• Daphne Brooks on Truth-Telling Music

    African American Studies scholar Daphne Brooks tells the back stories of Black women in music and the cultural impact of their songs. 

  • "Juke": Bluesman Bobby Rush on the Roots of Rock and Roll

    by Bobby Rush with Herb Powell

    Blues musician Bobby Rush's new autobiography chronicles his life and career, and the way that the appropriation of Black music into American popular culture often left Black entertainers behind. Read here how he remembers the roots of rock and roll. 

  • Reverberations of the Photography of Jazz

    by Jeffrey Mifflin

    The photographs of William Gottlieb and other observers of jazz's golden age deserve more attention for capturing and creating the aesthetics of the music. 

  • The Radical Politics of Nina Simone

    by Chardine Taylor-Stone

    "On the anniversary of her death, we can look at how the story of Simone’s political life is told, and who is telling it; at what they choose to include, and what they do in fact ‘erase’."

  • Sounds of Freedom: The Music of Black Liberation

    Shana Redmond and Rickey Vincent discuss their research, which deals with the ways that musical expression has been integrated into the politics of Black freedom in different moments (and different musical styles, including the Black Panther Party's own funk band). 

  • In ‘Genius: Aretha,’ Respecting the Mind, Not Just the Soul

    "The full scale of Franklin’s contributions to her own music has long been obscured. She was a gifted songwriter and a superb pianist. In the studio, she was a taskmaster, pushing herself and her collaborators until they captured the exact sound she heard in her head — not easy for a Black female musician of her time."

  • The Baddest Man in Town

    by Eric McHenry

    Writer Eric McHenry recounts picking up the documentary trail (started in the 1970s by John Russell David) of the notorious "Stagger Lee" Shelton, whose reign of terror in early 20th century St. Louis became immortalized in song and legend.

  • How Black Women Musicians Defined What We Call Culture

    Daphne Brooks's new book "Liner Notes for the Revolution" examines the ways that Black women as creators, critics and consumers of popular music have advanced a political vision of transforming society. 

  • The Culture Warped Pop Music – For Good

    Partly due to the way streaming service users listen, the structures of pop music songs have changed in recent years; although today's hits are built differently than those of the 1960s, it's part of a long pattern of change in pop. 

  • Black Spirituals as Poetry and Resistance

    The author reflects on the experience of collecting oral history interviews from Black Brooklynites. The way her respondents understood death offers insight into the communal impacts of the COVID pandemic. 

  • He Was Born Into Slavery, but Achieved Musical Stardom

    Thomas Wiggins became a musical sensation in the pre-Civil War era, but never controlled his earnings or legacy. Today, preservationists are working to separate fact from legend and showcase his compositions. 

  • Fifty Years Later, ‘Tapestry’s’ Hope And Optimism Still Resonates

    by Tanya Pearson

    "Sincere, earnest and personal, 'Tapestry' embodied the emerging political argument ‘the personal is political.’ This phrase became a defining characteristic of second wave feminism at a time when women and others challenged the institutions of marriage, the nuclear family and its values and state control of women’s reproductive rights."

  • “Making a Living by the Sweat of Her Brow”: Hazel Dickens and a Life of Work

    by Emily Hilliard

    "Hazel’s song catalog is often divided into separate categories of personal songs, women’s songs, and labor songs. But in her view and experience, these issues all bled together; her songs address struggle against any form of domination and oppression, whether of women, workers, or herself."

  • What J-Lo Sang

    by Mark F. Fernandez

    Jennifer Lopez's Inaugural performance showed that Woody Guthrie’s lyric, his notion of an inclusive America, still resonates today as Americans ponder questions of unity.