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Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom

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A gripping narrative that captures the tumult and liberating energy of a nation in transition, Sweet Soul Music is an intimate portrait of the legendary performers--Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, Solomon Burke, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Al Green among them--who merged gospel and rhythm and blues to create Southern soul music. Through rare interviews and with A gripping narrative that captures the tumult and liberating energy of a nation in transition, Sweet Soul Music is an intimate portrait of the legendary performers--Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, Solomon Burke, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Al Green among them--who merged gospel and rhythm and blues to create Southern soul music. Through rare interviews and with unique insight, Peter Guralnick tells the definitive story of the songs that inspired a generation and forever changed the sound of American music.


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A gripping narrative that captures the tumult and liberating energy of a nation in transition, Sweet Soul Music is an intimate portrait of the legendary performers--Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, Solomon Burke, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Al Green among them--who merged gospel and rhythm and blues to create Southern soul music. Through rare interviews and with A gripping narrative that captures the tumult and liberating energy of a nation in transition, Sweet Soul Music is an intimate portrait of the legendary performers--Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, Solomon Burke, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Al Green among them--who merged gospel and rhythm and blues to create Southern soul music. Through rare interviews and with unique insight, Peter Guralnick tells the definitive story of the songs that inspired a generation and forever changed the sound of American music.

30 review for Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    Reading this book twenty-five years after its publication was probably a better experience than reading it in 1986 because of the advent of YouTube. What a wonderful experience to read the backstories about the creation of brilliant music as I listened to the old recordings Guralnick wrote about - sometimes accompanied by old footage of the singers and sometimes accompanied by a video of the original 45 spinning on the turntable! Just a delight.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Simon Reid

    This is still the definitive account of southern soul, over thirty years since it was published. Many of the key players were still around and happy to be interviewed when Peter Guralnick researched the book. As one who has read his also-definitive Elvis biographies Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love might expect, he does a fantastic job piecing together all of their anecdotes to tell a coherent, entertaining story about amazing music being created. Where the Elvis project had its This is still the definitive account of southern soul, over thirty years since it was published. Many of the key players were still around and happy to be interviewed when Peter Guralnick researched the book. As one who has read his also-definitive Elvis biographies Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love might expect, he does a fantastic job piecing together all of their anecdotes to tell a coherent, entertaining story about amazing music being created. Where the Elvis project had its atmospheric, novelistic Prologue which jumped forward to to the meeting of Sam Phillips and Dewey Phillips in the Peabody Drugstore, here the intro is a quite dry - Guralnick explains at length how he defines soul, how he first heard and understood it, how it aligned with the Civil Rights Movement, why and how he came to write the book... Interesting enough, but when he does get going, Guralnick eschews hindsight, and plays to what I consider to be his strength; truly brilliant detail that mostly lets the cultural history speak for itself. So as he quickly sums up the foundations of R&B (the rise of Atlantic Records, the crossover successes of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke), the unrivalled insights and incredible anecdotes come thick and fast. In particular, the brief biography of Solomon Burke (sometime mortician, pharmacist, preacher, fast food caterer, and King of Rock 'n' Soul) has a good laugh on every page. After that, the heart of the book is in the stories of the plucky individual scenes that nurtured such incredible music: Stax, Muscle Shoals, James Brown (an enigmatic scene unto himself). Within those stories, Guralnick profiles all the soul superstars, the great also-rans, the talented musicians, the visionary producers, the witty songwriters, and the canny businessmen behind the sound. One from the latter category (and a source for many of the book's stories) is Jerry Wexler, the A&R genius at Atlantic who gave Stax, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin a platform. He comes in for plenty of criticism throughout, but in the course of the book, it becomes self-evident how little of 60s soul would have happened were it not for his ears and his business nous. Another kind of hero (and another main source) emerges in Dan Penn, When he arrived in Muscle Shoals from Vernon, his hip demeanour, deep knowledge of R&B, and not least his amazingly versatile and soulful voice were all highly improbable for a white teenager hailing from small-town Alabama. He went on to co-write some of the standards of southern soul, many of them with Chips Moman or Spooner Oldham - 'The Dark End Of The Street', 'You Left The Water Running', 'Do Right Woman'...the list goes on. His only explanation is that this all began with him 'sniffing gasoline'. This book was full of fresh revelations and has only deepened my understanding and appreciation of the music, which is exactly what I'd hoped to get out of it. Perhaps the main aspect that's dated since its publication is the discography in the back, in that many of the recommended compilations have been superseded by newer reissues. Even so, it does a fine job of pointing one in the general direction of the essential works, and we're lucky to live in a time when some of this music is no longer prohibitively scarce and expensive, only to be heard by collectors and insiders. For instance, Penn's once-mythic demo recordings are now readily available from the marvellous UK reissue label Ace Records.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marc A.

    I really enjoyed this book. Quality history, interviews, plus interesting anecdotes and commentary on a uniquely American music form, without alot of star-eyed, fanzine, hagiographic drivel (if a writer gets a little carried away and waxes a bit overwrought in describing the talents of an artist like, say, Aretha Frankin, it seems to me unduly harsh to criticize). As for the author's choice to focus on "Southern Soul", the artists, studios, and labels that produced their work in Southern places I really enjoyed this book. Quality history, interviews, plus interesting anecdotes and commentary on a uniquely American music form, without alot of star-eyed, fanzine, hagiographic drivel (if a writer gets a little carried away and waxes a bit overwrought in describing the talents of an artist like, say, Aretha Frankin, it seems to me unduly harsh to criticize). As for the author's choice to focus on "Southern Soul", the artists, studios, and labels that produced their work in Southern places like Memphis, TN, and Muscle Shoals AL, as opposed to say, Atlantic Records in NY, and especially Motown Records in Detroit, where crossover received more intense focus, he explains that the decision was both a necessary narrowing a vast field of study and also an expression of a lifelong preference and fascination with what he considers the more "authentic" branch of the genre. There is also admirable emphasis on not only the fantastic singers that this genre introduced to the nation (Soloman Burke, James Brown, Percy Sledge,Sam and Dave,Otis Redding, Aretha Franlin and Carla Thomas among many others) and evetually to the world, but also to the back-up bands (almost all racially mixed like Booker T an the MG's at Stax Records), that were largely responsible for a studio's unique sound and often pitched in(or were entirely responsible)for writing some of the the most dynamic, authentic, and expressive music we are ever likely to hear. Finally, Guralnick provides hugely interesting (to this reader),valuable, and pretty comprehensive information about how the popular music business worked in those formative years. However, if you are looking for a polemic against the exploitation of black artists (many of whom were unsophisticatred country folks)and slick, white, sharp operators, this is not the book for you. This is not to say that the author ignores the "elephant in the room", but rather that he he lays it out without undue emphasis as just another part of a much larger and complex narrative.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I thought this book was very readable, even though it felt sometimes like an avalanche of details about artists, recording sessions, tours, labels, musicians. I appreciated his assessment of various artists' impact and importance, and I was especially interested in his characterization of Aretha Franklin's career. It's also fortunate that he researched and wrote this in the 1980s, when many of the principals were still alive to talk to him. However, his take on the soul-music business, while it I thought this book was very readable, even though it felt sometimes like an avalanche of details about artists, recording sessions, tours, labels, musicians. I appreciated his assessment of various artists' impact and importance, and I was especially interested in his characterization of Aretha Franklin's career. It's also fortunate that he researched and wrote this in the 1980s, when many of the principals were still alive to talk to him. However, his take on the soul-music business, while it feels minutely detailed, seems to lead him only part way to understanding. Not that I have any special insight, but I feel like his interviews and research suggest the racial inequalities at the heart of the way the music was made, who was in charge, and who benefited most financially, but he doesn't really go there. Even though he documents some explicit, racially charged violence that took place at an industry conference in the late 1960s, it is written off as the work of "outside agitators." I mean, white men who were producers, musicians, and advocates of soul music -- and worked closely for years with black producers, musicians, and songwriters -- use the n-word in their interviews with him. He focuses a lot of attention on the Stax label in Memphis, which was a pioneer in soul music and unusual for being an integrated space. But the way the principals talk about their experience there, it sometimes feels that while white and black people worked together at Stax, it may not have engendered close relationships. Some people express admiration for other's talent or skill, but there's scant evidence that they had insight into each other beyond that. That wouldn't be surprising, since the people involved all grew up in the segregated South, but I wish he'd been more explicit about it. I think the author was allowing "integrated" to stand in for some stronger sense of solidarity, and it definitely did not. I'm not sure how "and the Southern Dream of Freedom" ended up in the book's subtitle, because we get precious little of it. I guess I wish this book could have been written 30 years later, or by a black author. Soul music is so intimately tied to the Civil Rights movement and black experience. I appreciate the thoroughness of his research, but I'd like to hear the story from someone with more insight.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Curt Bozif

    Well written with few cliches but, written in 1986, it definitely feels dated. Also, this is first and foremost a book about the soul industry, the business of soul music in the late 50s and 60s. Not about the music itself. If you want interesting tidbits about Al Bell or Steve Cropper this is your book, but if you want detail and insightful analysis or breakdown of the songs themselves, how they're written, structured, arranged, etc. this is not your book. Very little attention is payed to the Well written with few cliches but, written in 1986, it definitely feels dated. Also, this is first and foremost a book about the soul industry, the business of soul music in the late 50s and 60s. Not about the music itself. If you want interesting tidbits about Al Bell or Steve Cropper this is your book, but if you want detail and insightful analysis or breakdown of the songs themselves, how they're written, structured, arranged, etc. this is not your book. Very little attention is payed to the music as such. Finally, Guralnick is guilty of what a lot of writers do when writing about blues, making a distinction between "authentic" blues and everything else, which usually means non rural, urban singers, like the female blues singers of the 20s and blues style big bands of the 30s and 40s like Joe Turner and Count Basie. Similarly, Guralnick spends too much time making the distinction between real southern soul and Motown; which he implies was made only to sell to white teenagers. Finally, there was little if any attention payed to soul's children like funk and disco. Still, overall, an interesting history. Because it was written when it was Guralnick was able to interview directly many of the figures in the book and even, if we can believe him, develop a friendship with a few of them.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Winter Sophia Rose

    Labor Of Love!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Sweet Soul Music This is an earnest and engrossing account of the rise of southern soul music, tracing the major figures that evolved it from R&B and gospel, beginning on the upstart labels, and leading to their deals with Atlantic Records. If you’re not up for reading the whole thing, the 20-page introduction alone is a super overview of the major themes. Guralnick intersperses deep research and contemporary interviews with the major soul artists with his own recollections of seeing them Sweet Soul Music This is an earnest and engrossing account of the rise of southern soul music, tracing the major figures that evolved it from R&B and gospel, beginning on the upstart labels, and leading to their deals with Atlantic Records. If you’re not up for reading the whole thing, the 20-page introduction alone is a super overview of the major themes. Guralnick intersperses deep research and contemporary interviews with the major soul artists with his own recollections of seeing them perform as a young fan. From his many sources, he presents a complicated history, filled with conflicting memories, evaluations, and even definitions of soul music itself. I like Guralnick’s own attempts at definition in the book’s opening pages: ”What [soul music] offers, rather, is something akin to the ‘knowledgeable apprehension,’ in Alfred Hitchcock’s famous definition of suspense, that precedes the actual climax, that everyone knows is coming—it’s just nobody is quite sure when. Soul music is a music that keeps hinting at a conclusion, keeps straining at the boundaries—of melody and convention—that it has imposed upon itself. That is where it is to be differentiated from the let-it-all-hang-out rock ‘n’ roll of a cheerful charismatic like Little Richard, who for all the brilliance of his singing and the subtleties of which he is capable, basically hits the ground running and accelerates from there. It is to be differentiated, too, from the cultural refinements of Motown, which, with equal claim to inspiration from the church, rarely uncorks a full-blooded scream, generally establishes the tension without ever really letting go, and only occasionally will reveal a flash of raw emotion” (7) The early soul hits coming out of Stax and Fame were the product of in-studio jam sessions, group song-writing, and producer-led arranging. More than session musicians filling in, it was more like a house band (Booker T and the MG’s, the Mar-keys). So many songs were made in a matter of minutes with someone showing up with a groove and everyone filling in. Or big name singers showing up and the band coming up with something for them. While there was this sort of natural, free-flowing songwriting, at the same time, the goal was definitely commercial. While the genre began on independents, it was in reality competing with rock ‘n’ roll and country music, and “Let’s make a hit,” is the most common thing we hear the soul players and producers in this book say. It’s funny that major hits were sometimes thrown together in a matter of minutes. It really was a special (and pretty sweet) moment in which this could happen. Inevitably, Stax got too big for itself, which stoked political infighting, prompting unstrategic business deals, and ultimately, tragically, its implosion. Guralnick does more than present a record label history. Most chapters delve into a major soul figure. I particularly enjoyed the insights in the James Brown chapter: “James Brown gloried in his very commonness (‘He made the ugly man somebody,’ childhood friend Leon Austin told reporter Gerri Hirshey, speaking specifically of the racial implications of this ‘darker person’s’ success), and his chief title, ‘the Hardest Working Man in Show Business,’ was based on a quality accessible even to the humblest member of his audience. For the crowds that snaked around the block waiting to purchase tickets to his show at the Apollo he might send out cups of soup and coffee because he recognized that for his audience as well as for himself James Brown’s success was a matter of faith and commitment; ‘it meant a lot to me that people were prepared to wait for hours to see my show’” (234). I love this dynamic between Brown and his audience. Apparently Brown’s “Live at the Apollo” record received so many requests on black radio stations, that some of them would just play the entire LP on the air at certain scheduled times each week, something that must have surely been unheard of. Guralnick is also insightful when describing the music itself. Here’s him explaining the revolutionary character of Brown’s work: “With ‘Out of Sight’ all this changed. All the grunts, groans, screams, clicks, and screeches that had been lurking in the background, the daringly modal approach to melody (soon there would be virtually no chord changes in a James Brown song, with forward motion dependent entirely on rhythm), were—without anyone’s fully realizing it in 1965—intimations of African roots, declarations of black pride that would very soon earn James Brown plaudits from cultural nationalists and the musical avant-garde alike” (240). And here’s Guralnick quoting musicologist, Robert Palmer: “‘The rhythmic elements became the song. There were few chord changes, or none at all, but there were plenty of trick rhythmic interludes and suspensions…Brown and his musicians began to treat every instrument and voice in the group as if it were a drum. The horns played single-note bursts that were often sprung against the downbeats. The bass lines were broken into choppy two or three-note patterns, a procedure common in Latin music since the Forties but unusual in r&b. Brown’s rhythm guitarist choked his guitar strings against the instrument’s neck so hard that his playing began to sound like a jagged tin can being scraped with a pocket knife. Only occasionally were the horns, organ or backing vocalists allowed to provide a harmonic continuum by holding a chord’” (240).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joe Schilp

    The story of southern soul covering Stax, Muscle Shoals and Georgia.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dan Phillips

    Starting with a brief overview of Sam Cooke’s career, and ending with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Sweet Soul Music is much more of a chronicle than its predecessors (Feel Like Going Home and Lost Highway, Guralnick’s “Blues” and “Americana” collections, respectively.) This is the story of soul’s ascendancy during the mid- to late-sixties, as it crossed over to the pop charts and was both made and enjoyed by an increasingly unsegregated population. Specifically, this is the story of Starting with a brief overview of Sam Cooke’s career, and ending with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Sweet Soul Music is much more of a chronicle than its predecessors (Feel Like Going Home and Lost Highway, Guralnick’s “Blues” and “Americana” collections, respectively.) This is the story of soul’s ascendancy during the mid- to late-sixties, as it crossed over to the pop charts and was both made and enjoyed by an increasingly unsegregated population. Specifically, this is the story of Southern soul music (as opposed to Motown), which is pretty much synonymous with Stax Records. Though there are diversions (including an indispensable chapter devoted to James Brown), Guralnick essentially uses the story of the rise and fall of Stax (and its relationship with Atlantic Records) to describe the arc of Southern soul itself. I was glad to finally get all of this history straight, to understand that Stax was a Memphis studio primarily, that they did put out their own records, but made most of their money by recording Atlantic artists. Also, that Muscle Shoals is an area of Alabama with a studio called Fame, where Stax (and Atlantic itself, once it got wind of it) would farm out jobs to. A shifting cast of musicians, including Steve Cropper, Al Jackson, Booker T and others, worked in both studios and many others besides, backing everyone from Wilson Pickett to Aretha Franklin to Otis Redding. This is a fascinating book, and the final pages describing the events that led to Stax’s downfall are heartbreaking. Guralnick clearly loves soul music, and believes it had far more potential than it ever reached — not just as a pop culture movement, but as a unifying, democratizing force. He honors that passion and potential mightily in this fine, fine volume. Should be required reading for any musician.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Will

    " 'Rick contacted me about the session, but he didn't know who in hell was coming in. I said, "Who you got?" He said, "Aretha Franklin." I said, "Boy, you better get your damn shoes on. You getting someone who can sing." Even the Memphis guys didn't really know who in the hell she was. I said, "Man, this woman gonna knock you out." They're all going, "Big deal!" When she come in there and sit down at the piano and hit that first chord, everybody was just like little bees just buzzing around the " 'Rick contacted me about the session, but he didn't know who in hell was coming in. I said, "Who you got?" He said, "Aretha Franklin." I said, "Boy, you better get your damn shoes on. You getting someone who can sing." Even the Memphis guys didn't really know who in the hell she was. I said, "Man, this woman gonna knock you out." They're all going, "Big deal!" When she come in there and sit down at the piano and hit that first chord, everybody was just like little bees just buzzing around the queen. You could tell by the way she hit the piano the gig was up. It was, "Let's get down to serious business." That first chord she hit was nothing we'd been demoing, and nothing none of them cats in Memphis had been, either. We'd just been dumb-dumb playing, but this was the real thing. That's the prettiest session picture I can ever remember. If I'd had a camera, I'd have a great film of that session, because I can still see it in my mind's eye, just how it was - Spooner on the organ, Moman playing guitar, Aretha at the piano - it was beautiful, better than any session I've ever seen, and I seen a bunch of 'em.' Spooner Oldham, the weedy keyboard player who is most known for never playing the same licks twice and who is ordinarily the most reticent of men, speaks in similar superlatives. 'I was hired to play keyboards. She was gonna stand up in front of the microphone and sing. She was showing us this song she had brought down there with her, she hit that magic chord when Wexler was going up the little steps to the control room, and I just stopped. I said, "Now, look, I'm not trying to cop out or nothing. I know I was hired to play piano, but I wish you'd let her play that thing, and I could get on organ and electric." And that's the way it was. It was a good, honest move, and one of the best things I ever done - and I didn't do nothing.'"

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    He's not as pretentious as Greil Marcus or as energetic as Lester Bangs, but Peter Guralnick sure can write books. I've had this one on the shelf for seven years, and I'm surprised it took me this long to get around to reading it. It's a little different for a Guralnick book, in that it's not a biography or a gathering of shorter profiles, although that element is present in the Solomon Burke, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin chapters. Mostly it's a back-and-forth history with a huge, He's not as pretentious as Greil Marcus or as energetic as Lester Bangs, but Peter Guralnick sure can write books. I've had this one on the shelf for seven years, and I'm surprised it took me this long to get around to reading it. It's a little different for a Guralnick book, in that it's not a biography or a gathering of shorter profiles, although that element is present in the Solomon Burke, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin chapters. Mostly it's a back-and-forth history with a huge, fascinating cast of characters. (The late Jerry Wexler, in particular, is everywhere in this book.) Three things have always impressed me about Peter Guralnick's books: the thoroughness of his research, his ability to capture other people's voices and personalities on the page, and his ability to subtly include his own perspective in his writing. I think all three of those characteristics are on fine display in this book. Guralnick has a big heart, and a strong level of commitment to both his readers and his subject matter. I can't recommend this book, or any of his others, highly enough. And of course the discography is indispensable. Which also makes it very dangerous.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Don Hackett

    "Do you like soul music? Yea yea!" This well-written, throughly-researched book tells the history of soul music, detailing the gospel singing precursors such as Sam Cooke, the small record companies in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee that recorded the music and distributed it, and the people who made the music, culminating in Otis Redding (in my opinion and the author's the best soul artist.) The owners of the record labels were white, the singers black, and the musicians mixed; the author looks "Do you like soul music? Yea yea!" This well-written, throughly-researched book tells the history of soul music, detailing the gospel singing precursors such as Sam Cooke, the small record companies in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee that recorded the music and distributed it, and the people who made the music, culminating in Otis Redding (in my opinion and the author's the best soul artist.) The owners of the record labels were white, the singers black, and the musicians mixed; the author looks closely at the racial dynamics in the business; for example, Booker T. and the MG's was two white men and two black men, but is was the white guitar player who got a piece of the business while the rest of the group were salaried employees. The author gives a good sense of what the people who made the music were like, and what the music meant to them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Don

    This is an excellent, highly readable history focusing on Memphis (home of Stax Records) and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, along with the executives, artists, writers and studio musicians who made the local labels and studios the creative forces they were. I had read Guralnick's biographies of Elvis Presley and Sam Cooke. While both are excellent, the suffer from an excess reliance on pure chronology. At times, each of these biographies become day-to-day chronicles of their subjects. This book, because This is an excellent, highly readable history focusing on Memphis (home of Stax Records) and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, along with the executives, artists, writers and studio musicians who made the local labels and studios the creative forces they were. I had read Guralnick's biographies of Elvis Presley and Sam Cooke. While both are excellent, the suffer from an excess reliance on pure chronology. At times, each of these biographies become day-to-day chronicles of their subjects. This book, because of the multiple locations and individuals who are subjects, doesn't suffer from that defect. Guralnick mixes his history with personal recollections of the artists and music he is writing about. While this could be distracting, he actually makes it work well.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Before there was James Brown, before Otis Reading, before Sam Cooke and Wilson Picket, Sam and Dave, Carla Thomas and Aretha, The Queen of Soul, there was Solomon Burke, The King of Soul. This in-depth chronicle of the times also offers sketches of the people, like Solomon Burke, whose amazing life defined both the sweet and the soul in the music. Do yourself a favor and listen to Cry To Me. This book is a tome and I had to skim some of it. The most riveting parts were the biographical sketches Before there was James Brown, before Otis Reading, before Sam Cooke and Wilson Picket, Sam and Dave, Carla Thomas and Aretha, The Queen of Soul, there was Solomon Burke, The King of Soul. This in-depth chronicle of the times also offers sketches of the people, like Solomon Burke, whose amazing life defined both the sweet and the soul in the music. Do yourself a favor and listen to Cry To Me. This book is a tome and I had to skim some of it. The most riveting parts were the biographical sketches of people like Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and others, both well-known and lesser-known, who made the music.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Ward

    Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom by Peter Guralnick (Harper & Row 1986) (784.530975) brings a lot of the down and dirty flavor of Stax Records, Macon Georgia, and the "Chitlin' Circuit" of the Deep South at the time that Soul Music went mainstream. James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and Little Richard Penniman led the way; much of the South was dragged along kicking and screaming. This book is a tasty little read. My rating: 7/10, finished Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom by Peter Guralnick (Harper & Row 1986) (784.530975) brings a lot of the down and dirty flavor of Stax Records, Macon Georgia, and the "Chitlin' Circuit" of the Deep South at the time that Soul Music went mainstream. James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and Little Richard Penniman led the way; much of the South was dragged along kicking and screaming. This book is a tasty little read. My rating: 7/10, finished 3/19/2014.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Scott Smith

    Picked this up used at Laurie's Planet of Sound. Surprised it took me this long to get to it. UPDATED: Loved this book. Felt like a diary of someone's road trip crossed with sitting at the end of a bar while old cusses tried to one up each other with stories. Really impressed that Guralnick wove himself into the story w/o making it seem too "look at me!" which is what usually happens with books that include memoirish elements. I think it worked because soul music is about personal emotional Picked this up used at Laurie's Planet of Sound. Surprised it took me this long to get to it. UPDATED: Loved this book. Felt like a diary of someone's road trip crossed with sitting at the end of a bar while old cusses tried to one up each other with stories. Really impressed that Guralnick wove himself into the story w/o making it seem too "look at me!" which is what usually happens with books that include memoirish elements. I think it worked because soul music is about personal emotional reactions and including his enhanced his work.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

    I love soul and this is perhaps the best book about it, according to reviews. (And that seems believable--it was a good book.) First issue with the book: the author denigrates Motown repeatedly. This is a Southern soul book, but, still, Motown needs respect. Second, the beginning of the book felt pretty slow, but it sped up as it went along. It may have been that I stopped worrying as much about the details and just read. (The author introduces hundreds of names during the book but only a few I love soul and this is perhaps the best book about it, according to reviews. (And that seems believable--it was a good book.) First issue with the book: the author denigrates Motown repeatedly. This is a Southern soul book, but, still, Motown needs respect. Second, the beginning of the book felt pretty slow, but it sped up as it went along. It may have been that I stopped worrying as much about the details and just read. (The author introduces hundreds of names during the book but only a few dozen are important.)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I really liked the biographies of popular singers like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and James Brown, for their level of details and accounts of the hard work these acts put in to be successful. I got bogged down with some of the 'inside baseball' of the studios organizations and the business side of the music. Overall a very enjoyable, stimulating book that makes me want expand my knowledge of soul music.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    wow!! i was burnt on music books and didn't really want to read this, but i was trapped in a van 8 hours a day and it was the only book lying around. lucky for me!! wow what a great inspiring book!! i could not put it down. i had no idea solomon burke was so hilarious. i loved reading about the muscle shoals guys, james brown, and the stax chapter made me cry.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I learned so much from this book! The story of Stax and its artists isn't as well known as that of Motown, but it's no less important to the subject of American musical history. Guralnick is an excellent biographer and researcher and it shows. If you're interested in this topic, do read this book and learn, learn, learn!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Crowey

    This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Traces roots of soul music from Sam Cooke & Ray Charles, through to Solomon Burke, O.V Wright, James Brown, James Carr, etc. And the companies such as Stax, Goldwax, Hi etc. It (soul) had a relatively short life, but it was powerful stuff and its history is fascinating - well worth searching out and reading.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Graeme

    A schoolfriend of mine, whose father worked for the local paper, gave this to me on the condition that I write a review. A collection of vignettes relating to a number of classic soul performers, Guralnick's book dismisses the entire Motown canon as unworthy of inclusion in the soul genre. Controversial...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Candelaria Silva

    I enjoyed learning about the founding of Stax Records and Muscle Shoals, etc. and about the artists who recorded at the samll studios in the South including Otis Redding, Wilson PIckett, Joe Tex, Aretha Franklin and James Brown. I didn't like some of the suposition and analysis the author brought to the book and his unfortunate comparison i(twice) of the mastery of Black musicians to Al Jolson!

  24. 5 out of 5

    funkgoddess

    an enjoyable history of the rise and fall of stax records and the music scene around memphis in the '60s, with meanders around the lives of sam cooke, solomon burke, james brown and arthea franklin. i thought more could have been made of the political backdrop to the glorious dream of black and white integration through 'soul music'. sadly no mention of new orleans and (my favorites) the meters.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    Informative overview of the genre. Leaving out Motown was a notable but understandable omission but Curtis Mayfield, the Impressions and Northern Soul should have gotten a chapter IMO. Nonetheless, a very solid read. Incredibly good discography in the back.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marcia

    This is kind of my guide to the music I started loving in the 1950's listening to records with my older brother. It traces different studios, songwriters-key players that kept popping up in the music I kept returning to.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    A Bible of sorts. Indispensable reading for music fans. Guralnick's prose style is engrossing, and he very capably connects the evolution of 1960's soul music with the emerging Civil Rights and Black Power movements. In a word, awesome.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    A complex story of the birth of soul music in the Southern culture. All of the major studios are included. Those who are familiar with only the major soul musicians will meet some more obscure, but influential figures. Not dry or overly academic - an enjoyable read for music lovers.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chhaya

    A great musical and cultural history of southern soul music (aka Stax, Muscle Shoals, Macon and not Motown) that was a ton of fun to read. As you might expect, reading this makes you want to listen and there's an extensive discography in the back of the book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Stellar history of southern soul music against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and on up through the mid eighties. Someone else will have to do the history of Motown, Philly Soul and the rest of it north of the Mason Dixon line, but this was great.

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