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All Shook Up
Collected Poems about Elvis
Will Clemens
University of Arkansas Press, 2001
This anthology of poems about Elvis invites readers to experience the connection between the historical and mythical status of The King, on the one hand, and the poetic imagery of him on the other. All Shook Up! combines history and myth and art—in the words of some of our most well–known poets and in the elegant and revealing photographs of Jon Hughes.
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Always the Queen
The Denise LaSalle Story
Denise LaSalle, with David Whiteis
University of Illinois Press, 2020
Denise LaSalle's journey took her from rural Mississippi to an unquestioned reign as the queen of soul-blues. From her early R&B classics to bold and bawdy demands for satisfaction, LaSalle updated the classic blueswoman's stance of powerful independence while her earthy lyrics about relationships connected with generations of female fans. Off-stage, she enjoyed ongoing success as a record label owner, entrepreneur, and genre-crossing songwriter.

As honest and no-nonsense as the artist herself, Always the Queen is LaSalle's in-her-own-words story of a lifetime in music. Moving to Chicago as a teen, LaSalle launched a career in gospel and blues that eventually led to the chart-topping 1971 smash ”Trapped by a Thing Called Love” and a string of R&B hits. She reinvented herself as a soul-blues artist as tastes changed and became a headliner on the revitalized southern soul circuit and at festivals nationwide and overseas. Revered for a tireless dedication to her music and fans, LaSalle continued to tour and record until shortly before her death.

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Asmahan's Secrets
Woman, War, and Song
By Sherifa Zuhur
University of Texas Press, 2001

The great Arab singer Asmahan was the toast of Cairo song and cinema in the late 1930s and early 1940s, as World War II approached. She remained a figure of glamour and intrigue throughout her life and lives on today in legend as one of the shaping forces in the development of Egyptian popular culture. In this biography, author Sherifa Zuhur does a thorough study of the music and film of Asmahan and her historical setting.

A Druze princess actually named Amal al-Atrash, Asmahan came from an important clan in the mountains of Syria but broke free from her traditional family background, left her husband, and became a public performer, a role frowned upon for women of the time.

This unique biography of the controversial Asmahan focuses on her public as well as her private life. She was a much sought-after guest in the homes of Egypt's rich and famous, but she was also rumored to be an agent for the Allied forces during World War II.

Through the story of Asmahan, the reader glimpses not only aspects of the cultural and political history of Egypt and Syria between the two world wars, but also the change in attitude in the Arab world toward women as public performers on stage. Life in wartime Cairo comes alive in this illustrated account of one of the great singers of the Arab world, a woman who played an important role in history.

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Ballad of an American
A Graphic Biography of Paul Robeson
Sharon Rudahl
Rutgers University Press, 2021

The first-ever graphic biography of Paul Robeson, Ballad of an American, charts Robeson’s career as a singer, actor, scholar, athlete, and activist who achieved global fame. Through his films, concerts, and records, he became a potent symbol representing the promise of a multicultural, multiracial American democracy at a time when, despite his stardom, he was denied personal access to his many audiences.

Robeson was a major figure in the rise of anti-colonialism in Africa and elsewhere, and a tireless campaigner for internationalism, peace, and human rights. Later in life, he embraced the civil rights and antiwar movements with the hope that new generations would attain his ideals of a peaceful and abundant world. Ballad of an American features beautifully drawn chapters by artist Sharon Rudahl, a compelling narrative about his life, and an afterword on the lasting impact of Robeson’s work in both the arts and politics. This graphic biography will enable all kinds of readers—especially newer generations who may be unfamiliar with him—to understand his life’s story and everlasting global significance.

Ballad of an American: A Graphic Biography of Paul Robeson is published in conjunction with Rutgers University’s centennial commemoration of Robeson’s 1919 graduation from the university.

Study guide for Ballad of an American: A Graphic Biography of Paul Robeson (https://d3tto5i5w9ogdd.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/10201015/YA_Adult-Study-Guide-for-A-Graphic-Biography-of-Paul-Robeson.pdf).

View the blad for Ballad of an American.

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Blue Guitar Highway
Paul Metsa
University of Minnesota Press, 2011

This is a musician’s tale: the story of a boy growing up on the Iron Range, playing his guitar at family gatherings, coming of age in the psychedelic seventies, and honing his craft as a pro in Minneapolis, ground zero of American popular music in the mid-eighties. “There is a drop of blood behind every note I play and every word I write,” Paul Metsa says. And it’s easy to believe, as he conducts us on a musical journey across time and country, navigating switchbacks, detours, dead ends, and providing us the occasional glimpse of the promised land on the blue guitar highway.

His account captures the thrill of the Twin Cities when acts like the Replacements, Husker Dü, and Prince were remaking pop music. It takes us right onto the stages he shared with stars like Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, and Bruce Springsteen. And it gives us a close-up, dizzying view of the roller-coaster ride that is the professional musician’s life, played out against the polarizing politics and intimate history of the past few decades of American culture. Written with a songwriter’s sense of detail and ear for poetry, Paul Metsa’s book conveys all the sweet absurdity, dry humor, and passion for the language of music that has made his story sing.

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Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga
Bessie Smith and the Emerging Urban South
Michelle R. Scott
University of Illinois Press, 2007

As one of the first African American vocalists to be recorded, Bessie Smith is a prominent figure in American popular culture and African American history. Michelle R. Scott uses Smith's life as a lens to investigate broad issues in history, including industrialization, Southern rural to urban migration, black community development in the post-emancipation era, and black working-class gender conventions.

Arguing that the rise of blues culture and the success of female blues artists like Bessie Smith are connected to the rapid migration and industrialization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Scott focuses her analysis on Chattanooga, Tennessee, the large industrial and transportation center where Smith was born. This study explores how the expansion of the Southern railroads and the development of iron foundries, steel mills, and sawmills created vast employment opportunities in the postbellum era. Chronicling the growth and development of the African American Chattanooga community, Scott examines the Smith family's migration to Chattanooga and the popular music of black Chattanooga during the first decade of the twentieth century, and culminates by delving into Smith's early years on the vaudeville circuit.

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The Blues Walked In
Kathleen George
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018
In 1936, life on the road means sleeping on the bus or in hotels for blacks only. After finishing her tour with Nobel Sissel’s orchestra, nineteen-year-old Lena Horne is walking the last few blocks to her father’s hotel in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. She stops at a lemonade stand and meets a Lebanese American girl, Marie David. Marie loves movies and adores Lena, and their chance meeting sparks a relationship that will intertwine their lives forever. Lena also meets Josiah Conner, a charismatic teenager who helps out at her father Teddy’s hotel. Josiah often skips school, dreams of being a Hollywood director, and has a crush on Lena. Although the three are linked by a determination to be somebody, issues of race, class, family, and education threaten to disrupt their lives and the bonds between them.

Lena’s father wants her to settle down and give up show business, but she’s entranced by the music and culture of the Hill. It’s a mecca for jazz singers and musicians, and nightspots like the Crawford Grill attract crowds of blacks and whites. Lena table-hops with local jazzmen as her father chaperones her through the clubs where she‘ll later perform. Singing makes her feel alive, and to her father’s dismay, reviewers can’t get enough of her. Duke Ellington adores her, Billy Strayhorn can’t wait to meet her, and she becomes “all the rage” in clubs and Hollywood for her beauty and almost-whiteness. Her signature version of “Stormy Weather” makes her a legend. But after sitting around for years at MGM as the studio heads try to figure out what to do with her, she isn’t quite sure what she’s worth.

Marie and Josiah follow Lena’s career in Hollywood and New York through movie magazines and the Pittsburgh Courier. Years pass until their lives are brought together again when Josiah is arrested for the murder of a white man. Marie and Lena decide they must get Josiah out of prison—whatever the personal cost.
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Freddie Mercury
An Illustrated Life
Alfonso Casas; translated by Ned Sublette
University of Texas Press, 2020

The music of Queen and powerhouse lead singer Freddie Mercury are best experienced with the volume turned all the way up. Alfonso Casas’s Freddie Mercury delivers a sonorous homage to the formidable singer and the turning points that produced a game-changing body of music that continues to inspire fans around the globe.

First published in Spain and now available worldwide, this luminous work covers Freddie's three “births”: his birth as Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar; his adoption of the last name of Mercury and the launch of Queen with Brian May and Roger Taylor; and the emergence of the lasting legend after Freddie’s death at the age of forty-five. Casas's evocative illustrations highlight the key moments in the singer’s transformation from child prodigy to superstar, bringing to life the bold innovator who broke free of his conventional upbringing. Chronicling events from Freddie’s marriage to Mary Austin and early fame in London’s 1970s glam scene, to the making of multiple megahits (including the six-minute chart-topper “Bohemian Rhapsody”), to his final years in a lasting relationship with Jim Hutton, Freddie Mercury is an exhilarating, poignant portrait of a creative genius who lived life to the hilt.

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Get a Shot of Rhythm and Blues
The Arthur Alexander Story
Richard Younger
University of Alabama Press, 2000

The first book-length biography of an influential country/soul legend whose songs have been recorded by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.

Get a Shot of Rhythm and Blues chronicles the rise, fall, and rebirth of Arthur Alexander, an African American singer-songwriter whose music influenced many of the rock and soul musicians of the 1960s. Although his name is not well known today, Alexander's musical legacy is vast. His 1962 song "You Better Move On" was the first hit to emerge from the fledgling Muscle Shoals FAME studio in Alabama, and his fusion of country and soul and his heartfelt vocals on such songs as "Anna (Go to Him)" and "Every Day I Have to Cry" were revered by musicians including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, all of whom recorded his songs.

Alexander's story is a tragic one, with a brief, redemptive finale. His meteoric rise after the release of "You Better Move On" gave way to lean years caused both by his drug and alcohol abuse and by the mishandling of his career by producers and managers. In 1977, he quit the music business, but his music lived on. In 1992, Alexander returned to
the studio and recorded the critically praised album Lonely Just Like Me. Just three months after the album's release in March 1993, he suffered a heart attack in the offices of his music publisher in Nashville and died three days later.

In telling Alexander's story, Richard Younger captures the burgeoning music scenes in Muscle Shoals and Nashville during the 1960s and 1970s and recovers the life of a fascinating musician whose influence was international. Younger's account is enriched by his interviews with more than 200 artists, family members, and friends--such as Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill, Charlie McCoy, Chuck Jackson, Gerry Marsden, and Kris Kristofferson--and includes an abundance of never-before-seen photographs.

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Haunted Heart
A Biography of Susannah McCorkle
Linda Dahl
University of Michigan Press, 2006

"In this comprehensive biography, compiled from meticulous research and interviews with many of McCorkle's confidants . . . Dahl reconstructs a career distinguished by great promise and great sadness . . . doing her best to address a large, looming 'Why?' that can never be completely answered."
New York Times

"A compelling, sympathetic but often chilling view not only of McCorkle's complexities but also of the difficult business of music itself and of the widespread always potentially fatal illness now better known as bipolar disorder, which the singer hid from so many, even from herself for many years."
Newsweek

“Susannah's life was dark and daunting. Her music was suave and sunny. Both are honored in this remarkably well-researched and constantly revealing keyhole peek into a haunted life that is both chilling and exhilarating. I could not put it down.”
—Rex Reed

“Susannah McCorkle was a mesmerizing singer with a dark side she hid even from her closest friends. Now, thanks to this probing and courageous biography, we can understand the gut ambition that took her to the top of her field and the turmoil that brought her down.”
—James Gavin, author of Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker

Haunted Heart strikingly resembles the woman it describes: it is vivacious, tender, saturnine, industrious, and deeply intelligent. Like Susannah's way with certain ballads, it opens a wound and begins the work of healing it. I am grateful for Linda Dahl's diligence and sympathy.”
—Leon Wieseltier

Linda Dahl is the author of Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen and Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams. Visit the author’s website at www.dahljazz.com.

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The Italian Opera Singers in Mozart's Vienna
Dorothea Link
University of Illinois Press, 2022
Dorothea Link examines singers’ voices and casting practices in late eighteenth-century Italian opera as exemplified in Vienna’s court opera from 1783 to 1791. The investigation into the singers’ voices proceeds on two levels: understanding the performers in terms of the vocal-dramatic categories employed in opera at the time; and creating vocal profiles for the principal singers from the music composed expressly for them. In addition, Link contextualizes the singers within the company in order to expose the court opera's casting practices.

Authoritative and insightful, The Italian Opera Singers in Mozart's Vienna offers a singular look at a musical milieu and a key to addressing the performance-practice problem of how to cast the Mozart roles today.

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Jane Froman
Missouri's First Lady of Song
Ilene Stone
University of Missouri Press, 2003
Once asked to name the ten best female singers, the renowned musical producer Billy Rose replied, “There is Jane Froman and nine others.” A legend in her time, Jane Froman (1907–1980) was one of Missouri’s greatest success stories. Her singing career, which spanned over three decades, included radio and television, recordings, nightclub performances, Broadway shows, and Hollywood movies.
 
Born in University City, Froman spent her childhood in the small town of Clinton and her adolescence in Columbia. After earning her associate degree from Christian (now Columbia) College, she auditioned as a vocalist for WLW, a Cincinnati radio station, and in 1934 was voted the top “girl singer” of the day in a poll of listeners.
 
At the height of her career, during World War II, Froman volunteered to travel for the USO. On February 22, 1943, her plane crashed into the Tagus River near Lisbon, Portugal. Although she suffered horrible injuries that plagued her for the rest of her life, she continued her singing career. On crutches, she entertained the troops, giving ninety-five shows throughout Europe. Her courageous return was the focus of the 1952 movie With a Song in My Heart,starring Susan Hayward. For scenes that required singing performances, Froman sang the songs through dubbing, and the movie soundtrack became a best-selling record album. Froman’s popularity led to her own television show from 1952 to 1955. In 1961, Froman retired from singing and returned to Columbia, Missouri, where she was active in volunteer work and lived out her remaining years.
 
Drawing upon an autobiography that Froman started but never finished, Ilene Stone skillfully uses the singer’s own words, along with other resource materials and extensive interviews with people who knew Froman, to produce the first biography of this extraordinary woman. Written in a clear and accessible style, Jane Froman: Missouri’s First Lady of Song will be of great value to anyone interested in Missouri history, women’s studies, or the history of popular entertainment in the twentieth century.
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King of the Cowboys, Queen of the West
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
Raymond E. White
University of Wisconsin Press, 2006
    For more than sixty years, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans personified the romantic, mythic West that America cherished well into the modern age. Blazing a trail through every branch of the entertainment industry—radio, film, recordings, television, and even comic books—the couple capitalized on their attractive personas and appealed to the nation's belief in family values, an independent spirit, community.
    King of the Cowboys, Queen of the West presents these two celebrities in the most comprehensive and inclusive account to date. Part narrative, part reference, this impeccably researched, highly accessible survey spans the entire scope of Rogers's and Evans's careers, illuminating and celebrating their place in twentieth-century American popular culture. Following the pair through each stage of their professional and personal trajectories, author Raymond E. White explores the unique alchemy of the singing cowboy and his free-spirited yet feminine partner. In a dual biography, he shows how Rogers and Evans carefully husbanded their public image and—of particular note—incorporated their Christian faith into their performances. And in a series of exhaustive appendixes, he documents their contributions to each medium they worked in. Testifying to both the breadth and the longevity of their careers, the book includes radio logs, discographies, filmographies, and comicographies that will delight historians and collectors alike. With its engaging tone and meticulous research, King of the Cowboys, Queen of the West is bound to become the definitive source on the lives of these two great American icons.
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The Late Great Johnny Ace and the Transition from R&B to Rock 'n' Roll
James M. Salem
University of Illinois Press, 1999

Johnny Ace's crooning style and stirring ballads made him the first postwar African American artist to cross over to a white audience. After a string of R&B hits, Ace released the million-selling "Pledging My Love," a song headed to the top of the charts when the singer accidentally shot himself in his dressing room between sets at a show. 

James M. Salem captures the enigmatic, captivating, and influential R&B legend. Venturing from raucous Beale Street to Houston's vibrant Fourth Ward, Salem places Johnny Ace within a multifaceted world of postwar rhythm and blues that included B. B. King, Johnny Otis, Big Mama Thornton, and Gatemouth Brown. Salem also examines how entrepreneur Don D. Robey and his wife Evelyn Johnson promoted Ace to the top of the charts. Yet fame, as always, had a price. Ace's tours on the Chitlin' Circuit meant endless one-night stands and a grueling schedule that kept him on the road 340 days per year. 

Comprehensive and filled with anecdotes, The Late Great Johnny Ace and the Transition from R&B to Rock 'n' Roll tells the story of the star who fused black and white styles and changed American popular music forever.

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The Life, Music, and Times of Carlos Gardel
Simon Collier
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986
In the first biography in English of the great Argentinian tango singer Carlos Gardel (1890-1935), Collier traces his rise from very modest beginnings to become the first genuine “superstar” of twentieth-century Latin America. In his late teens, Gardel won local fame in the barrios of Buenos Aires singing in cafes and political clubs. By the 1920s, after he switched to tango singing, the songs he wrote and sang enjoyed instant popularity and have become classics of the genre.  He began making movies in the 1930s, quickly establishing himself as the most popular star of the Spanish-language cinema, and at the time of his death Paramount was planning to launch his Hollywood career.

Collier's biography focuses on Gardel's artistic career and achievements but also sets his life story within the context of the tango tradition, of early twentieth-century Argentina, and of the history of popular entertainment.
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Living in the Woods in a Tree
Remembering Blaze Foley
Sybil Rosen
University of North Texas Press, 2008

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Madonnaland
And Other Detours into Fame and Fandom
By Alina Simone
University of Texas Press, 2016

When Alina Simone agreed to write a book about Madonna, she thought it might provide an interesting excuse to indulge her own eighties nostalgia. Wrong. What Simone discovered instead was a tidal wave of already published information about Madonna—and her own ambivalence about, maybe even jealousy of, the Material Girl’s overwhelming commercial success. With the straight-ahead course stymied, Simone set off on a quirky detour through the backroads of celebrity and fandom and the people who love or loathe Madonna.

In this witty, sometimes acerbic, always perceptive chronicle, Simone begins by trying to understand why Madonna’s birthplace, Bay City, Michigan, won’t even put up a sign to celebrate its most famous citizen, and ends by asking why local bands who make music that’s authentic and true can disappear with barely a trace. In between, she ranges from Madonna fans who cover themselves with tattoos of the singer’s face and try to make fortunes off selling her used bustiers and dresses, to Question Mark and the Mysterians—one-hit wonders best known for “96 Tears”—and Flying Wedge, a Detroit band that dropped off an amazing two-track record in the office of CREEM magazine in 1972 and vanished, until Simone tracked it down.

Filled with fresh insights about the music business, fandom, and what it takes to become a superstar, Madonnaland is as much a book for people who, like Simone, prefer “dark rooms, coffee, and state-subsidized European films filled with existential despair” as it is for people who can’t get enough of Madonna.

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Maybe We'll Make It
A Memoir
Margo Price
University of Texas Press, 2022

An October 2022 IndieNext pick

”[An] engaging and beautifully narrated quest for personal fulfillment and musical recognition...This is a fast-paced tale in which music and love always take center stage...A truly gifted musician, Price writes about her journey with refreshing candor.”—Kirkus, starred review

”Brutally honest…a vivid and poignant memoir.”—The Guardian

Country music star Margo Price shares the story of her struggle to make it in an industry that preys on its ingenues while trying to move on from devastating personal tragedies.

When Margo Price was nineteen years old, she dropped out of college and moved to Nashville to become a musician. She busked on the street, played open mics, and even threw out her TV so that she would do nothing but write songs. She met Jeremy Ivey, a fellow musician who would become her closest collaborator and her husband. But after working on their craft for more than a decade, Price and Ivey had no label, no band, and plenty of heartache.

Maybe We’ll Make It is a memoir of loss, motherhood, and the search for artistic freedom in the midst of the agony experienced by so many aspiring musicians: bad gigs and long tours, rejection and sexual harassment, too much drinking and barely enough money to live on. Price, though, refused to break, and turned her lowest moments into the classic country songs that eventually comprised the debut album that launched her career. In the authentic voice hailed by Pitchfork for tackling "Steinbeck-sized issues with no-bullshit humility," Price shares the stories that became songs, and the small acts of love and camaraderie it takes to survive in a music industry that is often unkind to women. Now a Grammy-nominated “Best New Artist,” Price tells a love story of music, collaboration, and the struggle to build a career while trying to maintain her singular voice and style.

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Meet Me with Your Black Drawers On
My Life in Music
By Jeannie Cheatham
University of Texas Press, 2006

Jeannie Cheatham is a living legend in jazz and blues. A pianist, singer, songwriter, and co-leader of the Sweet Baby Blues Band, she has played and sung with many of the greats in blues and jazz—T-Bone Walker, Dinah Washington, Cab Callaway, Joe Williams, Al Hibbler, Odetta, and Jimmy Witherspoon. Cheatham toured with Big Mama Thornton off and on for ten years and was featured with Thornton and Sippie Wallace in the award-winning PBS documentary Three Generations of the Blues. Her music, which has garnered national and international acclaim, has been described as unrestrained, exuberant, soulful, rollicking, wicked, virtuous, wild, and truthful. Cheatham's signature song, "Meet Me with Your Black Drawers On" is a staple in jazz and blues clubs across America and in Europe, Africa, and Japan.

In this delightfully frank autobiography, Jeannie Cheatham recalls a life that has been as exuberant, virtuous, wild, and truthful as her music. She begins in Akron, Ohio, where she grew up in a vibrant multiethnic neighborhood surrounded by a family of strong women. From those roots, she launched a musical career that took her from the Midwest to California, doing time along the way everywhere from a jail cell in Dayton, Ohio, where she was innocently caught in a police raid, to the University of Wisconsin-Madison—where she and Jimmy Cheatham taught music. Cheatham writes of a life spent fighting racism and sexism, of rage and resolve, misery and miracles, betrayals and triumphs, of faith almost lost in dark places, but mysteriously regained in a flash of light. Cheatham's autobiography is also the story of her fifty-years-and-counting love affair and musical collaboration with her husband and band partner, Jimmy Cheatham.

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The Mistakes of Yesterday, the Hopes of Tomorrow
The Story of the Prisonaires
John Dougan
University of Massachusetts Press, 2012
Early in the morning on June 1, 1953, five African American men boarded a van to make the 200-mile trip from Nashville to Memphis for a daylong recording session at the legendary Sun Studios, to be overseen by Sun founder Sam Phillips. One of the two tracks cut that day, "Just Walkin' in the Rain," would go on to become a regional R&B hit, Sun Records' biggest record of the pre-Elvis era. It would, however, be the group's only hit. They were the Prisonaires, a vocal quintet who had honed their skills while inmates at the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville.

In this book, John Dougan tells the story of the Prisonaires, their hit single, and the afterlife of this one remarkable song. The group and the song itself represent a compelling concept: imprisoned men using music as a means of cultural and personal survival. The song was re-recorded by white singer Johnnie Ray, who made it a huge hit in 1956. Over the years, other singers and groups would move the song further away from its origins, recasting the deep emotions that came from creating music in a hostile, controlled environment.

The story of the Prisonaires, for all of its triumphs, reflects the disappointment of men caught in a paradoxical search for personal independence while fully cognizant of a future consigned to prison. Their brief career and the unusual circumstances under which it flourished sheds light on the harsh realities of race relations in the pre–Civil Rights South. The book also provides a portrait of Nashville just as it was gaining traction as a nationally recognized music center.
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Never Givin' Up
The Life and Music of Al Jarreau
Kurt Dietrich
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2023
The inspiring story of an iconic singer from Milwaukee

This is the first biography to chronicle the life and career of one of the most distinguished and beloved musical artists to come out of Wisconsin: Al Jarreau. From his earliest days singing in the 1940s until his death in 2017, Jarreau defied categorization. While his biggest hit, “We’re In This Love Together,” is pure pop, he smashed music industry stereotypes as the first artist to win Grammy Awards in three genres: jazz, pop, and R&B. 

Never Givin’ Up traces Jarreau’s singing career from humble beginnings in his hometown of Milwaukee to international fame. The narrative includes his formative student days at Ripon College and the University of Iowa, as well as the years spent honing his craft at nightspots in Milwaukee, San Francisco, and the Twin Cities. After he was signed by Warner Bros. Records in 1975 at the age of 35, Jarreau achieved stardom with his innovative vocal stylings and electric live performances.

This book includes more than 20 sidebars with bonus information about every Jarreau album and behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the records. Author Kurt Dietrich conducted interviews with dozens of Al's friends, fellow musicians, professional associates, and family members—most notably Al’s sister, Rose Marie Freeman, who was a major contributor to the project. Featuring 54 images spanning Jarreau’s life, from never-before-seen family snapshots to stills from his legendary stage performances, Never Givin’ Up celebrates a Milwaukee hometown hero and global sensation. 
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Overweight Sensation
The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman
Mark Cohen
Brandeis University Press, 2013
Allan Sherman was the Larry David, the Adam Sandler, the Sacha Baron Cohen of 1963. He led Jewish humor and sensibilities out of ethnic enclaves and into the American mainstream with explosively funny parodies of classic songs that won Sherman extraordinary success and acclaim across the board, from Harpo Marx to President Kennedy. In Overweight Sensation, Mark Cohen argues persuasively for Sherman’s legacy as a touchstone of postwar humor and a turning point in Jewish American cultural history. With exclusive access to Allan Sherman’s estate, Cohen has written the first biography of the manic, bacchanalian, and hugely creative artist who sold three million albums in just twelve months, yet died in obscurity a decade later at the age of forty-nine. Comprehensive, dramatic, stylish, and tragic, Overweight Sensation is destined to become the definitive Sherman biography.
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Performing Piety
Singers and Actors in Egypt's Islamic Revival
By Karin van Nieuwkerk
University of Texas Press, 2013

In the 1980s, Egypt witnessed a growing revival of religiosity among large sectors of the population, including artists. Many pious stars retired from art, “repented” from “sinful” activities, and dedicated themselves to worship, preaching, and charity. Their public conversions were influential in spreading piety to the Egyptian upper class during the 1990s, which in turn enabled the development of pious markets for leisure and art, thus facilitating the return of artists as veiled actresses or religiously committed performers.

Revisiting the story she began in “A Trade like Any Other”: Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt, Karin van Nieuwkerk draws on extensive fieldwork among performers to offer a unique history of the religious revival in Egypt through the lens of the performing arts. She highlights the narratives of celebrities who retired in the 1980s and early 1990s, including their spiritual journeys and their influence on the “pietization” of their fans, among whom are the wealthy, relatively secular, strata of Egyptian society. Van Nieuwkerk then turns to the emergence of a polemic public sphere in which secularists and Islamists debated Islam, art, and gender in the 1990s. Finally, she analyzes the Islamist project of “art with a mission” and the development of Islamic aesthetics, questioning whether the outcome has been to Islamize popular art or rather to popularize Islam. The result is an intimate thirty-year history of two spheres that have tremendous importance for Egypt—art production and piety.

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Pistol Packin' Mama
Aunt Molly Jackson and the Politics of Folksong
Shelly Romalis
University of Illinois Press, 1999

A coal miner's daughter, Jackson grew up in eastern Kentucky, married a miner, and became a midwife, labor activist, and songwriter. Fusing hard experience with the rich Appalachian musical tradition, her songs became weapons of struggle. In 1931, at age fifty, she was "discovered" and brought north. There, she was sponsored and befriended by an illustrious circle of left-wing intellectuals and musicians that included Theodore Dreiser, Alan Lomax, and Charles and Pete Seeger. Along with Sarah Ogan Gunning, Jim Garland (two of Aunt Molly's half-siblings), Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and other folk musicians, Jackson served as a cultural broker who linked the rural working poor to big-city, left-wing activism. 

Shelly Romalis combines interviews with archival materials to construct an unforgettable portrait of an Appalachian woman who remained radical, raucous, proud, poetic, offensive, self-involved, and in spirit the "real" pistol packin' mama of the song.

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Red Hot Mama
The Life of Sophie Tucker
Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff
University of Texas Press, 2018

The “First Lady of Show Business” and the “Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” Sophie Tucker was a star in vaudeville, radio, film, and television. A gutsy, song-belting stage performer, she entertained audiences for sixty years and inspired a host of younger women, including Judy Garland, Carol Channing, and Bette Midler. Tucker was a woman who defied traditional expectations and achieved success on her own terms, becoming the first female president of the American Federation of Actors and winning many other honors usually bestowed on men. Dedicated to social justice, she advocated for African Americans in the entertainment industry and cultivated friendships with leading black activists and performers. Tucker was also one of the most generous philanthropists in show business, raising over four million dollars for the religious and racial causes she held dear.

Drawing from the hundreds of scrapbooks Tucker compiled, Red Hot Mama presents a compelling biography of this larger-than-life performer. Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff tells an engrossing story of how a daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants set her sights on becoming one of the most formidable women in show business and achieved her version of the American dream. More than most of her contemporaries, Tucker understood how to keep her act fresh, to change branding when audiences grew tired and, most importantly, how to connect with her fans, the press, and entertainment moguls. Both deservedly famous and unjustly forgotten today, Tucker stands out as an exemplar of the immigrant experience and a trailblazer for women in the entertainment industry.

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The Republic of Love
Cultural Intimacy in Turkish Popular Music
Martin Stokes
University of Chicago Press, 2010

At the heart of The Republic of Love are the voices of three musicians—queer nightclub star Zeki Müren, arabesk originator Orhan Gencebay, and pop diva Sezen Aksu—who collectively have dominated mass media in Turkey since the early 1950s. Their fame and ubiquity have made them national icons—but, Martin Stokes here contends, they do not represent the official version of Turkish identity propagated by anthems or flags; instead they evoke a much more intimate and ambivalent conception of Turkishness.

Using these three singers as a lens, Stokes examines Turkey’s repressive politics and civil violence as well as its uncommonly vibrant public life in which music, art, literature, sports, and journalism have flourished. However, Stokes’s primary concern is how Müren, Gencebay, and Aksu’s music and careers can be understood in light of theories of cultural intimacy. In particular, he considers their contributions to the development of a Turkish concept of love, analyzing the ways these singers explore the private matters of intimacy, affection, and sentiment on the public stage.

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Seeing Sideways
A Memoir of Music and Motherhood
By Kristin Hersh
University of Texas Press, 2021

Doony, Ryder, Wyatt, Bodhi. The names of Kristin Hersh’s sons are the only ones included in her new memoir, Seeing Sideways. As the book unfolds and her sons’ voices rise from its pages, it becomes clear why: these names tell the story of her life.

This story begins in 1990, when Hersh is the leader of the indie rock group Throwing Muses, touring steadily, and the mother of a young son, Doony. The chapters that follow reveal a woman and mother whose life and career grow and change with each of her sons: the story of a custody battle for Doony is told alongside that of Hersh’s struggles with her record company and the resulting PTSD; the tale of breaking free from her record label stands in counterpoint to her recounting of her pregnancy with Ryder; a period of writer’s block coincides with the development of Wyatt as an artist and the family’s loss of their home; and finally, soon after Bodhi’s arrival, Hersh and her boys face crises from which only strange angels can save them. Punctuated with her own song lyrics, Seeing Sideways is a memoir about a life strange enough to be fiction, but so raw and moving that it can only be real.

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Singers and Tales in the Twenty-First Century
David F. Elmer
Harvard University Press

Grounded in the intellectual legacies of two pioneering scholars of oral literature, Milman Parry (1902–1935) and Albert Lord (1912–1991), Singers and Tales in the Twenty-First Century gathers reflections on what the study of oral poetry might mean today across diverse poetic traditions, especially in light of ongoing global transformations that have dramatically reshaped and destabilized the very notion of tradition. This collection of essays spans disciplinary perspectives from Classics and comparative literature to musicology and anthropology. Oral traditions from ancient Greece and modern southeastern Europe, on which Parry and Lord focused, remain central in the present volume, but the book also offers important perspectives from regions beyond Europe, especially across Asia.

The title’s “singers and tales”—both in the plural, as opposed to an individual “singer of tales”—signals interest both in the polyphony of oral traditions and in the proliferation of methodologies and objects of study inspired by the work of Parry and Lord. Their notion of what has become known as the Oral-Formulaic Theory remains a necessary starting point—but only a starting point—for research on a whole range of verbal and musical arts.

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Singers Die Twice
A Journey to the Land of Dhrupad
Peter Pannke
Seagull Books, 2013
Singers Die Twice is the story of a life in music. One of Germany's best-known exponents of North Indian classical music, specifically dhrupad singing, Perer Pannke has traveled from his home in Germany to Varanasi, Delhi, Darbhanga, and the forests of Vrindaban to study classical Indian singing in the most famous gharanas—musical houses—of India. His richly woven story takes readers from the legendary beginning of the gharana in the eighteenth century into the last splendid days of the Maharaja of Darbhanga—the inspiration for Satyajit Ray's 1957 classic film, The Music Room—and into the present.

Along the way, we meet legendary singers whose names are still known to the devotees of dhrupad: the grand old Pandit Ram Chatur Mallik, the pious and inspiring Pandit Vidur Mallik, and both the masters and the humbler musicians and traveling players who bring music to the fields of Bihar, across India, and beyond. Singers Die Twice is the inspiring story of a master musician in the world that he loves.

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Social Voices
The Cultural Politics of Singers around the Globe
Edited by Levi S. Gibbs
University of Illinois Press, 2023
Singers generating cultural identity from K-Pop to Beverly Sills

Around the world and across time, singers and their songs stand at the crossroads of differing politics and perspectives. Levi S. Gibbs edits a collection built around the idea of listening as a political act that produces meaning. Contributors explore a wide range of issues by examining artists like Romani icon Esma Redžepova, Indian legend Lata Mangeshkar, and pop superstar Teresa Teng. Topics include gendered performances and the negotiation of race and class identities; the class-related contradictions exposed by the divide between highbrow and pop culture; links between narratives of overcoming struggle and the distinction between privileged and marginalized identities; singers’ ability to adapt to shifting notions of history, borders, gender, and memory in order to connect with listeners; how the meanings we read into a singer’s life and art build on one another; and technology’s ability to challenge our ideas about what constitutes music.

Cutting-edge and original, Social Voices reveals how singers and their songs equip us to process social change and divergent opinions.

Contributors: Christina D. Abreu, Michael K. Bourdaghs, Kwame Dawes, Nancy Guy, Ruth Hellier, John Lie, Treva B. Lindsey, Eric Lott, Katherine Meizel, Carol A. Muller, Natalie Sarrazin, Anthony Seeger, Carol Silverman, Andrew Simon, Jeff Todd Titon, and Elijah Wald

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Telling Stories, Writing Songs
An Album of Texas Songwriters
By Kathleen Hudson
University of Texas Press, 2001

Willie Nelson, Joe Ely, Marcia Ball, Tish Hinojosa, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lyle Lovett...the list of popular songwriters from Texas just goes on and on. In this collection of thirty-four interviews with these and other songwriters, Kathleen Hudson pursues the stories behind the songs, letting the singers' own words describe where their songs come from and how the diverse, eclectic cultures, landscapes, and musical traditions of Texas inspire the creative process.

Conducted in dance halls, dressing rooms, parking lots, clubs-wherever the musicians could take time to tell their stories-the interviews are refreshingly spontaneous and vivid. Hudson draws out the songwriters on such topics as the sources of their songs, the influence of other musicians on their work, the progress of their careers, and the nature of Texas music. Many common threads emerge from these stories, while the uniqueness of each songwriter becomes equally apparent. To round out the collection, Hudson interviews Larry McMurtry and Darrell Royal for their perspectives as longtime friends and fans of Texas musicians. She also includes a brief biography and discography of each songwriter.

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Theo
An Autobiography
Theodore Bikel
University of Wisconsin Press, 2002

An award-winning actor on screen and stage (The Defiant Ones, The African Queen, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof), an activist for civil rights and progressive causes worldwide, and a singer whose voice has won him great applause, Theodore Bikel here tells his own compelling life story. Born in Austria, raised in Palestine, educated in England, and with a stellar career in the United States and around the world, Bikel offers a personal history parallel to momentous events of the twentieth century. In an eloquent, fiercely committed voice, he writes of the Third Reich, the birth of the State of Israel, the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s, and the tumultuous 1960s in America. In a new postscript to this paperback edition, he looks at recent events in the Middle East and takes both sides to task for their excesses.

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Tom Ashley Sam Tom Ashley, Sam McGee, Bukka White
Tennessee Traditional Singers
Thomas G. Burton
University of Tennessee Press, 1981
Based on a deep understanding of several genres of music, Burton shows the diversity of traditional music, and particularly singing styles, in the state that is the gateway for blues, country, and folk music.
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The Unlikely Saga of a Singer from Ann Arbor
The Autobiography of Willis C. Patterson, Basso
Willis Patterson
Michigan Publishing Services, 2015
(From the Preface) Many budding musicians—even from affluent families with both parents living at home and providing a strong supportive environment, combined with constant encouragement—find it very challenging to earn a PhD and reach the pinnacle of a deanship and professorship at a competitive institution of higher learning in the United States of America. As you read this book you will find that no one informed Willis Patterson of this phenomenon because without having the aforementioned criteria, he accomplished those goals and many more.

The book’s main character begins his life, similar to a diamond in the rough, and over time evolves into a rare gem at maturity. These pages will reveal how Willis Patterson of Ann Arbor, Michigan developed from somewhat of a lost child in the 1930s into a: sophisticated academician (Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Supervision from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI); a superior vocal performer; Voice Department Chair, Fulbright Scholar; esteemed Master Voice Teacher; Choral and Glee Club director extraordinaire; University Leader in the recruitment and retention of Minority students (Voice/Performing/Composition); an established Church Choir Director; and Associate Academic Dean of the School of Music at one of America’s finest universities, the University of Michigan.

This book is about a very humble man of significant stature. Although he was motivated and driven to become the best he could be in his quest for excellence—by kicking open the door of opportunity whenever it was presented (audition ready)—he never forgot his family members or hometown acquaintances.
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"The Voice of Egypt"
Umm Kulthum, Arabic Song, and Egyptian Society in the Twentieth Century
Virginia Danielson
University of Chicago Press, 1997
Umm Kulthum, the "voice of Egypt," was the most celebrated musical performer of the century in the Arab world. More than twenty years after her death, her devoted audience, drawn from all strata of Arab society, still numbers in the millions. Thanks to her skillful and pioneering use of mass media, her songs still permeate the international airwaves. In the first English-language biography of Umm Kulthum, Virginia Danielson chronicles the life of a major musical figure and the confluence of artistry, society, and creativity that characterized her remarkable career.

Danielson examines the careful construction of Umm Kulthum's phenomenal popularity and success in a society that discouraged women from public performance. From childhood, her mentors honed her exceptional abilities to accord with Arab and Muslim practice, and as her stature grew, she remained attentive to her audience and the public reception of her work. Ultimately, she created from local precendents and traditions her own unique idiom and developed original song styles from both populist and neo-classical inspirations. These were enthusiastically received, heralded as crowning examples of a new, yet authentically Arab-Egyptian, culture. Danielson shows how Umm Kulthum's music and public personality helped form popular culture and contributed to the broader artistic, societal, and political forces that surrounded her.

This richly descriptive account joins biography with social theory to explore the impact of the individual virtuoso on both music and society at large while telling the compelling story of one of the most famous musicians of all time.

"She is born again every morning in the heart of 120 million beings. In the East a day without Umm Kulthum would have no color."—Omar Sharif
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Why Karen Carpenter Matters
By Karen Tongson
University of Texas Press, 2019

In the '60s and '70s, America's music scene was marked by raucous excess, reflected in the tragic overdoses of young superstars such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. At the same time, the uplifting harmonies and sunny lyrics that propelled Karen Carpenter and her brother, Richard, to international fame belied a different sort of tragedy—the underconsumption that led to Karen's death at age thirty-two from the effects of an eating disorder.

In Why Karen Carpenter Matters, Karen Tongson (whose Filipino musician parents named her after the pop icon) interweaves the story of the singer’s rise to fame with her own trans-Pacific journey between the Philippines—where imitations of American pop styles flourished—and Karen Carpenter’s home ground of Southern California. Tongson reveals why the Carpenters' chart-topping, seemingly whitewashed musical fantasies of "normal love" can now have profound significance for her—as well as for other people of color, LGBT+ communities, and anyone outside the mainstream culture usually associated with Karen Carpenter’s legacy. This hybrid of memoir and biography excavates the destructive perfectionism at the root of the Carpenters’ sound, while finding the beauty in the singer's all too brief life.

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Why Lhasa de Sela Matters
By Fred Goodman
University of Texas Press, 2019

An artist in every sense of the word, Lhasa de Sela wowed audiences around the globe with her multilingual songs and spellbinding performances, mixing together everything from Gypsy music to Mexican rancheras, Americana and jazz, chanson française, and South American folk melodies. In Canada, her album La Llorona won the Juno Award and went gold, and its follow-up, The Living Road, won a BBC World Music Award. Tragically, de Sela succumbed to breast cancer in 2010 at the age of thirty-seven after recording her final album, Lhasa.

Tracing de Sela’s unconventional life and introducing her to a new generation, Why Lhasa de Sela Matters is the first biography of this sophisticated creative icon. Raised in a hippie family traveling between the United States and Mexico in a converted school bus, de Sela developed an unquenchable curiosity, with equal affinities for the romantic, mystic, and cerebral. Becoming a sensation in Montreal and Europe, the trilingual singer rejected a conventional path to fame, joining her sisters’ circus troupe in France. Revealing the details of these and other experiences that inspired de Sela to write such vibrant, otherworldly music, Why Lhasa de Sela Matters sings with the spirit of this gifted firebrand.

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Why Tammy Wynette Matters
Steacy Easton
University of Texas Press, 2023

How Tammy Wynette channeled the conflicts of her life into her music and performance.

With hits such as “Stand By Your Man” and “Golden Ring,” Tammy Wynette was an icon of American domesticity and femininity. But there were other sides to the first lady of country. Steacy Easton places the complications of Wynette’s music and her biography in sharp-edged relief, exploring how she made her sometimes-tumultuous life into her work, a transformation that was itself art.

Wynette created a persona of high femininity to match the themes she sang about—fawning devotion, redemption in heterosexual romance, the heartbreak of loneliness. Behind the scenes, her life was marked by persistent class anxieties; despite wealth and fame, she kept her beautician’s license. Easton argues that the struggle to meet expectations of southernness, womanhood, and southern womanhood, finds subtle expression in Wynette’s performance of “Apartment #9”—and it’s because of these vocal subtleties that it came to be called the saddest song ever written. Wynette similarly took on elements of camp and political critique in her artistry, demonstrating an underappreciated genius. Why Tammy Wynette Matters reveals a musician who doubled back on herself, her façade of earnestness cracked by a melodrama that weaponized femininity and upended feminist expectations, while scoring twenty number-one hits.

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Woman Walk the Line
How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives
By Holly Gleason
University of Texas Press, 2017

Full-tilt, hardcore, down-home, and groundbreaking, the women of country music speak volumes with every song. From Maybelle Carter to Dolly Parton, k.d. lang to Taylor Swift—these artists provided pivot points, truths, and doses of courage for women writers at every stage of their lives. Whether it’s Rosanne Cash eulogizing June Carter Cash or a seventeen-year-old Taylor Swift considering the golden glimmer of another precocious superstar, Brenda Lee, it’s the humanity beneath the music that resonates.

Here are deeply personal essays from award-winning writers on femme fatales, feminists, groundbreakers, and truth tellers. Acclaimed historian Holly George Warren captures the spark of the rockabilly sensation Wanda Jackson; Entertainment Weekly’s Madison Vain considers Loretta Lynn’s girl-power anthem “The Pill”; and rocker Grace Potter embraces Linda Ronstadt’s unabashed visual and musical influence. Patty Griffin acts like a balm on a post-9/11 survivor on the run; Emmylou Harris offers a gateway through paralyzing grief; and Lucinda Williams proves that greatness is where you find it.

Part history, part confessional, and part celebration of country, Americana, and bluegrass and the women who make them, Woman Walk the Line is a very personal collection of essays from some of America’s most intriguing women writers. It speaks to the ways in which artists mark our lives at different ages and in various states of grace and imperfection—and ultimately how music transforms not just the person making it, but also the listener.

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