The history of pop music continues in four fascinating and varied books

American jazz singer Lou Rawls once said, “Music is the greatest communication in the world.” Unrelated to language, he explained, music has the power to reach across cultures.

Popular music that has emerged since the beginning of the 20th century has shifted identities and ideas while also fostering a global industry. Four recent books examine this history, with an emphasis on American folk music. As a group, each group claims a voice in an entertaining yet complex conversation that explores the power of the music industry, the impact of technology, and the pressure of social norms.

Black music as a basis

What is widely regarded as “American music” has always been an appropriation of black music – without giving credit for it. How important it is, then, that we start with the foundation provided by Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr.’s interesting collection of essays, “Who’s Hearing Here?” Ramsey, a musicologist, music historian, and musician himself, brings an authentic voice to the discussion.

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