Songbooks: The Literature of American Popular Music
In Songbooks, critic and scholar Eric Weisbard offers a critical guide to books on American popular music from William Billings's 1770 New-England Psalm-Singer to Jay-Z's 2010 memoir Decoded. Drawing on his background editing the Village Voice music section, coediting the Journal of Popular Music Studies, and organizing the Pop Conference, Weisbard connects American music writing from memoirs, biographies, and song compilations to blues novels, magazine essays, and academic studies. The authors of these works are as diverse as the music itself: women, people of color, queer writers, self-educated scholars, poets, musicians, and elites discarding their social norms. Whether analyzing books on Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, and Madonna; the novels of Theodore Dreiser, Gayl Jones, and Jennifer Egan; or varying takes on blackface minstrelsy, Weisbard charts an alternative history of American music as told through its writing. As Weisbard demonstrates, the most enduring work pursues questions that linger across time period and genre—cultural studies in the form of notes on the fly, on sounds that never cease to change meaning.
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