed to capture the hearts of his listeners while at the same time probing the limits of musical styles and moving soul and rhythm and blues to new musical levels. Born in poverty in Saginaw, Mich., Wonder lost his sight soon after he was born...Music journalist Ribowsky (The Supremes; He's a Rebel) traces the rapid ascent of Wonder's musical career as well as the tumultuous ups and downs of his personal life in this workmanlike and pedantic book...
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Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White
ML420.M35 W4 1998  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_CatchaFire.jpg from
"...Catch a Fire is assiduously researched; the details writer Timothy White presents of the King of Reggae's life are cinematic in scope and, at times, cumbersome. White includes much of his primary source material, ranging from full interviews with band members to unearthed CIA documents, and devotes a whole section to describing his exhaustive research process. The final product is rich with elements of spiritual tome, rock biography, and history text; it is a hagiographic epic--the story of a man and his legend." - Brendan J. LaSalle
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Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince by Alex Hahn
ML420.P756 H35 2003  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_Possessed.jpg from Publishers Weekly:
"...Constructed from interviews with producers, sound engineers, journalists and publicists, though not as frequently with Prince's inner circle, the book portrays Prince as a kind of outsider artist, eccentric and self-centered to the extreme, rarely leaving the enchanted, Minneapolis garden of his childhood, where he has managed to build himself into a living, protean god..."
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The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats by Grandmaster Flash
ML420.G7255 A3 2008  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_TheAdventuresofGrandmasterFlash.jpg From the publisher:
"One of the founders of rap music, Grand Master Flash more than deserves a full-blown, critical biography. This as-told-to autobio ain’t it. It is, however, replete with GMF’s views of his travails, the start of the rap scene in New York, and the career of his Furious Five...Eventually, he did, as an early master of 'scratching,' the art of creating the instrumental component of rap by manipulating vinyl records on turntables. Though more boastful than introspective, this first book on the life and career of a rap initiator should still be considered essential for pop-music and hip-hop collections..." - Mike Tribby
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Nobody: The Story of Bert Williams by Ann Charters
PN2287.W55 C5  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_PopBiographies_NobodyBertWilliams.jpg From the publisher:
"Bert Williams was, undoubtedly, the most gifted Negro entertainer of his time. His career paralleled the years which were to prove a turning point in the history of the American stage. While his talent reigned supreme from 1892 to 1922, his life and career were marred by the tragedy of racial prejudice--he found he had to conform to a theatrical convention that in many ways limited his achievement. But his success opened the door for other Negro actors, singers, dancers, and musicians."
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Ready to Die: The Story of Biggie Smalls, Notorious B.I.G., King of the World & New York City: Fast Money, Puff Daddy, Faith and Life After Death: The Unauthorized Biography by Jake Brown
ML420.N76 B76 2004  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_ReadytoDie.jpg From the publisher:
"The Notorious B.I.G. quickly became a household name among hip hop fans and all responsibility would rest on him as he made his way up hip hop aisles to center stage. What took hip-hop by storm with the debut of The Notorious B.I.G. was his candid rapping style. He seemed to welcome the challenge, as if he was already resigned to his fate, hence, ready for death, or whatever the world could throw at him."
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You Forgot About Dre!: The Unauthorized Biography of Dr. Dre and Eminem: From NWA to Slim Shandy: A Tale of Gangsta Rap, Violence, and Hit Records by Kelly Kenyatta
ML394 .K48 2001  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_YouForgotAboutDre.jpg from
"Riveting and explosive, You Forgot About Dre is the story of a mentor and a protégé who impact hip-hop music, with all the details of their success."
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Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday by Angela Y. Davis
Reserve ML3521 .D38 1998  Check Availability
Image:AfricanaStudies_BooksPopMusic_BluesLegaciesandBlackFeminism.jpg From the book jacket:
"The female blues singers of the 1920s, Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey, and Bessie Smith, not only invented a musical genre, but they also became models of how African American women could become economically independent in a culture that had not previously allowed it. Both Smith and Rainey composed, arranged, and managed their own road bands. Angela Y. Davis's study emphasizes the impact that these singers, and later Billie Holiday, had on the poor and working-class communities from which they came. The artists addressed radical subjects such as physical and economic abuse, race relations, and female sexual power, including lesbianism."
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