07/10/02
Shout, Girl, Shout and Shake, Rattle and Roll
    by Fiona Barnes (reader)

If your children are old enough to be really into rock and roll, and it's one of those summer days when even their favorite sounds have gotten a little boring, you might want to have two books about the subject on hand: Shake, Rattle, and Roll by Holly George-Warren and Shout, Sister, Shout! by Roxane Orgill.
Shake, Rattle, and Roll is a kind of over-sized gallery of the founders of Rock and Roll -- from Chuck Berry and Fats Domino to Richie Valens and James Brown. Each two-page chapter of this up-beat survey has a brief history and discography of a famous rock pioneer on one side, with a terrific, "outsider-art" styled portrait of the singer by Laura Levine on the other. George-Warren's book is packed with familiar and arcane facts, like the origin of Bo Diddley's name in a Southern folk instrument called the diddley bow, or the beginnings of Little Richard's famous lick, "A wop bop a loo bop a wop bam boom!" And there are eye-opening sections about singers like LaVern Baker -- who began her career as Little Miss Sharecropper, and hit it big with "Tweedlee Dee," "Tra La La," and "Jim Dandy" -- or Wanda Jackson, the Queen of Rockabilly who is still playing today, over forty years after Elvis convinced her to blend her Oklahoma country sound with rock.

Shout, Sister, Shout! is for more serious young historians of American popular music. In it, Roxane Orgill explores in some detail the lives of a dozen of the remarkable women who have been animating it for the past century. She begins with such early chanteuses as Sophie Tucker, May Rainey, and Bessie Smith -- who all made unique contributions to our cultural history, and who all added their own special touches to the repertoire of what we today refer to as the Diva. Vaudeville super-star Sophie Tucker, for example, publicly chastized her first big-time New York audience for arriving late and interrupting her singing. That was pretty nervy for a woman in 1908. So was the renowned blues singer, Ma Rainey, who toured the country in the 1920s in an enormous and expensive private bus and wore an elaborate dress that weighed in at more than twenty pounds. Shout, Sister, Shout! travels a fascinating road up to the present and to contemporary singers like Bette Midler, Madonna, and Lucinda Williams. It's a wonderful, important tribute. And both of these books are sure to start some new, old sounds playing around your home this summer

Copyright 2002 John Cech

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Tuesday, 12-Jul-2005 15:03:17 EDT


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