Winner of the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Winner of the American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation
Winner of the PEN Oakland–Josephine Miles Award
Winner of the MAAH Stone Book Award
A Pitchfork Best Music Book of the Year
A Rolling Stone Best Music Book of the Year
“Brooks traces all kinds of lines, finding unexpected points of connection…inviting voices to talk to one another, seeing what different perspectives can offer, opening up new ways of looking and listening by tracing lineages and calling for more space.”
—New York Times
An award-winning Black feminist music critic takes us on an epic journey through radical sound from Bessie Smith to Beyoncé.
Daphne A. Brooks explores more than a century of music archives to examine the critics, collectors, and listeners who have determined perceptions of Black women on stage and in the recording studio. How is it possible, she asks, that iconic artists such as Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé exist simultaneously at the center and on the fringe of the culture industry?
Liner Notes for the Revolution offers a startling new perspective on these acclaimed figures—a perspective informed by the overlooked contributions of other Black women concerned with the work of their musical peers. Zora Neale Hurston appears as a sound archivist and a performer, Lorraine Hansberry as a queer Black feminist critic of modern culture, and Pauline Hopkins as America’s first Black female cultural commentator. Brooks tackles the complicated racial politics of blues music recording, song collecting, and rock and roll criticism. She makes lyrical forays into the blues pioneers Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith, as well as fans who became critics, like the record-label entrepreneur and writer Rosetta Reitz. In the twenty-first century, pop superstar Janelle Monae’s liner notes are recognized for their innovations, while celebrated singers Cécile McLorin Salvant, Rhiannon Giddens, and Valerie June take their place as cultural historians.
With an innovative perspective on the story of Black women in popular music—and who should rightly tell it—Liner Notes for the Revolution pioneers a long overdue recognition and celebration of Black women musicians as radical intellectuals.
Brooks traces all kinds of lines, finding unexpected points of connection…inviting voices to talk to one another, seeing what different perspectives can offer, opening up new ways of looking and listening by tracing lineages and calling for more space.
Daphne Brooks has written a gloriously polyphonic book. Moving through the tumult of the twentieth century and the millennium, she scores, archives, and curates the history of Black woman musicians and their radical modernities, all created in a culture that presumed they had no voices or minds. What did they do to be so Black, brilliant, and blue? Listen. And read on.
Brooks takes on a wide-ranging study of Black female artists, from elders like Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters to Beyoncé and Janelle Monáe. But she reaches far beyond music, exploring writers like Zora Neale Hurston and Pauline Hopkins…Liner Notes is a secret history…connecting the sonic worlds of Black female mythmakers and truth-tellers.
Brooks moves deftly between eras, from early-twentieth-century blues and vaudeville to Lemonade-era Beyoncé…In articulating the intellectual labor of so many Black women artists—unknown, ‘undertheorized,’ or both—she implicitly acknowledges those who, for whatever reason, didn’t make it into the capital-A archive, but whose contributions surround us nonetheless…Liner Notes is a loud warning shot: seeing Black women everywhere is not the same as seeing Black women.
Takes on the weighty task of sifting through more than a century’s worth of music history, cultural criticism and long forgotten archives to explore the revolutionary practices of Black women musicians…Brooks is effusive in her belief that not only did these women exist in spaces previously thought to be exclusively white, she suggests their impact can be felt in all spheres of music today.
A passionate book, written with a vigorous confidence…Brooks’s command of history and her reading are broad and deep…Instinct says there is a large audience that is not only sympathetic to what she has to say but would be charged up by Brooks’s ideas, that would hear in the music what Brooks hears.
Effortlessly poetic, deeply historical, and insistently imaginative, Liner Notes for the Revolution doesn’t merely give voice to unheeded and crucial innovators; it offers a new method for approaching music history itself.
Daphne Brooks’s brilliant evocation of what gets lost when women of color don’t speak, let alone sing, is one of the most moving testaments to the power of silence, and what breaking that silence means, that I have ever read. Vivid, joyful, and heartbreaking in its passionate understanding of soul in all its manifestations, Liner Notes for the Revolution is itself a new kind of music: propulsive, witty, wise, and true.
For Daphne Brooks, black feminist sound is sensuous thought. In Liner Notes for the Revolution, she feels and shows and says this with such devotion, such critical and emotional intelligence, such archival commitment and dexterity, and such urgent social aspiration that listening itself is new again.
Liner Notes for the Revolution is a groundbreaking and breathtaking volume from one of our leading cultural historians that will forever change the way we write and think about American culture. Daphne Brooks insists upon the genius of Black women music-makers, listeners, and critics. This transformative work of intellectual generosity is sure to join the ranks of classic works such as Amiri Baraka’s Blues People and Greil Marcus’s Lipstick Traces.
It went so many unexpected places and it fed me. I was especially drawn to the under-told stories of trailblazing women who were the collectors, archivists, and storytellers. She’s made what has been in the shadows legible. It’s full of stories of creative resistance and persistence. Perfect for this moment.
A sweeping survey of Black women’s contributions to music history and a rigorous mapping of their lives as intellectuals. From Bessie Smith to Beyoncé…A positively revolutionary ‘critical re-attunement.’
A groundbreaking study that is necessary reading for scholars of Black studies, women’s studies, sound studies, and performance studies. The methods and arguments put forth by Brooks will undoubtedly inspire the growth of Black feminist archival scholarship dedicated to unearthing the stories of many more sidelined, yet-to-be-recognized culture makers.
Through storytelling, analysis, and archival research, Liner Notes for the Revolution spans generations of Black women as musical pioneers, including Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, and Tina Turner, and calls attention to their resounding influence.
Enlightening…a fresh perspective on more than a century’s worth of Black female musicians…Brooks combines an impressive archive of musical works and the artists’ own words to convincingly reveal how they each impacted popular culture. Music aficionados should take note.
A spirited study of how Black women musicians and writers have informed each other despite gatekeepers’ neglect and dismissals…A sui generis and essential work on Black music culture destined to launch future investigations.
A lyrical masterpiece that takes readers on an exhilarating journey through a century of Black sound from Bessie Smith to Beyoncé…Brooks’ liner notes are a ‘requiem’ for the oversight of Black women musicians and their intellectual resonance.
An impressive exploration of Black women’s intellectuality in music.
Rich with insights…A rigorous and sweeping counter-history of American pop.
- 2021, Winner of the The MAAH Stone Book Award
- 2021, Joint winner of the Josephine Miles Book Award
- 2022, Winner of the PROSE Awards
- 2022, Winner of the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Awards
- 2022, Winner of the Harry Shaw and Katrina Hazzard-Donald Award for Outstanding Work in African-American Popular Culture Studies
- 2022, Winner of the American Book Awards
- 2022, Joint winner of the ARSC Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research
- 2023, Winner of the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation Awards
- 608 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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