I Got Thunder: Black Women Songwriters on Their Craft

Lashonda Katrice Barnett, Editor . Thunder's Mouth $15.99 (330p) ISBN 978-1-56858-331-0

Barnett, a professor of African studies at Sarah Lawrence College, transcribes lively, occasionally formulaic interviews she's conducted with 20 black women songwriters as iconic as Nina Simone (before her death in 2003) and as hip as Tokunbo Akinro of the European band Tok Tok Tok. Barnett aims at revealing the sources of their songwriting inspiration, as Abbey Lincoln opines divinely: “I learned early on that this work is not about me. I am inspired by a holy muse and my ancestors.” Many of the women used singing and performing as a means of expressing conflicting identities, such as Chaka Khan, whose initial work with Rufus explored black pride, sexual liberation and second-wave feminism. Dianne Reeves is inspired to write songs by reading great books by black women; Dionne Warwick has lived in Brazil for years because in America “the elements of respect and caring and loving are so far removed from a lot of the music we are surrounded with today”; and gospel legend Shirley Caesar is also a pastor of a church in Raleigh, N.C. Joan Armatrading, Toshi Reagon, Miriam Makeba, Narissa Bond and Nona Hendryx, among international greats, speak beautifully about their complex musical makeup, beautifully encapsulated in this mightily useful volume. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/24/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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