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Blues Music in the Sixties

A Story in Black and White

Can a type of music be "owned"? Examining how music is linked to racial constructs and how African American musicians and audiences reacted to white appropriation, Blues Music in the Sixties shows the stakes when whites claim the right to play and live the blues.

In the 1960s, within the larger context of the civil rights movement and the burgeoning counterculture, the blues changed from black to white in its production and reception, as audiences became increasingly white. Yet, while this was happening, blackness--especially black masculinity--remained a marker of authenticity. Crossing color lines and mixing the beats of B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Janis Joplin; the Newport Folk Festival and the American Folk Blues Festival; and publications such as Living Blues, Ulrich Adelt discusses these developments, including the international aspects of the blues. He highlights the performers and venues that represented changing racial politics and addresses the impact and involvement of audiences and cultural brokers.

Author Information

Ulrich Adelt is an assistant professor of American Studies and African American and Diaspora Studies at the University of Wyoming. He has published articles in a number of journals, including American Quarterly and the Journal of Popular Music Studies.


"Meticulously documented and engagingly written, Blues Music in the Sixties: A Story in Black and White is a book that I have been waiting for since the 1980s. In these six case studies Adelt addresses important issues about race relations, rock music, the folk revival, and the music business during the decade when so many white music enthusiasts 'discovered' many forms of black American music, perhaps most importantly the blues."

— Kip Lornell, Department of Music, George Washington University

"Ultimately, this book is not so much a traditional musicology as a study in reception dynamics and the politics of authenticity. As such, it's a valuable addition to the work of folks like Charles Keil and George Lipsitz."
— Cadence

Audience: General/trade;