By Craig Werner
In Higher Ground, certainly one of our such a lot insightful tune writers brilliantly reinterprets the lives of 3 pop geniuses and the soul revolution they launched.
Soul song is certainly one of America's maximum cultural achievements, and Stevie ask yourself, Aretha Franklin, and Curtis Mayfield are 3 of its such a lot encouraged practitioners. In midcentury the United States it used to be soul music--particularly the impressive flow of recordings made via those 3 stars--that helped carry the gospel imaginative and prescient of the black church into the mainstream, energizing the era’s social hobbies and defining a brand new American gospel the place the sacred and the secular met. What made this gospel the entire extra notable was once that its so much influential articulators have been the little children of sharecroppers, storefront preachers, and unmarried mom and dad within the tasks, whose genius gave voice to a brand new imaginative and prescient of yank possibility.
Higher Ground seamlessly weaves the categorical and very own narratives of Stevie, Aretha, and Curtis’s lives into the old textile in their occasions. the 3 shared many similarities: They have been all youngsters of the nice migration and of the black church. however the gospel impulse manifested itself in numerous methods in the dramas in their person lives and musical creations. In Stevie Wonder’s case, it was once a actually color-blind common feel of spirituality that expressed itself in his existence and track as an urge towards transcendence, rather within the mid-seventies whilst albums like Innervisions and Songs within the Key of existence notably revised what a pop album can be. For Aretha Franklin, the conventional gospel imaginative and prescient of a loved group anchored within the energy of girls comforted her via a lifestyles plagued by tragedy and located expression in propulsive pop songs like "Respect" in addition to in her mythical gospel albums. And for Curtis Mayfield, the gospel suggestion of wakeful dwelling encouraged him to create songs that served the needs of the Civil Rights stream and the novel Black strength stream alike, from the gritty road drama of Superfly to the transcendent name of "People Get Ready."
Werner doesn't simply supply a story of 3 attention-grabbing lives; he ties them including a provocative thesis approximately American background and tradition that compels us to reassess either the song and the days. And other than the personalities and the heritage, he writes superbly approximately song itself, the nuts and bolts of its construction and function, in a fashion that brings a brand new information and figuring out to the main usual song, forcing readers to hear songs they've heard 1000 instances with clean ears. In Higher Ground, Werner illuminates the lives of 3 remarkable American artists, reminding us why their track mattered then and nonetheless resonates with us today.
From the Hardcover edition.