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From “Go-Go” to R&B: Black Music Month

The passing of Chuck Brown, the “god father of go-go” music, a style indigenous to Washington, D.C., on May 16 reminds us of the variety and richness of African American music forms, and June is Black Music Month, which provides an opportunity to celebrate this cornucopia of sound.

According to his official website, Brown, a guitarist and singer, gave birth to “go-go” around the late 1970s, drawing from and incorporating funk, jazz, R&B and other forms. Born in 1936 in Gaston, N.C., he lived in Maryland and was still performing at the time of his death at age 75.

You can read more about “go-go” music in the first book ever published on the topic, The Beat!: Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C. by Kip Lornell and Charles C. Stephenson, Jr., for the University of Mississippi Press, 2009, available on, $22.50. has listings for more than 200 books about music, primarily on African American forms: spirituals, work songs, blues, jazz, gospel, rock ‘n roll and rhythm & blues. Among the offerings are these.


The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950-1999, Richard J. Ripani, $19.80, (List Price: $22), University of Mississippi Press, July 2006, ISBN: 9781578068623, pp. 240.

This analysis traces the development of the music known as R&B over the last half of the 20th century by studying the top 25 songs of each decade, looking at the melodies, rhythms and forms. The author studied many different artists and drew connections to other styles of music, ultimately documenting the rise of what he calls a new “super genre” of “The New Blue Music.” The author is a teacher, musician and songwriter in Nashville.


78 Blues: Folksongs and Phonographs in the American South, by John Minton, $45, (List Price: $50). University of Mississippi Press, January 2010, ISBN: 9781934110195, pp. 304.

This is a study of the earliest so-called “hillbilly” and “race” records on 78 rpm platters released between the 1920s and World War II. The recordings preserved the work of pioneering figures like Jimmie Rodgers, Robert Johnson, Charlie Poole, and “Blind” Lemon Jefferson. The records were novelties, the recording industry was in its infancy and the music was often strange to the ears of its listeners. The author draws on his academic knowledge of folklore and his background as a musician, songwriter and author of books on African American folktales.


A Trumpet around the Corner: The Story of New Orleans Jazz, Samuel Barclay Charters, $36, (List Price: $40), University of Mississippi Press, April 2008, ISBN: 1578068983, pp. 400.

This is believed to be the first book ever to attempt to cover the entire century of the existence of jazz in New Orleans, the city that birthed it. The author, a jazz historian, digs into its roots and influences from White, Black and Creole musicians ­ American and European ­ through interviews, oral histories, contemporaneous news reports and new research. He explores recent developments including the continued threat to the future of jazz from the devastating losses caused by Hurricane Katrina.


Let’s Make Some Noise: Àxé and the African Roots of Brazilian Popular Music, by Clarence Bernard Henry, $45, (List Price: $50) University of Mississippi Press, March 2012, ISBN: 9781604730821, pp. 208 pages

The author examines how àsé or àxé, the West African Yoruba concept of powers bestowed by ancestral spirits and protectors, has influenced Brazilian popular music, including. samba, bossa nova, samba-reggae, ijexá and axé. The concept lives on in Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion, and the music thrives in secular and sacred traditions.



Other books about music available on include:

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