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A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  188 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
". . . extraordinarily far-reaching. . . . highly accessible."

"No one has written this way about music in a long, long time. Lucid, insightful, with real spiritual, political, intellectual, and emotional grasp of the whole picture. A book about why music matters, and how, and to whom."
-Dave Marsh, author of Louie, Louie and Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story

Paperback, 488 pages
Published January 9th 2006 by University of Michigan Press (first published April 1st 1999)
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14th out of 226 books — 117 voters
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Community Reviews

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Dec 28, 2011 Joanna rated it it was amazing
I will admit right up front to being dear friends with the author. In fact, he's probably reading this review. I am not sure this would affect my impressions of the book; I took forever to read this book because I took the time to actually read it: no skimming, no skipping. Underlining and notes. Often, if I had my iPod with me, I'd listen to snippets of the songs being discussed.

Gospel impulse, blues impulse, jazz impulse. Masking. Hidden meanings. Getting over. It's easy for a beginner like m
Joe O'Donnell
1CA Change is Gonna Come 1D is a hugely ambitious attempt to explore the roots of Black music in America (from the blues to hip-hop), the political conditions this music emerged from, and how that music went on to influence political organisations like the Civil Rights Movement.

The goal of the author Craig Werner, Professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin, is to cover all of the "moments of resistance, celebration, (and) joy" that have reverberated through black music ac
DJ Yossarian
This has to be one of the best books on popular music I've ever read. Werner's knowledge is encyclopedic and his reach expansive -- he covers the performers I'd expect him to cover, and connects them to other musicians and writers in ways I wouldn't have anticipated. Every few pages I felt the impulse to explore some new piece of music he'd just dissected, or revisit a well-known piece from a fresh perspective he'd just given me. He provides excellent historical and social context for the musica ...more
Kallan Phillips
Jun 04, 2015 Kallan Phillips rated it it was amazing
In depth, and compelling discussion of the ways in which soul music has defined, or been defined by social and political events in the United States. Unlike other books I've read, the music is always a touchstone - which makes it a particularly good read. Werner's references to the various impulses (blues, gospel and jazz) can be a bit vague, but in other parts make a good deal of sense out of the social differences between the genres.
Jed Hobson
Oct 18, 2015 Jed Hobson rated it it was amazing
Werner does not simply present abundant facts and anecdotes to the reader in regards to the recent history of black music in America, instead he weaves a tapestry (beautiful at times, sobering at others) that connects the songs, artists, and movements into a comprehensive road map. Terms such as the blues, gospel, and jazz impulses serve as Werner's compass and legend, as he guides the reader through a truly incredible journey.

In my opinion, the only thing really missing from this book is the s
Nick Hupton
Dec 22, 2014 Nick Hupton rated it really liked it
A very interesting read for anyone interested in the history of American (and British in some cases) music and its effect on race relations in the United States.
Aug 15, 2007 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: soul music lovers
Shelves: music
Today, I was reminded that I love this man, Craig Werner. I read _A Change Is Gonna Come_ a little while back, but never picked up the revised and updated version ('til two days ago). I am seeking all good discussions or beginnings of discussions of gospel and this text helps me think about it (and its impulse). The last four chapters of Werner's book are new (on newer soul/r&b/gospel/etc), so I looked at them. Like my fave Sam Cooke track to play in the car, the whole thing is "wonderful."
Darren Blades
Dec 01, 2012 Darren Blades rated it it was amazing
An excellent book as the author Craig Werner takes the reader on a musical journey of a blend of musical genres, juxtaposed against the sociopolitical moving landscape of America from the 1920's to the 21st Century. Craig Werner also highlights the importance of black music during the civil rights movement, as an important moment in the history of America.
Jul 20, 2014 Dan rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable read, though also one that's extremely fragmented and struggles to arrange its enormous amount of social, political and musical history into a single overall structure.
Ashley Shear
Feb 22, 2009 Ashley Shear marked it as to-read
I took this course in college (taught by the author). I took it a Summer that the book was not available from the publisher so we never had to read it. I have always wanted to though.
Brendan Coke
Sep 01, 2015 Brendan Coke rated it really liked it
Great book, well researched and written. advise anyone interested in african american musical and cultural history and heritage from slavery to the turn of the century to read it
Joe Rasmussen
May 13, 2012 Joe Rasmussen rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites of all time. Changed both the way I listen to music and the way I view history.
Jan 21, 2009 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music-books
See my review at

Mar 18, 2009 Jessie rated it it was amazing
Immensely readable and I learned a ton about American music.
Aug 17, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best books I ever read in college.
Mar 19, 2009 John marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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