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Greil Marcus

Greil Marcus is the author most recently of Three Songs, Three Singers, Three Nations, Real Life Rock: The Complete Top Ten Columns, 1986-2014, and The History of  rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs. A sixth revised edition of his first book, Mystery Train, was published in 2015. This spring he is co-teaching a course on 1948 as a transformational year in the American imagination at Berkeley.

“The Democracy of the Deep Soul Voice and the Republicanism of Its Melismatic Reversal”
How and why the deep soul voice—traced through such performances as the Five Keys’ “Dream On,” Mother Earth’s “Down So Low,” Jerry Butler’s “He Don’t Love You,” Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everybody Is a Star,” Etta James’s “I’d Rather Go Blind,” Chet Baker’s “My Funny Valentine,” Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and others—is different from all other modern pop vocal ideas, how and why it calls forth, and seeks to speak for—to become the voice of—a commonality, and how and why the dissolution of that voice by melismatics, as argued for by Whitney Houston, Joss Stone, Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey, and the bosses and troops of “American Idol” and “The Voice,” creates a voice that is entirely self-referential and, as soul music, not a continued exploration of its voice but its falsification.


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