The Meaning of Soul

Black Music and Resilience since the 1960s

The Meaning of Soul

Refiguring American Music

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Book Pages: 216 Illustrations: Published: August 2020

Author: Emily J. Lordi

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Music > Popular Music

In The Meaning of Soul, Emily J. Lordi proposes a new understanding of this famously elusive concept. In the 1960s, Lordi argues, soul came to signify a cultural belief in black resilience, which was enacted through musical practices—inventive cover versions, use of falsetto and adlibs, and deployment of false endings. It was through these soul techniques that artists such as Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, and Minnie Riperton performed virtuosic survivorship and thus helped to galvanize black communities in an era of peril and promise. These are the soul legacies and strategies that artists such as Prince, Solange Knowles, and Flying Lotus carry into the twenty-first century. Breaking with prior understandings of soul as a vague masculinist political formation that is synonymous with the Black Power Movement, Lordi offers a vision of soul that foregrounds the intricacies of musical craft, the complex personal and social meanings of the music, the dynamic movement of soul across time, and the leading role played by black women in this musical-intellectual tradition.



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Emily J. Lordi is Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University and author of Donny Hathaway Live and Black Resonance: Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature.

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Table of Contents Forthcoming
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0959-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0869-9