Kemp's grace and insight into a complex cultural scenario forms a combination that’s hard to beat.




When cultural suppression transforms into cultural embrace, with music the vehicle, it’s a beautiful thing, and music critic Kemp drives home the impact on Southern music in turning an entire nation's head.

This is the story of (mostly) white Southern music from 1968 and thereafter, how its commingling of races and musical heritage brought not only a degree of racial tolerance but a healing of long-suffering shame and guilt, unworthiness and inferiority, sadness and pride, for still many white Southerners loved the land that surrounded them but hated the history of that haunted place. In this memoir of that transition, in a voice that is warm and well-versed, Kemp recounts his bafflement with racism, the chaos that attended racial integration in his North Carolina hometown. He found his guiding star in the Allman Brothers Band, a mixed-race, blues-based group that seamlessly displayed a nod to integration and a love of the Southern homeplace (not despite its warts, but beyond them). He looks back to the delirious fusion of Southern black and hillbilly music—its roots with black blues guitarist Arnold Schultz and Bill Monroe and the shaping of bluegrass, a lovely synergy. It was through music, thought Kemp, that the South could somehow move beyond its legacy of intolerance. As much as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton helped bridge racial gaps, so too did Dr. John, ZZ Top, and Lynyrd Skynyrd (though Kemp is less sanguine about the latter’s progressivism), which leads him into an intelligent rumination on the redneck-as-a-class issue. Kemp situates himself within the evolution of Southern rock and delivers a first-person account of his relations with the musicians—from the Night Tripper to Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies—as a music writer, gaining their impressions of what was happening back then.

Kemp's grace and insight into a complex cultural scenario forms a combination that’s hard to beat.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-3794-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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