It is important to understand that Black women in music are largely unrepresented in the rock and roll and the popular music canon. There is also a disparity of Black women music critics and musicologists who are encouraged to write and publish works on the topic of such Black women in music. Nonetheless, 2021 brings a refreshing duo of books by Black women who painstakingly and thoroughly cover music through a Black feminist lens.
Author Daphne Brooks writes an impressive exploration of Black women’s intellectuality in music with her new book, “Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound.” There is not enough, and there can never be enough information about the revolution of covering music and sound that does not put white men at the forefront of the popular music conversation.
The book covers racial politics in music criticism, revealing Zora Neale Hurston who Brooks considers to be a sound archivist and explores the complexity and innovation of album liner notes of women like Janelle Monae. The book also features ruminations on intelligent and creative musicians like Cécile McLorin Salvant, Rhiannon Giddens and Valerie June.
Maureen Mahon, the author of “Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll” tackles the exclusivity of American music which systemically overlooks the contributions of Black women in rock and roll.
Mohan uses diverse resources like interviews, recordings and archival materials to weave together the historical importance of Black women like Betty Davis, Tina Turner, Big Mama Thornton and other under-sung trailblazers who set the tone for what the world understands to be rock music. She reveals the effects of race, sexuality and gender on these and many more women, giving voice to music history from a woman of color’s point of view.
These books are highly recommended for anyone who is interested in deepening their knowledge of the legacies and profoundness of Black women in music.
“Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound” can be purchased via the Harvard University Press website and “Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll” can be purchased online through the Duke University Press website.