Liner Notes for the Revolution

February 23, 2021
Liner Notes for the Revolution

An award-winning Black feminist music critic takes us onan epic journey through radical sound from Bessie Smith toBeyoncé.Daphne A. Brooks explores more than a century of music archivesto examine the critics, collectors, and listeners who havedetermined perceptions of Black women on stage and in the recordingstudio. How is it possible, she asks, that iconic artists such asAretha Franklin and Beyoncé exist simultaneously at the center andon the fringe of the culture industry? Liner Notes for theRevolution offers a startling new perspective on theseacclaimed figures—a perspective informed by the overlookedcontributions of other Black women concerned with the work of theirmusical peers. Zora Neale Hurston appears as a sound archivist anda performer, Lorraine Hansberry as a queer Black feminist critic ofmodern culture, and Pauline Hopkins as America's first Black femalecultural commentator. Brooks tackles the complicated racialpolitics of blues music recording, song collecting, and rock androll criticism. She makes lyrical forays into the blues pioneersBessie Smith and Mamie Smith, as well as fans who became critics,like the record-label entrepreneur and writer Rosetta Reitz. In thetwenty-first century, pop superstar Janelle Monae's liner notes arerecognized for their innovations, while celebrated singers CécileMcLorin Salvant, Rhiannon Giddens, and Valerie June take theirplace as cultural historians. With an innovative perspective on thestory of Black women in popular music—and who should rightly tellit—Liner Notes for the Revolution pioneers a long overduerecognition and celebration of Black women musicians as radicalintellectuals.