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Ready For a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem for a Changing America
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Ready For a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem for a Changing America [Format Kindle]

Mark Kurlansky

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

Praise for Ready for a Brand New Beat
“Historians and music lovers alike will be grateful for Mr. Kurlansky’s thorough appreciation of this iconic song.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Mr. Kurlansky has come up with a book that will make you hum its theme song.” —The New York Times
“A fun and informative read about a cool song.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Comprehensive…effective…a strong case for why ‘Dancing in the Street’ would be widely interpreted as a call to action.” —The New Yorker
Praise for Mark Kurlansky

"Every once in a while a writer of particular skill takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight." -- David McCullough

“Fascinating stuff . . . [Kurlansky] has a keen eye for odd facts and natural detail.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Kurlansky continues to prove himself remarkably adept at taking a most unlikely candidate and telling its tale with epic grandeur.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Brilliant… Journalistic skills might be part of a writer’s survival kit, but they infrequently prove to be the foundation for literary success, as they have here. …. Kurlansky has a wonderful ear for the syntax and rhythm of the vernacular… For all the seriousness of Kurlansky’s cultural entanglements, it is nevertheless a delight to experience his sophisticated sense of play and, at times, his outright wicked sense of humor.” —The New York Times Book Review

Présentation de l'éditeur

Can a song change a nation? In 1964, Marvin Gaye, record producer William “Mickey” Stevenson, and Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter wrote “Dancing in the Street.” The song was recorded at Motown’s Hitsville USA Studio by Martha and the Vandellas, with lead singer Martha Reeves arranging her own vocals. Released on July 31, the song was supposed to be an upbeat dance recording—a precursor to disco, and a song about the joyousness of dance. But events overtook it, and the song became one of the icons of American pop culture.


The Beatles had landed in the U.S. in early 1964. By the summer, the sixties were in full swing. The summer of 1964 was the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the beginning of the Vietnam War, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the lead-up to a dramatic election. As the country grew more radicalized in those few months, “Dancing in the Street” gained currency as an activist anthem. The song took on new meanings, multiple meanings, for many different groups that were all changing as the country changed.


Told by the writer who is legendary for finding the big story in unlikely places, Ready for a Brand New Beat chronicles that extraordinary summer of 1964 and showcases the momentous role that a simple song about dancing played in history.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2175 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 288 pages
  • Editeur : Riverhead (11 juillet 2013)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00AWLC1N6
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Stretching a point, lotsa filler, mildly interesting 17 juillet 2013
Par Timothy J. Bazzett - Publié sur
The central premise of Mark Kurlansky's READY FOR A BRAND NEW BEAT is, to begin with, a pretty thin one: How a single Motown record, "Dancing in the Street," became a major unifying factor in the civil rights movement of the sixties. And how the Motown sound in general served to soften the gradual move toward integration by providing a music that appealed to youth of all colors.

While the book is constructed in a fairly coherent and consistent fashion to support these things, I'm not sure it's all that convincing. And I was - and still am - a huge fan of those peak Motown years. I have vivid memories of dancing in the dark smoke-filled "pit" of a GI dive in Germany in 1965 to the captivating sounds of the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go" and "Baby Love," as well as the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself" - a tune I will always associate with learning to do the "mashed potatoes," under the careful tutelage of my Philly friend and roommate, LeRoy Thomas. Yeah, Motown was just becoming huge on the jukeboxes around the world. I heard their tunes in Kassel, Copenhagen and Hamburg that year, all nearly as popular as the Beatles and other Brit bands that were dominating the music charts world wide.

But this book? Well, it's just a bit too much like a history book - which it IS, I realize. It is filled with facts, stories and minor anecdotes about the origins of Motown and how "Dancing in the Street" was written and recorded. And that part I rather enjoyed. It was all the background information about R&B, "race music" and rock and roll's early days that became rather a chore to plow through, because it's all been written before - and I've read a lot of those books already. And then the sections about the the freedom marches, the "burn, baby, burn" inner city riots of the sixties - what started them, how they escalated and played out. Again, it's all been done before. Attaching the Motown element and one particular song to all these events is, as I said, a rather thin thread upon which to weave a whole 'nother book. There are a few interesting facts here I'd not heard before, although a bit off the author's central subject, such as, didja know that Desi Arnaz's trademark song, "Babalu," was African in origin, an homage to "a Yoruba religious spirit from Nigeria?" On the other hand, if you'd read anything at all about Motown records or its founder, Berry Gordy, Jr., then you already knew about all his women and the many children he fathered and also how "the musicians were not paid well and many ended their lives in poverty." He also controlled how they dressed, moved, and behaved. In fact those matching glittery and pastel costumes and careful robotic choreography often reminded me of what Lawrence Welk was doing with his band members and singers around the same time. Creepy and unlikely comparison, I know, but still ... Yeah, all this stuff is interesting, but it's not new.

And how "Dancing.." became "the sound track of the Civil Rights era" as no less than President Obama has called it, is a question that remains open to interpretation. After all, Martha Reeves herself has always insisted that "'It is a party song' .. She was horrified that she would be associated 'with people rioting and burning.'" I do get it, however, that song lyrics can take on new lives and mean different things to different people, which is what this whole book is about, I suppose. But the later chapter about the dozens of other artists and groups who have covered "Dancing..." seemed forced and largely irrelevant. Who, after all, would remember or care that Brenda Lee, Neal Diamond, the Everly Brothers and Michael Bolton - just to name a few - all recorded the song. I'm pretty sure that any real music fan associates the song solely with its original artists, Martha and the Vandellas.

But how I ramble on. Like Kurlansky's book did, actually. It's not really a bad book, but it became, finally, something of a slog, just a bit too tedious and scholarly for my taste. Kurlansky had an interesting idea, one that might have worked well as a magazine piece, say. But a whole book? Nope. Maybe he was hoping to capitalize on the 50th anniversary of the song coming up next year. But whatever his reasons, he was reaching. There's simply not enough NEW information here to justify yet another book about Motown or the civil unrest of the sixties.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The improbable confluence of a highly-charged political and racial environment with a dynamite new popular song. 23 juillet 2013
Par Paul Tognetti - Publié sur
"The goal of Motown was clear in the logo they printed on their record jackets: "The Sound of Young America". It was no longer about black and white. The lucrative market was teenagers and it was biracial. Berry Gordy understood that in this climate the music would have to change, too, and he would have to introduce "a brand new beat", a new sound. He was in search of the Motown sound. And it would have to be a sound that would work well on small transistor radios and car radios, their radios." -- pp. 85-86

If there was one thing Berry Gordy Jr. was not looking for it was controversy. As spring melted into summer in 1964 Motown records was well on its way to becoming the most successful independent record label in America. Gordy had perfected a formula for churning out bright, exciting pop tunes that appealed to teens of all races. On July 31, 1964 Motown released a pulsating new single by Martha and the Vandellas. It was supposed to be a party song. What Berry Gordy could not have possibly known was that "Dancing In the Street" would become the anthem for the young people who would take to the streets in the years that followed protesting everything from racial discrimination, our escalating involvement in Vietnam and police brutality. Mark Kurlansky recalls these breathtaking events in his irresistible new book "Ready For a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing In The Street" Became the Anthem For a Changing America". I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about the premise of the book but Kurlansky has managed to pull it off with a great deal of finesse. This is one of the most entertaining books I have read in quite some time.

In the opening chapter of "Ready For a Brand New Beat" Mark Kurlansky reprises the late `40s and early 1950's for his readers. In those days whites were listening to bland pop tunes on the radio while most Negroes were enjoying the blues and R&B on black-owned radio stations. To fully comprehend the tumultuous events of the 1960's it is extremely important to understand what went down before. I thought the author did a terrific job of getting his readers up to speed. One of the key factors in the development of rock and roll was the introduction of the transistor radios in the mid-1950s. These portable, affordable radios could fit in your pocket. Before long just about every kid in America would have one. Increasingly, white teenagers were being introduced to black music and they positively loved it. Berry Gordy was among the first to figure this out and his Motown Record Company would focus on delivering exciting new sounds to young people, both black and white. The formula worked like a charm for a few years but as Mark Kurlansky chronicles in his book events would soon spiral out of control. America would change in ways that Berry Gordy could not possibly have anticipated.

Just two days after "Dancing In the Street" was released, events took place that would eventually lead to the escalation of the war in Vietnam. In 1964, 17 year olds comprised the largest age group in America. These young people were still too young to vote but they quickly came to the realization that as soon as they turned 18 they could be drafted to fight in a war in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, more than 700 college students travelled to the Deep South to help register black voters in what would come to be known at the Mississippi Freedom Summer. In just a matter of days three of these young people would turn up missing and eventually be found dead. Meanwhile, riots erupted in Harlem after a 15 year old African-American male was shot and killed by a white policeman. Similar outbursts would occur in Elizabeth, NJ, Chicago and in Jacksonville, FL. Then in February, 1965 the black human rights activist Malcolm X was gunned down in New York City. He was 39. Malcom X never bought into the civil rights movement and had urged every black person to own a gun. He firmly believed that "only violence or the threat of violence will get results." It would not be long before cries of "Black Power" would supplant the non-violent protests of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tensions were mounting and the carefree existence that most of America's teenagers had known was quickly evaporating. Still, for the vast majority of American teenagers "Dancing In the Street" was nothing more than an up-tempo dance tune. But for those who were not content to remain silent, for those who took to the streets, "Dancing In The Street" took on an entirely new meaning. As the author recalls: "Unknown to Reeves, the theme song of these disruptions around the country, or "cross the nation," just like "Burn, baby, burn" in Watts was "Dancing In The Street". Strangely, the uprisings, too, often took on a party spirit." To this day, Martha Reeves insists that it was nothing but a party song.

All these years later and for a variety of reasons, "Dancing In The Street" remains one of the most popular tunes to emerge from the 1960's. The tune sounds as fresh and vibrant today as it did the day that it was recorded. To date, there have been some 35 cover versions. In "Ready For a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing In The Street" Became the Anthem For a Changing America" Mark Kurlansky has captured the essence of what was going on in America in the 1960's through the lens of one incredible song. Much to my surprise, he managed to pull it off in a coherent and very entertaining fashion. Whether you are 16 or 60, "Dancing In The Street" would make for some awesome summer reading. Highly recommended!
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Can't Forget the Motor City 12 juillet 2013
Par takingadayoff - Publié sur
On the way to answering the question of how Dancing in the Street became an anthem for a changing America, Mark Kurlansky tells us how the song was recorded (in two takes!), goes into the history of Motown music and producer Berry Gordy, and races across the civil rights era of the Sixties.

I have to confess, I didn't know that Dancing in the Street was any kind of anthem. I've heard it these past forty years and thought no more about it than that it's a song that almost demands that you dance to it. But it turns out I was wrong about that. If you listen to some of the many cover versions of Dancing in the Street (and Kurlansky has included a list of every cover version to date), you'll find at least several that are less than danceable. Check out the YouTube of a very early Carpenters version that sounds rushed. The version by the Leningrad Cowboys and the Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble is downright scary.

In explaining how different groups used the song as a theme for their causes, Kurlansky points out how composers and singers have little or no control over their works once they're released into the world. If the words that may have been merely a call to get out there and dance, instead inspire people to gather and fight for their rights, it doesn't matter what Marvin Gaye or Martha Reeves or anyone else meant when they recorded the song. Record producer Jon Landau, quoted in the book, says "When work goes out into the public the artist interpretation becomes just another interpretation. It's not necessarily the deepest interpretation. It's just one interpretation."

Kurlansky includes a discography, index, and timeline, but no notes. I would have liked more evidence of the claim, which Kurlansky repeats unchallenged in this book, that riots broke out in the late 1950s when teenagers were sent into an uncontrollable destructive frenzy by rock and roll music. Please. I suspect pre-rock drummers Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich inspired more frenzy than Bill Haley ever did. The often repeated claims of rock and roll riots have a whiff of urban legend about them. An interesting article from 1986 in the Los Angeles Times looks into the events of thirty years before and finds that several of the riots had little to do with music and more to do with alcohol and concert-goers left waiting for hours for the stars to show up.

Kurlansky covers a lot of ground in his book and provides a comprehensive bibliography for those who want to dive a little deeper.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Good read, fact-filled and wonky 2 août 2013
Par J. Humphreys - Publié sur
I just finished the book 10 minutes ago. I struggled to finish the last chapter. Kurlansky has a great essay about the social and political insights of this song and he presents them with so much context you are left wondering "why do I need to know this?" Some of the detail, while interesting, felt out of place. It almost felt as though he wrote the core of the book and then realized it wasn't enough for a book and went back and piled it on the beginnings and end. It would have been an even better as a shorter piece in, say, the New Yorker. The book is interesting when it does make the points. One thing for sure is you'll never listen to the song or view Motown the same way again. And if you are a fan if Motown, give it a read. There are not many books about Motown.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting but flawed look at a song and an era 2 novembre 2013
Par Trevor Seigler - Publié sur
In his new book "Ready for a Brand New Beat," Mark Kurlansky makes the argument that "Dancing In the Street," the 1964 smash hit by Martha and the Vadellas, took on a life of its own as an anthem for the civil rights movement and became much more than the "party song" it was intended to be. He weaves together an interesting narrative that combines Motown, the "Freedom Summer" killings of civil rights workers in Mississippi, the outbreak of riots and violence in inner-city ghettos, and the ultimate betrayal of several of Motown's greatest talents by label president Berry Gordy. He also discusses the exodus of whites from Detroit, the "Motor City" whose fortunes have drastically changed from the days of Martha and the Vadellas and other Motown greats. That he does so around a song that, at best, is an integral part of the Motown story but something of a footnote in the history of popular music is a bit of a flaw.

Granted, as the book shows, "Dancing" wasn't just about, well, dancing. In the African-American song tradition, coding your words to hide their meanings from white overseers was a fact of life on the plantations, as open expressions of discontent or rebellion might bring you the wrong kind of attention from the owners. So in some respects, "Dancing" was an obvious choice for the rioters or protestors who took to the streets to protest the modern-day conditions of servitude and oppression that characterized not just the South but much of the country during the period. But it seems like overreaching on Kurlansky's part, especially once the song's heyday in the mid-Sixties passes and he ends up cataloging the various covers over the ensuing decades (including the "God bless 'em, they're trying" mid-Eighties take by Mick Jagger and David Bowie, along with the hilariously over-the-top video). While the song certainly reflects the changing attitudes about race in the Civil Rights era, and its use as a rallying cry in riots is documented, I'm not sure that I believe Kurlansky's assertion about the song's overall importance, Many of the songs from that era could have served as the backbone for the book's central argument about the way that music in general reflected the younger generations' growing away from the prejudices of the past.

But the book stands up as a documentation of Motown's promise and betrayal; Berry Gordy revitalized the idea of black-owned businesses by trying to sell to as wide an audience as possible. He did so by restraining the performers from being "too black" and by choosing subject matter innocuous to white ears. In the same time period that Martin Luther King and Malcolm X seemed to battle for the soul of the civil rights movement, Motown's most popular songs were about unrequited love. But the artists under contract felt pressure to address these issues, and over time they began to crack through the bubble Gordy constructed in Hitsville USA. Gordy paid his songwriters very little, and pushed the career of Diana Ross at the expense of others (including Martha Reeves). When he moved west, Detroit was no longer able to claim Motown as its own. In a sense, Gordy forgot the Motor City, and it set the city on a path which could only end in bankruptcy.

The book is mindful of these losses (including that of Marvin Gaye, one of the song's cowriters whose life story ends most tragically, at the hands of his jealous father), but in the long run it's a celebration of the song's uplifting message. And for that I can excuse the almost odd preoccupation Kurlansky has with hyping the song as worthy of the book-length treatment. As someone who feels passionately about music myself, I can understand the desire to have songs mean more than they might on the surface. In the end, it's not for me to say that Kurlansky was misguided in writing this book around "Dancing In the Street," because the overall beauty of the book outweighs the flaws. So give the book a chance, and if you don't think it was worth the effort, that's fine. But I defy you to get the song out of your head when you do finish the book.
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