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Can this white boy sing the Blues?

Week 4: Can this white boy sing the blues? Race, Rock, Elvis and Beyond

What were the roots of rock and roll, and how original was it?

What did rock and roll reveal about social change in post war America?

Why did Elvis have such an impact on America?

Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me/ Straight up racist that sucker, Simple and Plain/ Mother Fuck John Wayne and him’ (Public Enemy Fight the Power (1989)) Discuss.

What does Hamilton suggest was the significance of Litte Richard's appeal?

Why did Rock and Roll experience a downturn at the end of the 1950s?


Core Reading

Rudinow, Joel. "Race, ethnicity, expressive authenticity: Can white people sing the blues?." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 52, no. 1 (1994): 127-37 **

Michael T. Bertand, ‘Elvis Presley and the Politics of Public Memory’, Southern Cultures, 13, 3 (2007), 62-86.

Marybeth Hamilton, ‘Sexual Politics and African American Music: or placing Little Richard in History’, History Workshop Journal, 46 (1998), pp.161-76.

'A Singer Of Social Significance' editorial, The Times (London, England), Thursday, Aug 18, 1977; pg. 13; Issue 60085. (426 words) (The Times​ is available online through the library) doc



Further Reading


Greg C. Altschuler, All Shook Up: How Rock'n'Roll Changed America (2003)

Michael T. Bertrand, Race, Rock and Elvis (2000) ch 3, pp.59-92**

Stanley Booth, Rhythm Oil: A Journey through the Music of the American South (1993)

Wini Breines, Young, White and Miserable, ch.4

John Broven, Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans (1974)

Louis Cantor, Dewey and Elvis: The Life and Times of a Rock 'n' Roll Deejay (2005)

Donald Clarke (ed.), Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (1989)

Donald Clarke, The Rise and Fall of Popular Music (1995)

Nik Cohn, Awopbopaloobop alopbamboom (1969)

Rick Coleman, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock'n'Roll (2006)

Nicholas Dawidoff, In the Country of Country (2005 edn.)

Garofalo, Reebee, Crossing Over: From Black Rhythm and Blues to White Rock 'n' Roll, N Kelley (ed.) Rhythm & Business: The Political Economy of Black Music (New York, 2002) pp. 112 – 137

Reebee Garofalo, Rockin’ Out, Ch. 4 and 5

Nelson George, The Death of Rhythm and Blues

Charlie Gillett, The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll (1983 edn.)

Albert Goldman, Elvis (1981)

Robert Gordon, It came from Memphis: the unturned roots of Rock and Roll (1995)

Peter Guralnick, Feel Like Going Home: Portraits in Blues and Rock’n’Roll (London, Penguin, 1992), pp.15-25.

Peter Guralnick, Lost Highway: Journeys and Arrivals of American Musicians (1979)

Peter Guralnick, Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom (1986)

Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley (1994)

Peter Guralnick, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley (Little Brown, 1999)

Peter Guralnick, Dream Boogie: The triumph of Sam Cooke (2005)

Peter Hamill, Why Sinatra Matters (2003)

Hanif Kureishi and Jon Savage (eds.), The Faber Book of Pop (1995)

Bill C. Malone, Country Music USA (1985)

Greil Marcus, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock’n’Roll Music (2000 edn.)

Greil Marcus, Dead Elvis (1991)

Ian Penman, ‘Shapeshifter’, London Review of Books, 25 Sept 2014

Tony Palmer, All You Need is Love: The Story of Popular Music (1976)

Joy Press and S. Reynolds, The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock’n’Roll (1994)

Richard A. Peterson, Why 1955? Explaining the Advent of Rock Music, Popular Music, 9, 1, (1990)

Michael Streissguth, Johnny Cash: the Biography (2006)

Kathleen Tracy, Elvis Presley: A Biography (2007)

Steve Turner, The Man Called Cash (2004)

Brian Ward, Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness and Race Relations Since 1945(1997)

Brian Ward, Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South (2004)

Sheila Whiteley (ed.), Sexing the Groove: Popular music and gender (1997)

Erik Zolov, Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mxican Counterculture (1999)