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A Month of Music

Black Music Month began in 1979 when a group led by Kenny Gamble, half of the famous Gamble and Huff songwriting and music production team, developed the idea for the observance and pitched it to President Jimmy Carter, according to the National Museum of African-American Music.

On June 7, 1979, Carter issued a proclamation designating June as the month to recognize and celebrate black music. Succeeding presidents maintained the annual observance. In 2009, President Barack Obama renamed it African-American Music Appreciation Month. In 2016, in his last proclamation of it as president, he said:
“A vital part of our Nation’s proud heritage, African-American music exemplifies the creative spirit at the heart of American identity and is among the most innovative and powerful art the world has ever known. …. Let us recognize the performers behind this incredible music, which has compelled us to stand up — to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.”

He called upon public officials, educators and others to observe the month with activities and programs “that raise awareness and foster appreciation of music that is composed, arranged, or performed by African Americans. “This year’s observance will kick off with music festivals on June 2 in Columbia, Md.; Healdsburg, Calif.; and Chicago. 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 them are these titles below. Several have been previously reviewed in this blog.

Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios
by Roben Jones. $45 (List price: $50), University of Mississippi Press, ISBN: 9781604734010, pp. 640.

The author details the history of Chips Moman’s American Studios, focusing on its rhythm section. The book examines the business, the personal dynamics and the music through interviews with the owner and staff, describing recording sessions with such artists as Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett and telling the story behind songs produced at the studio.

Jazz Planet
by E. Taylor Atkins, $45 (List price: $50)
University of Mississippi Press, ISBN: 9781578066087272, pp. 272.

While jazz is an American creation, it has “traveled” all over the world.  This book chronicles its influence around the globe through essays that focus on jazz created outside American parameters — in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. The author also acknowledges the contributions of musicians around the globe to the music and examines its impact on other cultures.

Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From: Lyrics and History
by Robert Springer, $22.50 (List price: $25), University of Mississippi Press, ISBN 1934110299, pp. 248.

The sound of the blues and the legendary characters who created it and keep it alive have attracted their share of popular attention and scholarship. Less studied are the words, the lyrics that make the blues uniquely rich and that constitute an oral history of a people. In this volume, an international cast of contributors explores the stories and themes that run through blues songs.


A Trumpet around the Corner: The Story of New Orleans Jazz
by Samuel Charters, $36 (List Price: $40) University of Mississippi Press, ISBN: 9781578068982, pp. 400.

This book documents a century of jazz history in New Orleans, tracing its African-American, Creole and Caucasian roots. The study is based on interviews that Samuel Charters began in the 1950s. It also draws from the Oral History Project in New Orleans, contemporary studies of jazz and newspaper files. Charters discusses some of the earliest New Orleans recordings, the resurgence of jazz in mid-century and the latest concerns for the future of jazz in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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

This analysis traces the development of 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 2011), ISBN: 9781934110195, pp. 304.

This is a study of hundreds of “race” and “hillbilly” records released during the period roughly between World Wars I and II after music recording studios began putting the sounds of the South on 78-rpm phonograph records. Up to that time, music was exclusively something heard live, usually in an intimate setting. Suddenly, the sounds of artists like Jimmie Rodgers, Robert Johnson, Charlie Poole, Blind Lemon Jefferson and others were available to play on demand by a device in one’s living room or to be heard over the radio. In this book, John Minton, a professor of folklore, as well as a musician, songwriter and author, examines the cultural implications of that shift.

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