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Cohen, Aaron

Move On Up

Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power


    117,95 € / $135.00 / £106.50*

    eBook (PDF)
    Publication Date:
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    September 2019
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    Aims and Scope

    Curtis Mayfield. The Chi-Lites. Chaka Khan. Chicago’s place in the history of soul music is rock solid. But for Chicagoans, soul music in its heyday from the 1960s to the 1980s was more than just a series of hits: it was a marker and a source of black empowerment. In Move On Up, Aaron Cohen tells the remarkable story of the explosion of soul music in Chicago. Together, soul music and black-owned businesses thrived. Record producers and song-writers broadcast optimism for black America’s future through their sophisticated, jazz-inspired productions for the Dells and many others. Curtis Mayfield boldly sang of uplift with unmistakable grooves like “We’re a Winner” and “I Plan to Stay a Believer.” Musicians like Phil Cohran and the Pharaohs used their music to voice Afrocentric philosophies that challenged racism and segregation, while Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire and Chaka Khan created music that inspired black consciousness. Soul music also accompanied the rise of African American advertisers and the campaign of Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, in 1983. This empowerment was set in stark relief by the social unrest roiling in Chicago and across the nation: as Chicago’s homegrown record labels produced rising stars singing songs of progress and freedom, Chicago’s black middle class faced limited economic opportunities and deep-seated segregation, all against a backdrop of nationwide deindustrialization.

    Drawing on more than one hundred interviews and a music critic’s passion for the unmistakable Chicago soul sound, Cohen shows us how soul music became the voice of inspiration and change for a city in turmoil.


    272 pages
    13 halftones
    Chicago;music;empowerment;African American;soul music;social;cultural;Curtis Mayfield
    Professional and scholarly;

    More ...

    Aaron Cohen covers the arts for numerous publications and teaches English, journalism, and humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. He is the author of Aretha Franklin’s "Amazing Grace".


    "Move On Up is an extraordinary achievement, packed with deep research and vivid writing, with a backbeat so strong it thumps from every page. Cohen has written the definitive account of an important slice of American popular culture. Cue up the Chi-Lites, open this book, and enjoy!"
    — Jonathan Eig, author of "Ali: A Life"

    “With a journalist’s clarity, a scholar’s curiosity, and a local’s passion, the incomparable Aaron Cohen affirms why Chicago has always been more than its challenges. Move On Up shows how big-shouldered grit, astonishing talent, and entrepreneurial savvy combined to make ‘the Chi’ a powerhouse center for music and activism back in the days when the world discovered that black was, indeed, beautiful.”
    — Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr., University of Pennsylvania, author of "Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop" and "The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop"

    “Chicago has long been a center of African-American political, cultural, spiritual, and economic power. Unsurprisingly, then, it has also been a center of musical power. From Muddy Waters to Jerry Butler to Curtis Mayfield to Earth Wind & Fire and beyond, the city has kept a fire burning at the heart of American music. In this history of soul music in Chicago, Cohen has brought together the voices of many of the most important postwar artists, activists, entrepreneurs, and visionaries who created the city’s rhythm & blues and soul industry. Together, they made some of the most powerful and enduring contributions to twentieth-century American music, and this vibrant chronicle of Chicago soul is sure to endure as not only a work of tremendous scholarship, but as a bedrock contribution to the history of twentieth-century American music.”
    — Michael E. Veal, Yale University, author of "Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae" and "Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon"

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