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The Death of Rhythm and Blues
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The Death of Rhythm and Blues

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  173 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews

This passionate and provocative book tells the complete story of black music in the last fifty years, and in doing so outlines the perilous position of black culture within white American society. In a fast-paced narrative,  Nelson George’s book chronicles the rise and fall of “race music” and its transformation into the R&B that eventually dominated the airwaves only

Paperback, 222 pages
Published August 15th 2003 by Penguin (Non-Classics) (first published June 12th 1988)
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Great detailed, referenced work, concerning the history of rock 'n' roll combining with R 'n' B; and the trends, deejays, producers, programmers, record execs, record companies & their owners, record labels, artists from the 40s through 1988, when this was published.

Anyone interested in/listening to/obsessed with "Black Music" will be enlightened by this.

Nice reference to the "DJ" culture that helped spawn the birth of rap.
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
There's a definite POV, but what a treat.
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I began my radio career at KZSU Stanford while also pursuing a PhD in English renaissance Literature. I tried to improve my already burgeoning personal popular music library. One of my favorite books from this period was Nelson George's tome on 50 years of black music. An interesting antidote to some of the more strained arguments in Leroi Jones'(Amiri Baraka if you must) still excellent Blues People. As the music Nelson writes about lies at the heart of my consciousness (not for nothing Fred ...more
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, this is a twenty-five-year-old book and could perhaps use some updating. But much like its rough contemporaries, Mansion on the Hill and Hit Men, The Death of Rhythm & Blues stops at approximately the point at which I cease to really care about the music under discussion, so its age isn't necessarily a bad thing.

It's been a decade since I've read those other music-biz classics, but I'm amazed at how much I thought of those books as I read this one. They certainly don't focus strictly o
Dec 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended if you like any form of popular music today, since black music has had (and continues to have) a huge influence. George traces the evolving forms of black music and their related social issues. I was a little off-put by the beginning, since it seemed to mostly concerned with social issues instead of music. However, as the narrative continued, the point was established that the music and social issues were intimately connected. There still wasn't enough emphasis on the actual music in ...more
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-music
As a very basic review of the history of black music, this book has some merit. However, George very much (and is kind enough to state this in his introduction) infuses the book with his own opinion and thoughts on various musicians and methods, as well as his interpretation of how the black community would be best served. What makes this problematic is that opinions are generally shaped by personal experiences, culture, and upbringing - and without knowing where George is coming from, his asser ...more
Jun 20, 2010 rated it liked it
This book has some very good moments, but if you are uninterested in the very very intimate details of the deejay world it is a bit overwhelming. There are some great points to this book that cover the integration of blacks and whites and the cross-over appeal/shakedown of the music industry as well as making blacks colorless to attract the white audience. This part of the book fascinated me.

Overall a good read, but I would recommend only to the dedicated music lover.
Jan 21, 2016 added it
A really well researched and argued book. This book really goes to the history of black music post-wwII, and the cost to their community of integration/assimilation. I feel like I understand a LOT more about the role of blacks in the history of rock & roll and popular music after it. I'm sure that this will be one that I will return to as a reference often.
Michael Borshuk
Nov 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Given that I am a long-time Nelson George fan, it's a wonder it took me so long to get to this one--arguably his most important book. An excellent work of criticism, history, and polemic all at once, George shows changes in aesthetics and material contexts for African American popular music from the 1940s to the present. Spirited and informative throughout. An excellent read.
May 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wonderfully, clearly written and only briefly bogged down by long lists of artists and song titles. I loved how it chronicled social change in the black community through music from the beginning of the blues until the emergence of hip-hop.
An incredibly insightful book, with interesting threads of political and economic history mixed in with the music criticism. I found George's ideas about the failures of integration thought-provoking, and this concise book made me want to read more of his work.
Michael Jay
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nelson George really made me think about the music people consume. As a person growing up during the music years he reflects upon, I can gain footing on new perspective of things that were in the background of my childhood.
Mar 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Music is in George's view merely a metaphor for sociological analysis of race. If music is your interest find an author for whom music as music is sufficient unto itself. Tedious and pretentious.
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I've read this book cause I love historical books. This is an important read if you are interested in the foundation and development of the contemporary music industry.
Mar 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
It's not an area that I have a lot of familiarity with but it was written with both love for the genre of music and with scholarly insights. Enjoyed it.
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Nelson George is an author, filmmaker, television producer, and critic with a long career in analyzing and presenting the diverse elements of African-American culture.

Queen Latifah won the Golden Globe for playing the lead in his directorial debut, the HBO movie 'Life Support'. The critically acclaimed drama looked at the effects of HIV on a troubled black family in his native Brooklyn, New York.
More about Nelson George...