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Nikita Gale, SOME WEATHER (Heat), 2021
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CIRCA:
Nikita references the phrase “the rest is weather” from the late American novelist Toni Morrison to describe the position of Black female background singers of iconic rock performers such as The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Phil Collins. Could you tell us what this means to you?

ZOÉ WHITLEY:
The late, great Toni Morrison. One of the greatest. The quote the artist references is from Beloved: Morrison goes on to describe the wind causing eaves to creak and Spring’s thawing of ice, so for me, Gale’s captivating but hazy figures appearing on screen – glimmers of the rare talents that our culture celebrates all too little – become forces of nature: their voices have the Herculean strength to carry a song, to lift a chorus until it soars, compelling us to sing along. That’s a unique power.

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"Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound", by Daphne A. Brooks, 2021

Daphne A. Brooks explores more than a century of music archives to examine the critics, collectors, and listeners who have determined perceptions of Black women on stage and in the recording studio. How is it possible, she asks, that iconic artists such as Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé exist simultaneously at the center and on the fringe of the culture industry?

Liner Notes for the Revolution offers a startling new perspective on these acclaimed figures--a perspective informed by the overlooked contributions of other Black women concerned with the work of their musical peers. Zora Neale Hurston appears as a sound archivist and a performer, Lorraine Hansberry as a queer Black feminist critic of modern culture, and Pauline Hopkins as America's first Black female cultural commentator. Brooks tackles the complicated racial politics of blues music recording, song collecting, and rock and roll criticism. She makes lyrical forays into the blues pioneers Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith, as well as fans who became critics, like the record-label entrepreneur and writer Rosetta Reitz. In the twenty-first century, pop superstar Janelle Monae's liner notes are recognized for their innovations, while celebrated singers Cécile McLorin Salvant, Rhiannon Giddens, and Valerie June take their place as cultural historians.

With an innovative perspective on the story of Black women in popular music--and who should rightly tell it--Liner Notes for the Revolution pioneers a long overdue recognition and celebration of Black women musicians as radical intellectuals.

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