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Black By Design: A 2-Tone Memoir

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  126 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
"The best voice that ever graced 2-Tone."—Rolling Stone

"The iconic queen of ska. . . . It's gritty, witty, and compelling."—Elle

Lead singer for platinum-selling 2-Tone band The Selecter, Pauline Black has been in the music business for over thirty years. The only woman in a movement dominated by men, she was very much the Queen of British Ska. She saw The Specials, Madness
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Serpent's Tail (first published July 14th 2011)
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Robin Webster
Oct 26, 2012 Robin Webster rated it really liked it
This book was a must read for me. The reason being I read an interview with Pauline Black in a national newspaper where she was talking about her experiences of being transracially adopted. I was amazed to find that her experiences mirrored my own. Like me, Pauline Black was adopted as a baby in the UK in the early 1950’s then brought up in a white area with no other black or mixed race families in sight. The similarities did not end there. As I did, she traced her natural mother (who was white) ...more
Aug 10, 2014 Danny rated it it was ok
In the early 80s, I loved British Ska. I couldn’t get enough of the likes of the Specials and The Selecter. I can’t say I listen to those bands much any more and I haven’t been tempted by any of the reunion tours cycling around. Regardless, they all have a place deep in my heart. Out book shopping recently, I came across Black By Design, an autobiography of Pauline Black from The Selecter. I picked it up on a whim, figuring it would be a good summer read.

The first third of the book is very stron
Aug 30, 2011 Paul rated it it was amazing
I came to this book as a fan of 2-tone, having enjoyed seeing The Selecter live in Glasgow a good few years ago, but as well as documenting the 2-tone days fronting The Selecter with much more astute observation than eg Horace's Ska'd for Life, the best bits of Pauline Black's memoir are the stories of her conflicts as a mixed-race child growing up in 60's and 70's Britain and the daily racism she has faced/ faces (sadly). The chapter on her days as a journalist on the Black On Black TV ...more
Jul 19, 2012 Lynrose rated it it was ok
I don't normally read biographies / autobiographies but was interested in this one because I remember the band The Selecter and because of the transracial adoption element. It was an interesting read. I enjoyed the adoption story which is focussed on in the early stage of the book and again at the end when she looks for information about her birth family.

It was an interesting insight into the workings of the music industry but ultimately I got a bit bored in the middle section as gigs were remem
Jun 05, 2013 Sean rated it really liked it
My respect for Ms Black went way up after reading her autobiography.
She's a survivor, not of your usual rock star drug thing, but of confused and conflicted upbringing and a search for inner identity.
Recommend to any interested in her music and to those that enjoy learning of another person's self discovery.
Justin Simpson
Mar 05, 2016 Justin Simpson rated it really liked it
I've been a near-life long fan of ska and the 2-Tone movement is my personal favorite. The sounds of the Specials, Madness, the Selecter, and their kin have moved me like no other musical genre I've ever encountered. Unfortunately, they heyday of 2-Tone was a good 3-4 years before I was born, so that leaves me a mere baby as the movement was winding down. Additionally, being an American, I was born in a country that just didn't embrace it like it should have. Nevertheless, 2-Tone found me and it ...more
Sep 11, 2016 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, signed
A fascinating musical autobiography, but also considerably more than that. Black was a mixed race child adopted into working class white family. As much as anything, this is a search for her own identity, having never really felt part of the world she grew up in.
The story of her musical and acting career plays a significant part of this, rather than just being another part of her life. It is open, honest and opinionated, culminating in her search for her real parents.
Artnoose Noose
May 07, 2015 Artnoose Noose rated it really liked it
In the throes of a year of science fiction and graphic novels, I decided to cleanse my palette with this memoir. Pauline Black is best known for being the lead singer of the ska band The Selecter. A biracial orphan adopted by a working class family in an all-white town in the UK, Black came of age watching the Black Power movements rise in the US and applied their messages to her own life.

In addition to chronicling her childhood, this book covers the formation of the band The Selecter and its v
Sal Littlejohn
Jun 11, 2013 Sal Littlejohn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Wonderful account of the life so far of Pauline Black, a remarkable woman with great talent. Her childhood is fascinating, and not without difficulties, which she describes clearly and without rancour or bitterness. I think despite being adopted and of mixed race (which was pretty odd in 1950s and '60s Essex) she was well loved and cared for, and grew up to be able to express a great musical and acting talent. And with this memoir she shows she also has an engaging writing talent, too. I hope ...more
Aug 17, 2012 Lynne rated it it was ok
I was totally unfamiliar with the author. This is an autobiography. I was not familiar with the 2-tone era of music either. She is of mixed heritage-English and Nigerian, born in England and adopted by an English family. This is her story of coming to terms with her life trying to find her place also as a musician, and lastly finding her birth family.
Kurt Gottschalk
Aug 23, 2013 Kurt Gottschalk rated it really liked it
Black is an unexpectedly powerful writer, and "Black by Design" shines above the average musician memoir, as evidenced by the fact that the most compelling parts of the book aren't her 2-tone days but her striving for racial identity as an adopted child.

Watch for my interview with her in Time Out-New York next month.
Fasterpussycat Moore
Feb 24, 2014 Fasterpussycat Moore rated it really liked it
Great memoir and history of the 2-tone musical movement in England written by its premier Rude Girl. She's got an endearing writer's voice.
Mairi Morrison
Jan 29, 2014 Mairi Morrison rated it it was amazing
Have always loved The Selecter, and was interested to read more about Pauline Black. A very interesting and honest read.
Peter C
Mar 18, 2012 Peter C rated it really liked it
Not enough sex, drugs and rock and roll stories, and a few too many "I had a strange dream where..." moments, but a good addition to the 2-Tone books out there.
Andrew Fox
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Oct 10, 2014
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