The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader: Histories and Debates, 2nd Edition
Part 1 Before 1950
1. Irving Berlin in Tin Pan Alley
How do Irving Berlin’s early songs (in the words of Charles Hamm) “encode or
reflect or perpetuate or shape or empower . . . the culture and values of [the]
complex community” to which Berlin belonged? Provide some examples. What
are some examples of Berlin’s songwriting collaborations? What is the
significance of these collaborations? What is the importance of performance to
Berlin’s apparently standardized songs?
2. Technology, the Dawn of Modern Popular Music, and the ”King of Jazz”
According to Whiteman, what were some of the difficulties created by early
sound recording technology? What role did different dance steps play in the
transformation of Whiteman’s music?
3. Big Band Swing Music: Race and Power in the Music Business
How does Marvin Freedman characterize the musical differences between black
and white musicians? How does he evaluate these differences? What does Irving
Kolodin see as significant differences between black and white bands in terms of
their working conditions and opportunities? What opportunities are particularly
important in whether a band is successful or not?
4. Solo Pop Singers and New Forms of Fandom
What factors does Bing Crosby see as particularly important to his success?
Based on Martha Weinman Lear’s account, how would you describe the role
played by Frank Sinatra in the formation of identity of his young female fans?
Why does Neil McCaffrey prefer Benny Goodman’s band to Frank Sinatra? How PRS/Study Questions 2
does McCaffrey describe the differences between fans of swing bands and solo
5. Hillbilly and Race Music
How does Kyle Crichton explain the musical industry’s attitude toward race and
hillbilly music? What is significant about these musics’ popularity?
6. Blues People and the Classic Blues
According to Leroi Jones, why were classic blues singers women? What was the
relationship between minstrelsy, vaudeville, and the classic blues?
7. The Empress of the Blues
What is the overriding impression of Bessie Smith created by those who knew
8. At the Crossroads with Robert Johnson, as Told by Johnny Shines
What does Johnny Shines think was most striking about Robert Johnson’s music?
What were the conditions under which they played?
9. From Race Music to Rhythm and Blues: T-Bone Walker
Why do other musicians admire T-Bone Walker? Which song is his most famous?
10. Jumpin’ the Blues with Louis Jordan
How did Louis Jordan’s early career as a minstrel carry over into his performance
style as a bandleader? (Down Beat) Louis Jordan wanted to be connected to the
black audience for vitality in his music, but he also wanted to appeal to white
audiences for greater commercial success. What did he do to appeal to both black
and white audiences? (Shaw)
11. On the Bandstand with Johnny Otis and Wynonie Harris
What does Otis see as the musical elements that led to the development of R&B?
How does Wynonie Harris explain his appeal to the opposite sex? PRS/Study Questions 3
12. The Producers Answer Back: The Emergence of the “Indie” Record Company
What is the significance of the growing success of indie record companies?
What qualities were producers like Henry Glover and Ahmet Ertegun looking for
in recording artists in the late 1940s?
13. Country Music as Folk Music, Country Music as Novelty
What factors were responsible for the increase in country music’s popularity?
What were country’s virtues? Why did city slickers make fun of it?
Part 2 The 1950s
14 . Country Music Approaches the Mainstream
Describe the audience for the Grand Ole Opry. According to Hank Williams,
what is the most important characteristic of hillbilly music and why is this so vital
to both the entertainers and the audience?
15. Hank Williams on Songwriting
How did the values that Williams shared with his audience affect his attitude
toward songwriting? What advice does Hank Williams give the budding country
16. Rhythm and Blues in the Early 1950s: B. B. King
What were B. B. King’s most important musical influences? How has he tried to
keep his music interesting and relevant?
17. “The House That Ruth Brown Built”
What were some of the ingredients of Ruth Brown’s early recordings? What were
some of the obstacles she faced early in her career? What was her business
relationship with Atlantic Records like?
18. Ray Charles, or, When Saturday Night Mixed It Up with Sunday Morning PRS/Study Questions 4
What musical factors were most important in the development of Ray Charles’
distinctive style? What did he see as the differences between what he did and
early rock ‘n’ roll? How did the song “What’d I Say” develop? Why did he record
an album of Country and Western songs?
19. Jerry Wexler: A Life in R&B
According to Jerry Wexler, what factors were important in the increase in R&B’s
popularity in the early 1950s and the subsequent emergence of rock ‘n’ roll?
20. The Growing Threat of Rhythm and Blues
What challenges did the success of R&B pose for “major diskers”? What does the
author of “A Warning to the Music Business” think is wrong with contemporary
popular music? What solutions does he propose?
21. Langston Hughes Responds
According to Langston Hughes, what do cover versions of R&B songs have in
common with previous trends in popular music?
22. From Rhythm and Blues to Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Songs of Chuck Berry
What sort of strategies did Chuck Berry use to attract a mixed black and white
audience? How did these strategies affect his songwriting style?
23. Little Richard: Boldly Going Where No Man Had Gone Before
What were some of the problems that Bumps Blackwell faced when he started
recording Little Richard? What were Little Richard’s musical influences? How
did they differ from Chuck Berry’s?
24. Elvis Presley, Sam Phillips, and Rockabilly
How would you describe the early recording sessions of Elvis Presley? What was
Sam Phillips’ approach to recording Elvis?
25. Rock ‘n’ Roll Meets the Popular Press PRS/Study Questions 5
What characterizes the mainstream press’s presentation of early rock ‘n’ roll?
26. The Chicago Defender Defends Rock ‘n’ Roll
How does Rob Roy’s account of negative reactions to rock ‘n’ roll differ from
accounts in the mainstream press?
27. The Music Industry Fight Against Rock ‘n’ Roll: Dick Clark’s Teen-Pop Empire and
the Payola Scandal
According to Peter Bunzel, how did Dick Clark benefit from his selection of
records on American Bandstand? According to Bunzel and the Harris Committee,
what was the connection between payola and the popularity of rock ‘n’ roll? How
does the discussion of American Bandstand in the New York Age differ from that
presented in the preceding article?
Part 3 The 1960s
28. Brill Building and the Girl Groups
How would you characterize the relationships between producers, songwriters,
and singers in the Brill Building? Who benefited most from the separation of
these roles? What were the advantages of the flexibility of the Brill Building
compared to the better financed, but slower moving operations of the bigger
companies? What is Phil Spector’s claim to fame? How would you describe his
working relationship with the artists he produced?
29. From Surf to Smile
What motivated Brian Wilson to try and surpass his earlier recordings? What was
he trying to accomplish on Pet Sounds and “Good Vibrations”?
30. Urban Folk Revival
What was the source of folk music’s appeal for college students? What was the
strongest inspiration for the creation of protest songs?
What does the Time article suggest are the roots of Joan Baez’s appeal? How is PRS/Study Questions 6
Baez viewed by folk music purists?
31. Bringing It All Back Home: Dylan at Newport
What were the debates in Sing Out about the 1965 Newport Folk Festival about?
Why did people think Dylan sold out? How are Silber and Nelson’s viewpoints
32. “Chaos Is a Friend of Mine”
What is Dylan’s response to those who accuse him of selling out? How does he
explain the change in his style? What seems to be his general attitude toward
33. From R&B to Soul
According to Baldwin, what quality links gospel, jazz, and blues? What did Jerry
Wexler contribute to Wilson Pickett’s career and to the song “In the Midnight
34. No Town Like Motown
What made James Jamerson stand out as a bass player? What was the relationship
at Motown between songwriters, producers, singers, and instrumentalists? What
was Berry Gordy’s philosophy about different audiences who might listen to
35. The Godfather of Soul and the Beginnings of Funk
What were the major influences on Brown’s music and performing style? How
did he develop his stage act? What was significant about the public reaction to
Live at the Apollo? What were the important musical elements in the development
of funk as realized in “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”?
36. “The Blues Changes from Day to Day”
What musical qualities does Redding seem to value most? What is his advice to
older R&B singers? PRS/Study Questions 7
37. Aretha Franklin Earns Respect
What were the main differences in the approach to recording Aretha Franklin at
Columbia and Atlantic? What role did religion and gospel music play in the
formation of her style? What might explain her connection with her audience?
38. The Beatles, the “British Invasion,” and Cultural Respectability
How does William Mann’s treatment of the Beatles differ from earlier writers’
treatment of rock ‘n’ roll musicians? What does Mann find valuable about the
Beatles’ music? Why does Theodore Strongin dismiss the Beatles’ music?
39. A Hard Day’s Night and Beatlemania
What aspects of A Hard Day’s Night made the biggest impression on Andrew
Sarris? What does he see as the movie’s (and group’s) larger cultural
What was revolutionary about the female fans’ reaction to the Beatles? What
accounts for other commentators’ trivialization of Beatlemania?
40. England Swings, and the Beatles Evolve on Revolver and Sgt. Pepper
Why does Richard Goldstein think Revolver is an important album? What
connections does Jack Kroll make between Sgt. Pepper and “serious” new art?
41. The British Art School Blues
What sort of contrasts were being drawn between the Beatles and the Rolling
Stones early in their careers? Does the Rolling Stones’ image seem fabricated or
like an outgrowth of their personalities, or both? According to Coleman, what is
distinctive about the Stones’ music?
42. The Stones versus the Beatles
What does Willis like about the Stones? What does she dislike about the
resemblance of certain Stones songs to certain Beatles songs? What does she
criticize about Beggar’s Banquet? about The Beatles (aka “The White Album”)? PRS/Study Questions 8
43. If You’re Goin’ to San Francisco
According to Gleason, what conditions promoted the development of psychedelic
rock in the Bay Area? What were the components of the Grateful Dead’s sound?
44. The Kozmic Blues of Janis Joplin
What are Joplin’s views on the connection between “soul” and race? What is most
important to Joplin as a performer?
45. Jimi Hendrix and the Electronic Guitar
What seems to be most important to Hendrix as a musician? What is his
relationship as a performer to the audience?
46. Rock Meets the Avant-Garde: Frank Zappa
What is significant about Zappa’s attitude toward the audience? How is Zappa’s
relationship to the musicians he plays with different from that of the members of
the Beatles or Rolling Stones? In what sense might he be considered an ironist? a
What are the rock audience’s criticisms of the Monkees? How does Christgau
48. The Aesthetics of Rock
How does Paul Williams distinguish the writing in Crawdaddy from that found in
previous publications about popular music?
Where does Goldstein place current pop music in McLuhan’s scheme of “hot”
and “cool” media? How does he use McLuhan’s theories to explain the resistance
of many critics to contemporary popular music?
49. Festivals: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
How does J. R. Young’s review address the persistence of “prehippie values PRS/Study Questions 9
within the counterculture”?
According to Csicsery, what was the relationship between the events at Altamont
and what was going on in United States society at large? In what ways did
Altamont reveal the harmony of “Woodstock