Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom by Peter Guralnick Download (read online) free eBook (PDF ePub Kindle)

Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom

A gripping narrative that captures the tumult and liberating energy of a nation in transition, Sweet Soul Music is an intimate portrait of the legendary performers–Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, Solomon Burke, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Al Green among them–who merged gospel and rhythm and blues to create Southern soul music. Through rare interviews and with

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    Simon Reid

    Jan 14, 2015

    rated it
    it was amazing

     · 
    review of another edition

    This is still the definitive account of southern soul, over thirty years since it was published. Many of the key players were still around and happy to be interviewed when Peter Guralnick researched the book. As one who has read his also-definitive Elvis biographies Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love might expect, he does a fantastic job piecing together all of their anecdotes to tell a coherent, entertaining story about amazing music being created.

    Where the Elvis project had its atmospheri

    Where the Elvis project had its atmospheric, novelistic Prologue which jumped forward to to the meeting of Sam Phillips and Dewey Phillips in the Peabody Drugstore, here the intro is a quite dry – Guralnick explains at length how he defines soul, how he first heard and understood it, how it aligned with the Civil Rights Movement, why and how he came to write the book… Interesting enough, but when he does get going, Guralnick eschews hindsight, and plays to what I consider to be his strength; truly brilliant detail that mostly lets the cultural history speak for itself. So as he quickly sums up the foundations of R&B (the rise of Atlantic Records, the crossover successes of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke), the unrivalled insights and incredible anecdotes come thick and fast. In particular, the brief biography of Solomon Burke (sometime mortician, pharmacist, preacher, fast food caterer, and King of Rock ‘n’ Soul) has a good laugh on every page.

    After that, the heart of the book is in the stories of the plucky individual scenes that nurtured such incredible music: Stax, Muscle Shoals, James Brown (an enigmatic scene unto himself). Within those stories, Guralnick profiles all the soul superstars, the great also-rans, the talented musicians, the visionary producers, the witty songwriters, and the canny businessmen behind the sound. One from the latter category (and a source for many of the book’s stories) is Jerry Wexler, the A&R genius at Atlantic who gave Stax, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin a platform. He comes in for plenty of criticism throughout, but in the course of the book, it becomes self-evident how little of 60s soul would have happened were it not for his ears and his business nous.

    Another kind of hero (and another main source) emerges in Dan Penn, When he arrived in Muscle Shoals from Vernon, his hip demeanour, deep knowledge of R&B, and not least his amazingly versatile and soulful voice were all highly improbable for a white teenager hailing from small-town Alabama. He went on to co-write some of the standards of southern soul, many of them with Chips Moman or Spooner Oldham – ‘The Dark End Of The Street’, ‘You Left The Water Running’, ‘Do Right Woman’…the list goes on. His only explanation is that this all began with him ‘sniffing gasoline’.

    This book was full of fresh revelations and has only deepened my understanding and appreciation of the music, which is exactly what I’d hoped to get out of it. Perhaps the main aspect that’s dated since its publication is the discography in the back, in that many of the recommended compilations have been superseded by newer reissues. Even so, it does a fine job of pointing one in the general direction of the essential works, and we’re lucky to live in a time when some of this music is no longer prohibitively scarce and expensive, only to be heard by collectors and insiders. For instance, Penn’s once-mythic demo recordings are now readily available from the marvellous UK reissue label Ace Records.
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