Good Booty

Good Booty coverGood Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music
Ann Powers
Dey Street Books (sold by HarperCollins Publishers)
August 15, 2017, 453 pages
Kindle edition $12.99, Amazon hardcover $16.49

One of my guilty pleasures is reading histories of popular culture. Good Booty is such a book. While both “black and white” and “body and soul” of the subtitle form part of the narrative, the book is largely about sex in American music. While you may see reviews of this book stating that it is a rock and roll history, it is far more than that. Powers goes back to the slave population of New Orleans and talks about the suggestive music they supposedly sang in their off hours. She discusses a performer in the early twentieth century whose performance included the words “it’s tight like that.”

For me, the most important part of the book admittedly was the coverage of modern rock, from Elvis on. To get there, however, you have to go through gospel. Powers writes:

quoteGospel gave rock and soul many musical innovations, but its deepest contribution was the conviction that the soul’s erotic fulfillment is a matter of life and death. The same could be said of the blues; but in gospel, there’s more movement and more hope.

In fact she tells us that Elvis was once turned down for membership in a gospel group.

The book is very well researched with copious footnotes. I do love the new Kindle footnote feature that pops the footnote up on the current page rather than taking you to the footnotes at the end of the book or chapter. Very cool.

I thought I saw a couple of glaring errors. In referring to the Carole King hit first made famous by The Shirelles she refers to the song as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”  A little research, however, shows that was in fact the title of the song, even though the lyrics include the word “still.”

However, I think she made one error with respect to Carly Simon. She says the song “Anticipation” was about foreplay. According to Sheila Weller in Girls Like Us, Simon wrote the song when Cat Stevens was three hours late for a planned date.

That small point aside, Good Booty is a fascinating, well-written, thoroughly researched work on popular culture.



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