Race, Nostalgia, and Vocal Group Harmony
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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We have a special connection to the music of our youth. The words, melodies, and rhythms that fill our relatively uncluttered and still developing teenage brains leave imprints that last throughout our lives. The makers of this music also leave lasting impressions. They are avatars of the optimism and innocence, unbridled energy and impulsive rage, unalloyed joy and intense sadness of our youth, emotions that seem so much more...
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This book would not have been possible without the help of a constellation of teachers, advisers, colleagues, musicians, family, and friends, many of whom are listed below. My gratitude begins with heartfelt thanks to the faculty and staff of the New York University Department of Music who gave me the necessary institutional support to commence this endeavor and provided me with a community of empathic fellow academic travelers as I worked. For insight and...
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My association with the doo-wop world as a musician has afforded me an unusual vantage point for studying the roots and meaning of this music. I began to get to know the people of this community more than twenty years ago, but the community itself had developed almost two decades earlier, with the advent of the oldies circuit. The circuit provided new performance opportunities...
CHAPTER 1. THE ROOTS OF VOCAL HARMONY
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Doo-wop is a musical culture that has a long history. As Greg Woods, a member of Shirley Alston Reeves’s band, put it, “Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Doo-wop did not just spring up over night. It has a legacy. Slave owners didn’t like us singing. They were afraid we were passing along information, which we did.”1 There are written examples and accounts of colonial-era Europe an American music making, but traces of pre-nineteenth-century African American musical life are scant.2 Recognizing and exploring the...
CHAPTER 2. THE BIRTH OF DOO-WOP
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In the 1950s, no one was yet calling the music doo-wop, but it was in these years that the nostalgic, racial, social, and economic semantic weight behind the word began to accumulate. One of the most famous New York doo-wop groups is the Cadillacs. Their story is doo-wop’s story. “Well, basically, I’m with a group, as you know, Speedo and the Cadillacs, which is a New York group, born...
CHAPTER 3. SHORTCUT TO NOSTALGIA (includes illustrations)
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By the end of 1950s the vocal groups who had started recording and performing a half decade earlier were finding it increasingly difficult to put songs on the charts. The Cadillacs, having broken up and regrouped, attempted to mimic the style of one of the most popular groups of the time, the Coasters, who were known...
CHAPTER 4. THE DOO-WOP COMMUNITY
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The doo-wop community today is a social network that comprises four subgroups, who are affected differently by certain endemic issues. For the singers recognition and reconciliation, which encompass both financial recompense and artistic and historical appreciation, are extremely important—in a word, they want respect. The mediators, (the intermediaries—from promoters to record collectors—between the...
CHAPTER 5. THE OLDIES CIRCUIT
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I began playing on the oldies circuit in 1987 with Speedo and the Cadillacs, and then twelve years later I started working with Shirley Alston Reeves, the former lead singer of the Shirelles. My relationship with both groups, on both the professional and the personal level, has grown steadily deeper ever since. Being on the stage and making music has always been the first order of business, but certain experiences compelled...
AFTERWORD. THE PERSISTENCE OF HARMONY
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The reason these groups have this longevity is because the songs were great. These songs will live forever. The Marshak groups are a case in point. None of those groups have original members and people don’t care. That’s what interests me most about that era. The sentiment...
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Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 9 photographs
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: American Popular Music
Series Editor Byline: Jeffrey Melnick, Rachel Rubin