By Craig Werner
In Higher Ground, one among our such a lot insightful tune writers brilliantly reinterprets the lives of 3 pop geniuses and the soul revolution they launched.
Soul song is one in every of America's maximum cultural achievements, and Stevie ask yourself, Aretha Franklin, and Curtis Mayfield are 3 of its such a lot encouraged practitioners. In midcentury the United States it was once soul music--particularly the astounding circulation of recordings made by means of those 3 stars--that helped convey the gospel imaginative and prescient of the black church into the mainstream, energizing the era’s social activities and defining a brand new American gospel the place the sacred and the secular met. What made this gospel all of the extra remarkable used to be that its so much influential articulators have been the little kids of sharecroppers, storefront preachers, and unmarried mom and dad within the tasks, whose genius gave voice to a brand new imaginative and prescient of yankee possibility.
Higher Ground seamlessly weaves the explicit and very own narratives of Stevie, Aretha, and Curtis’s lives into the historic textile in their instances. the 3 shared many similarities: They have been all teenagers of the good migration and of the black church. however the gospel impulse manifested itself in numerous methods in the dramas in their person lives and musical creations. In Stevie Wonder’s case, it used to be a actually color-blind common feel of spirituality that expressed itself in his lifestyles and song as an urge towards transcendence, fairly within the mid-seventies while albums like Innervisions and Songs within the Key of existence considerably revised what a pop album might be. For Aretha Franklin, the conventional gospel imaginative and prescient of a loved group anchored within the power of ladies comforted her via a lifestyles suffering from tragedy and located expression in propulsive pop songs like "Respect" in addition to in her mythical gospel albums. And for Curtis Mayfield, the gospel concept of awake dwelling encouraged him to create songs that served the needs of the Civil Rights move and the unconventional Black energy flow alike, from the gritty highway drama of Superfly to the transcendent name of "People Get Ready."
Werner doesn't simply offer a story of 3 attention-grabbing lives; he ties them including a provocative thesis approximately American background and tradition that compels us to re-examine either the song and the days. And apart from the personalities and the historical past, he writes superbly approximately song itself, the nuts and bolts of its production and function, in a fashion that brings a brand new knowledge and figuring out to the main ordinary song, forcing readers to hear songs they've heard 1000 instances with clean ears. In Higher Ground, Werner illuminates the lives of 3 extraordinary American artists, reminding us why their track mattered then and nonetheless resonates with us today.
From the Hardcover edition.