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Making sense of Motown


How influential was Berry Gordy?

What was distinctive about Motown music?

What was the relationhip between Motown and Detroit?

What does Motown's music reveal about race and gender?

What is Northern Soul, and what is it's relationship with Motown and US Soul more generally?



Core Reading


Smith, S.E. “Afro-American Music, without Apology”: The Motown Sound and the Politics of Black Culture. In: Smith, S. E. Dancing in the street: Motown and the cultural politics of Detroit. (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2000), Ch.4, pp.139-180 **


Timothy Laurie (2014) Crossover Fatigue: The Persistence of Gender at Motown Records, Feminist Media Studies, 14:1, 90-105


Andrew Flory, ‘Tamla Motown in the UK: Transatlantic Reception of American R’n’B’, in Brett Lashua, Karl Spracklen and Stephen Wagg (eds) Sounds and the City . (Palgrave, May 2014) Ebook.


Further Reading

Mark Binelli . The last days of Detroit : motor cars, Motown and the collapse of an industrial giant (Vintage, 2014)

Carson, David A.Grit, Noise, and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock 'n' Roll. (Ann Arbor, 2011)

Stuart Cosgrove, Detroit 67: The Year that Changed Soul (Polygon, 2016)

J Fitzgerald, Motown Crossover Hits 1963-1966 and the Creative Process. Popular Music. 1, 1, 1995.

Paul Friedlander, Rock & roll: a social history (Westview Press, 2006)

George Galster, Driving Detroit: The quest for respect in Motown (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) E-Book

Nelson George, Where did our love go?: the Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound (Illinois, 2007)

Ian Inglis, Scott and Hawkins (eds), Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series : Performance and Popular Music : History, Place and Time (Ashgate, 2013) ebook

Brett Lashua, Karl Spracklen and Stephen Wagg (eds), Sounds and the City (Palgrave Macmillan, May 2014)

Annie J Randall, Dusty! Queen of the postmods (Oxford, 2009) ebook

Ripani, Richard J., New Blue Music : Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950-1999 (Jackson, 2006)

Laura Robinson, ‘Keeping the Faith: Issues of identity, Spectacle and Embodiment in Northern Soul’, in Cook, Susan C.. Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series: Bodies of Sound : Studies Across Popular Music and Dance. (Routledge, 2013) ebook

Joel Rudinow, Tracking the spiritual roots of pop from Plato to Motown (2010) ebook

Stephanie Shonekan, Soul, country, and the USA [electronic resource] : race and identity in American music culture (2015) ebook

Suzanne E. Smith, Dancing in the street: Motown and the cultural politics of Detroit (2000)

Tim Wall, “Out on the Floor: The Politics of Dancing on the Northern Soul Scene.” Popular Music, vol. 25, no. 3, 2006, pp. 431–445.

Craig Werner, A Change is Gonna come: music, race & the soul of America (University of Michigan Press, 2006)

Adam White (with Barney Ales) Motown: the Sound of Young America (Thames & Hudson, 2016)