Ready For a Brand New Beat by Mark Kurlansky
How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem for a Changing America

62%

5 Critic Reviews

At times, Mr. Kurlansky uses music-insider terms that may be too much for some readers. However, he does know a good quote when he sees one...
-Washington Times

Synopsis

Can a song change a nation? In 1964, Marvin Gaye, record producer William “Mickey” Stevenson, and Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter wrote “Dancing in the Street.” The song was recorded at Motown’s Hitsville USA Studio by Martha and the Vandellas, with lead singer Martha Reeves arranging her own vocals. Released on July 31, the song was supposed to be an upbeat dance recording—a precursor to disco, and a song about the joyousness of dance. But events overtook it, and the song became one of the icons of American pop culture.

The Beatles had landed in the U.S. in early 1964. By the summer, the sixties were in full swing. The summer of 1964 was the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the beginning of the Vietnam War, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the lead-up to a dramatic election. As the country grew more radicalized in those few months, “Dancing in the Street” gained currency as an activist anthem. The song took on new meanings, multiple meanings, for many different groups that were all changing as the country changed.

Told by the writer who is legendary for finding the big story in unlikely places, Ready for a Brand New Beat chronicles that extraordinary summer of 1964 and showcases the momentous role that a simple song about dancing played in history.

 

About Mark Kurlansky

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Mark Kurlansky is an award-winning and bestselling author. His most recent book is 1968: The Year That Rocked the World.
 
Published July 11, 2013 by Riverhead Books. 336 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Ready For a Brand New Beat
All: 5 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Jul 04 2013

Regardless of whether Mr. Kurlansky has exaggerated the importance of one song as “the” anthem for so much history and change, he ends his book with a fascinating look at the song’s legacy.

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WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by David Kirby on Jul 19 2013

Historians and music lovers alike will be grateful for Mr. Kurlansky's thorough appreciation of this iconic song. Mr. Kurlansky...argues that "Dancing in the Street" is a rallying song for the social, cultural and political upheaval known as the Sixties.

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NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Cord Jefferson on Jul 12 2013

Ultimately, Ready for a Brand New Beat offers no definitive answer about whether "Dancing in the Street" was meant to inspire urban insurrection. But it does offer interesting historical tidbits...

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Kirkus

Above average
on May 13 2013

...an oddly passive construction...to overload this one hit with too much revolutionary significance...blurs cause and effect.

Read Full Review of Ready For a Brand New Beat: H... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Washington Times

Below average
Reviewed by John Greenya on Oct 09 2013

At times, Mr. Kurlansky uses music-insider terms that may be too much for some readers. However, he does know a good quote when he sees one...

Read Full Review of Ready For a Brand New Beat: H... | See more reviews from Washington Times

Reader Rating for Ready For a Brand New Beat
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