Hound Dog

Duke Univ. Sept. 2023. 160p. ISBN 9781478025085. pap. $19.95. MUSIC
Although the Elvis Presley bookshelf contains dozens of titles, Weisbard (American studies, Univ. of Alabama; Songbooks) takes a fresh look at the King of Rock ’n’ Roll by investigating both the eponymous song and the wider cultural implications of different streams of pop and rock music. The book spans from the mid-1950s to Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 Elvis biopic. Weisbard draws upon a wealth of music critiques and literary source writings. He combines a modern sensibility with genuine curiosity about both famous musicians influenced by Presley—Bruce Springsteen, for example—and lesser-known independent artists. The author confronts the implications of racism in how Big Mama Thornton’s original “Hound Dog,” released in 1953, was nearly eclipsed by Presley’s cover three years later, and the book provides valuable context as well. Chapter notes and a bibliography encourage further exploration. Though some passages may be challenging for readers not attuned to the vagaries of identity politics and revisionist musicology, on the whole, this is a both entertaining and informative traversal of the evolution of pop/rock, exemplified in one well-remembered song.
VERDICT Will likely appeal to both music scholars and readers investigating the intersection of race and society in the U.S.
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