Deep cultural and social history enlivened by a cast of colorful characters.




A spellbinding history of one of the most prolific hit-making independent record companies in the history of American music.

What made Stax Records so fascinating was its context in time and place: Memphis in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Gordon (Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters, 2002, etc.), who is from the city and has written and made films about its music for two decades, is uniquely qualified to tell the studio’s rather complicated story. Its beginnings as a side interest of banker and swing fiddle player Jim Stewart and his musically adventurous elder sister, Estelle Axton, were simple enough. Then, almost by accident, the open-hearted white siblings began recording songs by black neighbors of the studio’s location at College and McLemore, beginning with R&B veteran Rufus Thomas (“Walking the Dog”) and his daughter, Carla (“Gee Whiz”), who would continue to make hits with black and white listeners for Stax in the decades to come. In 1965, Stewart brought in African-American promotions man Al Bell to guide the company’s growth. This interracial partnership, echoed by the studio’s house band, Booker T. and the MGs, was unusual anywhere, let alone the segregated city where Martin Luther King would be murdered during a labor dispute between the white mayor and black sanitation workers. King’s assassination, within a year of the loss by plane crash of the label’s major star, Otis Redding, marked a stark line in the histories of Stax, Memphis and America, opening a period of revolutionary rhetoric and action and a coming-of-age of soul music as personified by a new kind of superstar, Isaac Hayes. In zesty prose, Gordon ably narrates this whole story, ending with the convoluted financial machinations that led to the label’s stunningly rapid collapse.

Deep cultural and social history enlivened by a cast of colorful characters.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59691-577-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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