A personal history of black women in pop

Danyel Smith at the Wale #CRWN conference

Source: Johnny Nunez/Getty

On April 19, world-renowned music and pop culture author Danyel Smith finally released his new memoir. Shine Bright: A Personal History of Black Women in Pop.

The fascinating book details the intimate story of the founding role of black women in the innovation of the American pop genre. The longtime music journalist shines a light on the historic careers of influential pop icons like Gladys Knight, Mahalia Jackson and Whitney Houston, as she explores how the stars have had a personal impact on her life with fans around the world. Smith, who previously served as editor of Billboard and Vibe magazines, also weaves aspects of her life story into the page-turning memoir.

Shine is a late hymn to musical masters whose true stories and genius have been hidden in plain sight,” reads the book’s biography.

On Tuesday, Smith sat down with NPR’s IT’S A MINUTE podcast for more on the exciting memoirs as well as a packed playlist that pays homage to a number of pop powerhouses like Jean Knight and R&B band Honey Cone.

“The main inspiration is that I literally never feel like black women in music get their due credit. I also just feel like the lives of black women and to some extent also the art and genius of black people – the awesome side of their lives is so often portrayed in a nutshell,” she explained about the importance of the book.

“I think their lives are so often written as a moment of Black History Month or written as a moment of first accomplishment,” Smith continued. “And all of those things are smart, and all of those things are important, but I really wanted to write about the genius details of black women’s lives, everything from the material of their dresses to the wigs they decided to do. put on the set of the clubs where they most often performed at their actual births, their mothers, you know, gave birth to them, and what were the circumstances of those birth moments? I think all that stuff is important.

Tuesday, the Black girl songbook the podcast host took to Instagram to celebrate the big release with an essay she wrote for the Los Angeles Times it gives him an idea of ​​why Glady’s Knight and the Pips’ 1973 classic “Midnight Train to Georgia” is the “perfect pop song.”

“In my new SHINE BRIGHT: A VERY PERSONAL STORY OF BLACK WOMEN IN POP, I write a lot about 70s/80s black #California and how the perfect ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ by #GladysKnight & the Pips really is a CA song,” she teased of the post in her caption.

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What makes the classic tune a hit for Smith, you ask? The pop music enthusiast highlighted Knight’s determination in the lyrics.

“…Knight is outspoken – I have to go / I have to go – about leaving, she also seems to convince herself. Even when I was a child, Gladys Knight seemed to me to sing one thing and want another. In my head, she takes him to the station, but when the train stops, Knight is still on the platform,” she wrote. in the opinion piece, add:

“Even in her glowing, tiny-waisted, full-throated prime, Gladys Knight was underappreciated. She is often underestimated even now. That’s partly because she grew up in the shadow of Diana Ross, whose anime eyes had wowed the world. But it’s also because while she’s sold millions of records, toured the world, been nominated by her peers for 22 Grammys and won 7, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. – Gladys is almost always part of a group or collaboration.

Take a copy of Shine Bright: A Personal Story of Black Women in Pop here.

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