Commodification Lectures Music industry Songwriting Soul Music Urban cultures

A Framework for a Daily Press Corpus Analysis

By chance, times are doing us a favor: the Sorbonne Nouvelle University library has just subscribed to the Chicago Defender archive, provided by ProQuest.

To summarize, here are the titles with granted access:

Historical Newspapers: The Chicago Defender 1909-1975
Chicago Daily Defender (Big Weekend Edition) (1966-1973)
Chicago Daily Defender (Daily Edition) (1960-1973)
The Chicago Defender (Big Weekend Edition) (1905-1966)
Chicago Defender (Big Weekend Edition) (1973-1975)
Chicago Defender (Daily Edition) (1973-1975)
The Chicago Defender (National edition) (1921-1967)
Daily Defender (Daily Edition) (1956-1960)

Indeed, this is likely to be helpful to bring some useful primary sources to highlight trends in Black Music venues and in a broader sense, musical activity (mainly related to the nightlife) in Chicago.

It is now possible to build up a newspaper corpus, based on criteria such as place, name of a person. In this respect, club names appeared meaningful to find knowledgeable articles. A selection of Chicago 1960-1990 era witnesses’ interviews brought us several club names to dig in for more information.

Our first statement is that there was a concomitant moving scene (Motown pop acts from Detroit, MI), which was taking place alongside the traditional inner Chicago blues scene. This might be another question that we did not really think about. Though this has not been measured concretely, the first impression is that the amount of live venues coming from other states is noteworthy. The hypothesis of Detroit “pop acts” influencing or (maybe) softening the Chicago Soul music could be as a consequence considered.

Now is the time to adopt a framework analysis, so that the corpus will bring real value and materiality to our hypothesis. To begin with, Charaudeau’s guidelines for corpus analysis (in a discourse perspective) should be helpful.


Interview Music industry Songwriting Soul Music

A Thirty Minutes Live Webcast with Ric Powell and Host Robert J. Carmack

This web show was hosted in 2020 by Jazz and Blues passionate Robert J. Carmack. This show gives a lot of room to a major actor of the Chicago scene, in the name of Ric Powell. We already addressed the importance of Ric Powell/Donny Hathaway concerning the release of the Everything is Everything 1970 album.

More noticeably, Ric Powell reveals the genesis of the song This Christmas (this sounds very apropos!), but also his relationship with master King Curtis Jr and the arrival of Curtis Mayfield in Washington DC (at the time they were students at Howard University), who noticed Donny Hathaway. He also discusses the importance of guitar and bass legend Phil Upchurch and Richard Evans. Curtis Mayfield, from the R&B group The Impressions, then hired Donny Hathaway to do sessions with him in Chicago for his upcoming Curtom label. Ric Powell assumes he got the job as a drummer thanks to his good sight-reading skills, a key fact to working as a session musician in the studios. Indeed, the music industry expects the musicians to read and learn quickly their respective parts of the musical sheet because time was money.

To make this thirty-minute show short, Ric Powell draws the lineage behind these exclusive Donny Hathaway solo records (Everything is Everything, Extension of a Man, and so on…).


Notes on Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music

Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, published in 1986, is a perfect sum on southern soul music, focusing on Stax Records’ story. Nearly 30 years later, its value is unquestionable.

Though one can blame the book for dismissing northern Detroit soul music or Philly Sound, as did Joel Rudinow (Rudinow, 2010) :

In the end, Guralnick draws a bright geographical line, emphasizing audience demographics as well as regional-cultural and musical-stylistic differences, and confines himself to the project of reconstructing the oral history of southern soul music. For Guralnick, Motown is not soul music. His argument for this is partly business-historic and partly stylistic.1

Nevertheless, it appears very well built and documented. What could have been a boring story of hit makers appears to be an accurate depiction of how this unique “Memphis sound” business was shaped : while still calling some records “race records” (this expression is very typical from the 30/40s era), the Stax enterprise was mixed, until its most noticable writing team : Otis Redding and Steve Cropper.

Sweet Soul Music has turned into a classic introduction to soul music, despite its paradigm, chosing not to consider northern Motown music neither as rhythm nor as soul music, but… as pop music. Its authors index is a gold mine, and the sources are reliable.

This book brings the material and opens a path for building a history of soul music under a “black and white” approach, overflowing anecdotes that illustrates the subject (never too much).

1 Rudinow, J. (2010). Soul Music : Tracking the Spiritual Roots of Pop from Plato to Motown. University of Michigan Press.

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