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Just My Soul: Responding Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness and Rare Relations by Brian Ward

This is an ambitious work with fully 25% of the book taken up with notes, sources and indices. The author tracks the ups and downs of Rhythm and Blues music with parallel events in the black political arena over the same period (roughly, 1954-78). It is instructive to recall the odd assortment of con men,race hustlers, Communists, criminals, talented artists and genuine patriots who co-mingled in those years.

Many of the author’s problems seem to be those of distance. A discussion of racial politics without noting the differences of de facto and de jure segregation doesn’t do justice to the subject. Record distribution is mentioned very late in the game without giving this part of the music business the weight it deserves.

It is not clear that the author has been well served by his publisher. Knowledgeable readers would have caught the misspellings and mistakes of fact (Harry Weinger was never a member of the Platters; Amiri Baraka did not found Jazz Mobile). Someone should have questioned the discussion of royalties. In the space of twelve pages, we learn that 3% is “skimpy”, 5% is “proper”, 8% is \”meagre” and that “most artists receive a minimum of 10%, some as much as 20-25%”.

Originally Published