PERFORMING ARTS

Always the Queen: The Denise LaSalle Story

Univ. of Illinois. (Music in American Life). May 2020. 256p. ISBN 9780252084942. pap. $19.95. MUSIC
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Between 2010 and 2017, blues scholar Whiteis interviewed his friend LaSalle (1939–2018); piecing together the transcripts, he created a sort of autobiography of the singer, songwriter, and producer. LaSalle’s music spanned decades and genres, from gospel and disco to soul-blues and rap and hip-hop. Her story starts in Mississippi, where her family worked as sharecroppers. As a teen, she moved to Chicago, signed recording contracts with various labels, released a career-boosting hit titled “Trapped by a Thing Called Love,” and established a production company. Following blues legend Koko Taylor’s death in 2009, many passed Taylor’s title, “Queen of the Blues,” on to LaSalle, redefining her career. Speaking in a down-home vernacular, LaSalle is by turns rebellious, raunchy, worshipful, and tender. Readers will feel like they’re listening to a woman nearing the end of her career share the lessons she learned on her musical journey.
VERDICT LaSalle’s recollections ramble a bit, and not all memories are necessarily complete. Still, this is the only LaSalle autobiography available, so libraries that focus on American music will want to consider.

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