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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  262 Ratings  ·  19 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 1998)
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Jun 06, 2010 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
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: soul-funk-rap, _own
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
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Werner quotes James Baldwin from the story “Sonny’s Blues” - “For, while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.” (34) Werner situates the music in a larger political and social context from one (white) author’s perspective. Well researched history, excellent artistic examples, and definitely not a new story in the time of Trump.

Jed Hobson
Apr 24, 2014 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
Kallan Phillips
Jun 04, 2015 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.
Aug 08, 2007 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 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.
Jan 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music-books
See my review at

Jun 08, 2014 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.
Nick Hupton
Dec 07, 2014 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.
Ashley Shear
Nov 01, 2008 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.
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Immensely readable and I learned a ton about American music.
Ellen Hampton
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terrific tour through mid to late 20th century music scene, with sharp insights on the social context of much of it.
Feb 18, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
non fiction
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best books I ever read in college.
Joe Rasmussen
May 13, 2012 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.
Brendan Coke
May 29, 2015 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
Matthew Lederman
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“Rarely bothering to temper his language, Wallace made the racial subtexts of issues like busing and promiscuity clear. His strong showings in the Wisconsin and Michigan primaries demonstrated unambiguously that race was not simply a Southern issue. Any candidate capable of tapping the fears of white working-class males, especially those living in districts bordered by black ghettos, had an excellent chance of undercutting the traditional Democratic coalition.” 0 likes
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