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

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  1,266 ratings  ·  50 reviews
This masterful exploration of American roots music--country, rockabilly, and the blues--spotlights the artists who created a distinctly American sound, including Ernest Tubb, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, and Sleepy LaBeef. In incisive portraits based on searching interviews with these legendary performers, Peter Guralnick captures the boundless passion ...more
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Published December 20th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 1986)
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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 criticise). As for the author's choice to focus on "Southern Soul", the artists, studios, and labels that produced their work in Southern places ...more
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.
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 3/19/201 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
Jean-denis Crouhy
La référence absolue sur la Soul et du rythm 'n' Blues du sud des États-Unis !



L'auteur a interviewé tous les acteurs vivant de cette période (le livre est de 1985) et il raconte l'histoire des labels du sud :Stax, Fame, Hi Records...(avec aussi un apparté sur Atlantic qui distribua ces labels et eu plusieurs partenariats avec eux) ainsi que la vie de ses plus grands chanteurs : Otis Redding, James Brown, Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Wilson Picket, Percy Sledge, Rufus Thomas, Aretha Franklin...



Ce livr
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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 ...more
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, fascinatin ...more
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
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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.
Susan  Odetta
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 ...more
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 react
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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 doz
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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.
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.
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.
Rebecca Sage
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!
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...
Mike Mitchell
My favorite book about music and the artists that create it, evah! If reading this doesn't make you want to slap on Otis or Aretha or Solomon Burke, well, your groove bone is broken. The last page with the quote by Joe Tex darn near brought a tear to my jaded eyeball. Run, don't walk...
Rich
An exhaustive review of a fairly nebulous concept--soul music. All the major musicians (Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, etc.) and producers are given their due and their connections to producers and the ethos of a tenuous era in American history are skillfully illustrated.
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.
Jrmurphy1
A fantastic read. Brilliantly captures the music, social and racial backdrops of the times and the emotional connections of both artist and listener. Its also good to see artists like Solomon Burke get equal time with traditional icons like JB and Sam Cooke
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.
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.
Peter
What can I say, I like Guralnick's writing, his command of the subject and his love of the music. As another reviewer noted, reading this stuff in the age of You Tube really slows the reading process down, which is a wonderful thing.
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.
Charissa
This book focuses on R&B in the South and is definitely one of the best written novels covering its history and realness by Guralnick. Not many books about music really cut it for me. This one did it. I recommend.
Rachel
If you have even a passing interest in 1960s soul music you should read this. It explains how the music was made, by whom, and gives an insight into all the musicians and producers on the scene back then.
Matthew Purvis
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, not diminished by its age (first published 1985). I particular enjoyed the history of Stax and found out much I didn't know about it. Good read.
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Peter Guralnick is an American music critic, writer on music, and historian of US American popular music, who is also active as an author and screenwriter. He has been married for over 45 years to Alexandra. He has a son and daughter, Jacob and Nina.

Guralnick's first two books, Almost Grown (1964) and Mister Downchild (1967), were short story collections published by Larry Stark, whose small press
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More about Peter Guralnick...
Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke Lost Highway: Journeys and Arrivals of American Musicians Searching for Robert Johnson: The Life and Legend of the "King of the Delta Blues Singers"

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