10 books that helped me write mine: A Selected Bibliography

December 28th, 2016

Emily J. Lordi is the author of Donny Hathaway’s Donny Hathaway Live (Bloomsbury 33⅓ series, 2016). Join Lordi, in conversation with Tara Betts, for a book talk and listening party in celebration of the first nonfiction book about Hathaway, Friday, January 13th at the Co-op. RSVP here.

Ed Pavlić, Winners Have Yet to Be Announced: A Song for Donny Hathaway (U of Georgia Press, 2008)

A stunning and exacting meditation on Hathaway’s interior life and the sound of his voice that showed me it was possible to write a book about him in the first place.

Mitchell L. H. Douglas, Cooling Board: A Long-Playing Poem (Red Hen Press, 2009)

The other Hathaway book that predates mine, Douglas’s “long-playing poem” pays tribute not only to Hathaway but also to the many people who shaped and were shaped by him.

Farah Jasmine Griffin, If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday (Beacon, 2002)

The clarity, rigor, and grace with which Griffin approaches Holiday, from myriad perspectives—historical, cultural, personal—make this book a perpetual model.

Alex Vazquez, Listening in Detail: Performances of Cuban Music (Duke UP, 2013)

The book that validates my attention to seemingly minor musical details as a significant, even subversive, scholarly method.

Aaron Cohen, Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace  (Continuum, 2011)

The 33⅓ book that most influenced mine, thanks to Cohen’s attention to Franklin’s cultural context, his use of interviews, and his treatment of the live album as a work of art largely crafted in post-production.

Daphne Brooks, Jeff Buckley’s Grace (Continuum, 2005)

Another book in the 33⅓ series that inspired mine, due to the energy and unabashed love with which Brooks examines Buckley’s music, life, and legacy.

Mark Anthony Neal, What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (Routledge, 1999) & Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities (NYU Press, 2013)

No work of scholarship on soul music is complete without reference to Mark Anthony Neal, who sets Hathaway’s recordings within a changing black public sphere in What the Music Said and offers a framework for apprehending his unconventional performance of black masculinity in Looking for Leroy.

Gayle Wald, It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television (Duke UP, 2015)

Wald’s vibrant study of Ellis Haizlip’s public television show Soul! (1968-1973) reveals the art and ideology of soul to be even richer and more complex than most prior scholarship has noted.

Toni Morrison, Sula (Knopf, 1973)

While neither a work of criticism nor a novel “about” music, Sula (published the same year as Hathaway’s Extension of a Man) is a formally innovative meditation on black community, intimacy, and melancholy that resonated with and illuminated Hathaway’s work for me.

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