Pop critic Jack Hamilton discusses book Just Around Midnight at Stax Museum

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Scholar and Slate pop critic Jack Hamilton will be signing and discussing his new book, Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination, this Thursday at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
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In his book, Hamilton addresses the issue of white artists' appropriation of black music, employing an interdisciplinary combination of historical research, musical analysis, and critical race theory to demonstrate how rock-and-roll "became white" during the 1960s. In doing so, he parallels Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” revealing that despite the songs’ similarities, Dylan was considered a rock genius, while Cooke is perceived as a master of “soul” — a disparity that resonates later in the 1960s with the conflicting perceptions of Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, and Dusty Springfield later in that decade. 

Just around Midnight also details the infatuation that British bands had with African American music, charting the Beatles’ collaboration with Motown artists and the undertones of racial transgression in the Rolling Stones’ hit songs. Hamilton elucidates the implications of Jimi Hendrix’s ascent to stardom amidst an increasingly white rock and roll landscape, and describes how Carlos Santana, one of the major guitar virtuosos of the post-Hendrix era, challenged the boundaries of music’s racial imagination.

In her 1973 Harper’s magazine essay “Ripping Off Black Music,” Margo Jefferson equated white artists’ appropriation of black music to cultural plunder: “The night Jimi died I dreamed this was the latest step in a plot being designed to eliminate blacks from rock music so that it may be recorded in history as a creation of whites.” Just around Midnight enriches our understanding of racial perception and authenticity in America and reinforces that black musicians played a crucial role in establishing the rock and roll sound that came to define second half of the 20th century.

Jack Hamilton
Stax Museum of American Soul Music
926 E. McLemore Avenue
Thursday, October 27th
7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Free admission


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