Black Music and Black Power in Memphis
This chapter explores the role of Memphis Sound as a both a symbol and an instrument of the Black Power Movement. It highlights Stax Records, who, under the leadership of Al Bell, amplified the musical “blackness” of its recordings. The studio used nationalist rhetoric in its advertisements and public statements, and allied with African American political organizations in order to force the issue of racial disparity. This unfortunately angered some of the label's white staff members and challenged Stax's image as a site of integration. However, the studio never abandoned the integrationist discourse of the Memphis Sound, nor did they stop using white musicians. The chapter mentions the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, an all-white band, whose career serves as an illustration of how the story of Stax records in these years reveals the multifaceted role of Black Power politics in soul music, the country-soul triangle, and the U.S. recording industry.
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