Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nightingales Song or Dancing in the Street

Nightingale's Song

Author: Robert Timberg

Robert Timberg weaves together the lives of Annapolis graduates John McCain, James Webb, Oliver North, Robert McFarlane, and John Poindexter to reveal how the Vietnam War continues to haunt America. Casting all five men as metaphors for a legion of well-meaning if ill-starred warriors, Timberg probes the fault line between those who fought the war and those who used money, wit, and connections to avoid battle. A riveting tale that illuminates the flip side of the fabled Vietnam generation—those who went.

Publishers Weekly

Looking at the lives and careers of five Naval Academy graduatesamong them John Poindexter and Oliver Northfellow alumnus Timberg probes the connections between the legacy of the Vietnam war and the Iran-Contra scandal. (Oct.)

See also: Fundamentals of Meal Management or Just Me Cookin in Germany

Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit

Author: Suzanne E Smith

Detroit in the 1960s was a city with a pulse: people were marching in step with Martin Luther King, Jr., dancing in the street with Martha and the Vandellas, and facing off with city police. Through it all, Motown provided the beat. This book tells the story of Motown—as both musical style and entrepreneurial phenomenon—and of its intrinsic relationship to the politics and culture of Motor Town, USA.

As Suzanne Smith traces the evolution of Motown from a small record company firmly rooted in Detroit's black community to an international music industry giant, she gives us a clear look at cultural politics at the grassroots level. Here we see Motown's music not as the mere soundtrack for its historical moment but as an active agent in the politics of the time. In this story, Motown Records had a distinct role to play in the city's black community as that community articulated and promoted its own social, cultural, and political agendas. Smith shows how these local agendas, which reflected the unique concerns of African Americans living in the urban North, both responded to and reconfigured the national civil rights campaign.

Against a background of events on the national scene—featuring Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Nat King Cole, and Malcolm X—Dancing in the Street presents a vivid picture of the civil rights movement in Detroit, with Motown at its heart. This is a lively and vital history. It's peopled with a host of major and minor figures in black politics, culture, and the arts, and full of the passions of a momentous era. It offers a critical new perspective on the role of popular culture in the process of politicalchange.

Library Journal

Smith (history, George Mason Univ.) uses Motown to examine the shift in African American protest ideologies from integration to separatism. Motown, she argues, sprang from the strong tradition of black cultural and economic self-determination that was at the foundation of Detroit's most important black institutions, such as poet Margaret Danner's Boone House and WCHB, the first African American-owned radio station. Smith chastises Motown for its hesitating to change with the times, as Detroit-based Black Muslims became more vocal in their demand for African American rights and the 1967 riot broke out. She also suggests that the label's relocation from Detroit to Los Angeles in 1972 is final evidence of the bankruptcy of its version of African American capitalism. Writing in a somewhat choppy style and using mostly secondary sources, Smith successfully contextualizes Motown within Detroit culture, but she na vely condemns the logical consequences of the entrepreneurial spirit that drove its founder, Berry Gordy Jr., from his Detroit home to an international audience. Recommended for libraries serving social historians.--David P. Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Foreword - Edward Morris

Motown Records is an American success story and an African American triumph. To Smith, however, the fabled enterprise symbolizes a great deal more. The assistant professor of history at George Mason University argues that Motown not only took its name and talent roster from Detroit, but that it was shaped as well by the city's general reputation for racial tolerance and a labor-intensive auto industry that gave rise to a black middle-class. The drama inherent in Smith's account is that Motown was born and came of age just as the Civil Rights movement was gaining strength and momentum. That being the case, Berry Gordy, the company's founder and guiding presence until it was sold, faced more than the usual uphill battle all small businesses confront. He also had to walk the gossamer line between grooming his artists to appeal to a white audience with buying power and demonstrating his solidarity with the struggles of his own people.
Although she relies primarily on secondary sources, Smith performs a valuable service in showing that Gordy, rather than being the rugged individualist often depicted, was the product of a hard-working and supportive family, one that had displayed a relentless self-help ethic for generations. She does not spare Gordy when discussing the way he treated his artists and songwriters, providing them a "family" atmosphere on the one hand while taking financial advantage of them on the other. Even as he made timid forays into politics by issuing occasional albums with civil rights themes, Gordy discouraged his artists from taking political stands in their music. Gordy faced his own political and ethical dilemmas against the background of a Detroit that was rapidly changing. It manifested its own forms of racism with community-destroying "urban renewal" programs and police brutality that led to widespread riots. Its auto industry moved to the suburbs and displaced workers (mostly African Americans) with automation. As Motown grew, Smith says, it gradually lost the local character that incubated and first energized it.
To be sure, Smith is mainly concerned with the larger issues, but she does a good job of giving behind-the-scenes glimpses of the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and other Motown myths. While capitalism worked very well for Motown and its principals, Smith concludes, it was a far less effective system in exposing and eradicating the roots of racism.

Table of Contents:
Introduction: "Can't Forget the Motor City"1
1"In Whose Heart There Is No Song, To Him the Miles Are Many and Long": Motown and Detroit's Great March to Freedom21
2"Money (That's What I Want)": Black Capitalism and Black Freedom in Detroit54
3"Come See about Me": Black Cultural Production in Detroit94
4"Afro-American Music, without Apology": The Motown Sound and the Politics of Black Culture139
5"The Happening": Detroit, 1967181
6"What's Going On?" Motown and New Detroit209
Conclusion: "Come Get These Memories"247

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