Cover image for Ain't nothing like the real thing : how the Apollo Theater shaped American entertainment
Title:
Ain't nothing like the real thing : how the Apollo Theater shaped American entertainment
ISBN:
9781588342690
Publication Information:
Washington, DC : National Museum of African American History and Culture through Smithsonian Books, c2010.
Physical Description:
264 p. : ill. (some col.), map ; 29 cm.
Contents:
Black metropolis : New York City's Harlem, 1914 to 1934 -- New Deal, new swing : the Apollo Theater in the 1930s and 1940s -- The soul of the Apollo : the Apollo Theater in the 1950s and 1960s -- A changing Harlem, a changing Apollo : the Apollo Theater in the 1970s and 1980s -- A new Apollo for a new Harlem : the Apollo Theater in the 1990s and 2000s.
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Summary

Summary

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment celebrates the seventy-five year history of the Apollo Theater, Harlem's landmark performing arts space and the iconic showplace for the best in jazz, blues, dance, comedy, gospel, R & B, hip-hop, and more since it opened its doors in 1934. This beautifully illustrated book is the companion volume to an exhibition of the same name, organized by the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in collaboration with the Apollo Theater Foundation. It offers a sweeping panorama of American cultural achievement from the Harlem Renaissance to the present through the compelling story of a single institution.

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing brings together a diverse group of twenty-four writers to discuss the theater's history and its intersection with larger social and political issues within Harlem and the nation. Featuring more than 300 photographs, this volume brings to life the groundbreaking entertainers in music, dance, and comedy--Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, James Brown, Moms Mabley, Redd Foxx, Honi Coles, and Savion Glover, to name a few--who made the Apollo the icon that it is today. The Apollo Theater has been the setting for soaring achievement and creativity in the face of enormous challenges. In telling this truly American story, Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing is a celebration of the lasting contributions of African Americans to the nation's cultural life.


Author Notes

Richard Carlin is a music writer and editor. He is the author of Words of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways and general editor of the Facts on File Encyclopedia of American Popular Music , among other works. He is currently executive editor for college music textbooks at Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Kinshasha Holman Conwill is deputy director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The former director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, she has organized more than forty exhibitions and writes frequently on art and museum management.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The Apollo Theater has provided a stage for performers and a setting for the creativity of black American music that has hugely influenced American music in general. Recognizing the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Apollo Theater, this book offers essays by entertainment historians, critics, and journalists chronicling the legacy of the storied theater. The Apollo opened in Harlem in 1934 when black musicians faced severe limitations on where they could perform and how far their careers might go. Long before American Idol, the Apollo was offering a chance for talented amateurs to launch their careers, among them, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, James Brown, Dionne Warwick, the Jackson Five, and others. Contributors recall memorable performances, tributes, and rallies, including a celebration of the election of Barack Obama. Photographs enhance this history of the Apollo, which is set against the backdrop of historical changes in musical styles and genres, from burlesque to bebop to rhythm and blues to hip hop, as well as the social and racial changes as segregation ebbed and black music went mainstream. Music lovers and historians will appreciate this tribute.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist


Choice Review

This volume--and the 2011 exhibition at the National Museum of African American History and Culture it catalogs--celebrates the history of the Apollo Theater, one of Harlem's most famous attractions. The book is divided into five major sections, which deal with the growth of Harlem in 1914, the Apollo from its birth to the 1940s, the golden years of the 1950s-60s, changes in the 1970s-80s, and the theater's rebirth in the 2000s. Each chapter looks at the entertainers of the era who starred at the Apollo and includes a "spotlight section" on a significant performer (these range from Bessie Smith to Savion Glover). For those born after 1990, the book serves as an excellent account of the civil rights era and the struggle for acceptance of black artists in the US. Entertainers covered include Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Moms Mabley, Smokey Robinson, Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, James Brown, the Jackson 5, and many more. This beautifully illustrated book is a welcome addition to the study of African American performers and their impact on the US as a whole. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. M. D. Whitlatch Buena Vista University


Library Journal Review

Here, 26 historians, performers, and critics each describe a part of Apollo Theater history, share their own experience, or spotlight a performer. The Apollo's significance in popular culture and social history is undeniable; performers who survived the critical audience either became stars or got even more famous than they'd been. The list of performers gracing the stage dates back to 1934 and includes the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, "Moms" Mabley, and Cab Calloway. This book-a companion to the 75th-anniversary traveling exhibition of the same name, which begins at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (Apr. 23-Aug. 29, 2010)-is rich in detail and features photos, playbills, and the occasional index card containing longtime Apollo owner Frank Schiffman's critiques of performers. VERDICT For readers with an interest in popular music, New York history, or African American history.-Brian Sherman, McNeese State Univ. Lib., Lake Charles, LA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.