Cover image for Ready for a brand new beat : how "Dancing in the street" became the anthem for a changing America
Title:
Ready for a brand new beat : how "Dancing in the street" became the anthem for a changing America
ISBN:
9781594487224
Physical Description:
xxi, 263 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Contents:
Calling out around the world -- Are you ready? -- A brand new beat -- Summer's here -- The time is right for dancing in the street -- It doesn't matter what you wear -- Timeline of the Summer of 1964.
Summary:
Can a song change a nation? In 1964, Marvin Gaye, record producer William "Mickey" Stevenson, and Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter wrote "Dancing in the Street." The song was recorded at Motown's Hitsville USA Studio by Martha and the Vandellas. Released on July 31, the song was supposed to be an upbeat dance recording--a precursor to disco, a song about the joyousness of dance, the song of a summer. But events overtook it, and the song became one of the anthems of American pop culture. The Beatles had landed in the U.S. in early 1964. By that summer, the '60s were in full swing. 1964 was the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Act, and the lead-up to a dramatic election that completely changed American politics. As the country grew more radicalized in those few months, "Dancing in the Street" gained currency as an activist anthem. The song took on new meanings, multiple meanings, for many different groups that were all altered as the country changed. Told by the writer who is legendary for finding the big story in unlikely places, Ready for a Brand New Beat chronicles that extraordinary summer of 1964 and showcases the momentous role that a simple song about dancing played in our nation's history.--Publisher's description.
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Summary

Summary

Can a song change a nation? In 1964, Marvin Gaye, record producer William 'Mickey' Stevenson, and Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter wrote 'Dancing in the Street.' Recorded at Motown's Hitsville USA Studio by Martha and the Vandellas, it was supposed to be an upbeat dance recording - a precursor to disco, a song about the joyousness of dance, the song of a summer. But events overtook it, and the song became one of the anthems of American pop culture.

The Beatles landed in the United States in early 1964. By that summer, the '60s were in full swing. 1964 was the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Act, and the lead-up to a dramatic election that completely changed American politics. As the country grew more radicalized in those few months, 'Dancing in the Street' gained currency as an activist anthem. The song took on new meanings, multiple meanings, for many different groups that were all altered as the country changed.

From the writer legendary for finding the big story in unlikely places, Mark kurlansky's Ready for a Brand New Beat recounts that extraordinary time and showcases the role that a simple song about dancing played in our nation's history.

Praise for Mark Kurlansky

'Every once in a while a writer of particular skill takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight.' David McCullough

'Fascinating stuff . . . Kurlansky has a keen eye for odd facts and natural detail.' The Wall Street Journal

'Kurlansky continues to prove himself remarkably adept at taking a most unlikely candidate and telling its tale with epic grandeur.' Los Angeles Times


Author Notes

Mark Kurlansky is the author of The Basque History of the World, the New York Times bestseller Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World (among the New York Public Library's Best Books of the Year in 1998), as well as A Chosen Few: The Resurrection of European Jewry; A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny, and several acclaimed works of short fiction and journalism about the Caribbean. He spent seven years as the Caribbean correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.

He lives in New York City.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1964, Motown, a little record label from Detroit, grew into a voice for a generation, releasing, according to Kurlansky, "60 singles, of which 70% hit the Top 100 chart and 19 were #1 hits." Kurlansky (Salt) deftly chronicles the story of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street, "a Motown song that made the transition from the early to late 1960s-from hope and idealism to urban riots and the escalation of war in Vietnam. In meticulous detail, he tells the story of the song itself: Ivy Jo Hunter, Mickey Stevenson, and Marvin Gaye wrote a new track that Stevenson had promised to his wife, Kim Weston. Released in August 1964, "Dancing in the Street" climbed up the Billboard charts to reach the #2 spot by October. The song's lyrics had different meanings for different audiences-many white listeners heard it as a party song, while many black listeners embraced it as a song of liberation and revolution. Enduringly popular, "Dancing in the Street" has been covered at least 35 times, by musicians from the Grateful Dead and Van Halen to Ramsey Lewis and Laura Nyro, and its opening riffs inspired the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

Fascinating but flawed, the latest from Kurlansky (Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man, 2012 etc.) suggests that not only was the Martha and the Vandellas' hit the anthem for a time of profound change, but a call to arms for rioting militants in its "invitation across the nation." The author is on solid ground when he keeps a tight focus on Motown, Berry Gordy and the hit machine the mogul established in Detroit along the lines of the city's automobile industry: "A bare frame of a street singer could go through the Motown plant and come out a Cadillac of a performer." He shows how Gordy got rich, his artists got famous, and his studio musicians and some of his songwriters got shafted. He explains how Motown's changes reflected a changing America, as dreams of integration shattered with the King assassination, the rise of Black Power and the rioting in the streets. "It was also suggested that the popularity of the song Dancing in the Street' had encouraged people to take to the streets," writes Kurlansky in an oddly passive construction that proceeds to cite a "rumor" that the hit was banned from the airwaves. Plainly, change was in the air, and to overload this one hit with too much revolutionary significance in a 1964 that also gave the world "The Times They Are A-Changin" and "A Change Is Gonna Come" blurs cause and effect. And then there are all the nit-picky errors: that "(Michael) Bolton achieved stardom in the 1980s with his hard rock band Black Jack [sic]," that the sophisticated, debonair Chuck Berry was "a wild-looking black manwho hopped around the stage madly," that Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" was "swing." Perhaps the book's biggest howler lies in the understatement that "many people were affected by the King murder." An ambitious thematic arc, but the devil's in the details.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* In July 1964, nearly 23-year-old Martha Reeves walked into a house in Detroit with a hand-painted wooden sign above the door that declared Hitsville U.S.A. Indeed, Motown was her home away from home. In this compelling, fascinating, and entertaining biography of Martha and the Vandellas' classic Dancing in the Street, versatile Kurlansky (Birdseye, 2012) manages to tell not only the story of a song but also a record label alongside a social history of 1960s America. The famous names associated with Motown are here, including its founder, Berry Gordy Jr., and one of its most iconic singers, Marvin Gaye. But other stories frame the rise and popularity of Motown and form the backbone of the book, including the civil rights movement, the freedom riders, the 1963 March on Washington, the British invasion, the Gulf of Tonkin, the riots in Watts and in other cities across the U.S., and white flight. In addition, Kurlansky discusses the song's various interpretations party song, civil rights anthem, black nationalist anthem, feminist anthem as well as other songs that seem to mimic its lyrics, from the Rolling Stones' Street Fighting Man to Bruce Springsteen's Racing in the Street. A rousing history of an iconic song.--Sawyers, June Copyright 2010 Booklist


Table of Contents

Introduction Calling Out Around the Worldp. xv
Chapter 1 Are You Ready?p. 1
Chapter 2 A Brand New Beatp. 51
Chapter 3 Summer's Herep. 109
Chapter 4 The Time Is Right for Dancing in the Streetp. 159
Chapter 5 It Doesn't Matter What You Wearp. 209
Acknowledgments As Long As You Are Therep. 239
Appendix 1 Timeline of the Summer of 1964p. 241
Appendix 2 The Discography of the Songp. 245
Bibliographyp. 247
Photo Creditsp. 253
Indexp. 255