Title: Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination
Author: Jack Hamilton – Narrator: Ron Butler
Genre: Non-Fiction / Culture / Music
First published: 2016
Edition: Audio Book
By the time Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, the idea of a black man playing lead guitar in a rock band seemed exotic. Yet a mere ten years earlier, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley had stood among the most influential rock and roll performers. Why did rock and roll become “white”?
I am not sure what I expected from this book and I am not sure what I got from it was as enlightening as I had hoped, but it was interesting for sure. This book was particularly interesting to me as I do tend to listen to a lot of rock music.
I thought the subject was endlessly fascinating. The fact that rock and roll was made popular by mostly black artists such as Chuck Berry, but is now an almost entirely white affair is a peculiar shift.
As far as books on culture and music go, this one leans towards the academic side. In fact, at times it reads like a long research paper. It basically looks at the rock and roll music of the 1960s and juxtaposes black and white artists active at the same time. For example it looks at Bob Dylan in relation to Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin to Dusty Springfield and Janis Joplin.
The author talks a lot about authenticity and how authenticity for white artists is different from what it means for black artists. The author claims that for a white artist authenticity is writing your own songs and being original as an individual. For a black artist authenticity means being true to your roots, so to their race and not an individual. I thought this was such an interesting point, because it does ring true to this day.
However, I felt like the book told me a lot without actually making real inroads into what it was trying to say. I felt just taking the 60s was not quite enough to really make the point properly. I understand that during time this shift was most prominent, but there is so much to say on this subject and I felt the author may have made a better point if he had included a longer time period. I also felt like the author could have expanded on race in relation to gender much more and I was disappointed that the book did not go into that more.
So, in short, I did enjoy this book. It made some interesting points and I learned a lot about black and white musical culture at that time, but I felt so much was left unexplored that I simply wanted it do more. I definitely want to read more on this subject, as I feel there is so much left to talk about, but I am happy to have read this book.
I would encourage you to read this book if it sounds interesting to you. It is definitely worth reading, but it is not the definitive book on the subject.
5 out of 7 stars