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Ready for a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem for a Changing America

Mark Kurlansky.
Publisher Riverhead  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.25 x 1 inches
ISBN 9781594487224
Pages/Publication Date 263/2013
Daedalus Item Code 43127
This item is not available.
Can a song change a nation? Lauded for such food-based chronicles as Cod, The Big Oyster, and Salt, Mark Kurlansky returns here to the pop-culture vein of 1968: The Year that Rocked the World, this time taking us back to the summer of 1964. The Beatles had already landed, touching off the "British invasion" on the charts, and Motown was responding with rhythm & blues singles like "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas. But 1964 also saw the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the rise of Black Power, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in Vietnam, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the dramatic run-up to the presidential election. Exploring the relationship between R&B music and the civil rights movement, Kurlansky traces how "Dancing in the Street" took on new meaning and gained currency as an activist anthem.

"In July 1964, nearly 23-year-old Martha Reeves walked into a house in Detroit with a hand-painted wooden sign above the door that declared 'Hitsville U.S.A.' Indeed, Motown was her home away from home. In this compelling, fascinating, and entertaining biography of Martha and the Vandellas' classic 'Dancing in the Street,' versatile Kurlansky manages to tell not only the story of a song but also a record label alongside a social history of 1960s America. The famous names associated with Motown are here, including its founder, Berry Gordy Jr., and one of its most iconic singers, Marvin Gaye. But other stories frame the rise and popularity of Motown and form the backbone of the book, including the civil rights movement, the freedom riders, the 1963 March on Washington, the British invasion, the Gulf of Tonkin, the riots in Watts and in other cities across the U.S., and white flight. In addition, Kurlansky discusses the song's various interpretations—party song, civil rights anthem, black nationalist anthem, feminist anthem—as well as other songs that seem to mimic its lyrics, from the Rolling Stones' 'Street Fighting Man' to Bruce Springsteen's 'Racing in the Street.' A rousing history of an iconic song."—Booklist (starred review)

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