Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop

Roc Lit 101. Apr. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9780593132715. $28. MUSIC
Music journalist and host of the podcast Black Girl Songbook Smith (More Like Wrestling) has made it her life’s work to uplift Black women artists and give them the credit they are due. This book is the culmination of years of interviews, research, and personal appreciation for the music that shaped the author’s own life. Smith explores famous musicians as well as those who may have been forgotten. She examines Cissy Houston’s backup performances for Elvis and Van Morrison; Diana Ross’s portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues; Gladys Knight’s manager Margherite Wendell Mays; Jamaican singer-songwriter Millie Small; and the much-imitated gospel stylings of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Smith draws from interviews that she conducted (some previously published) for insight into the complicated lives of Whitney Houston (they bonded over broken marriages), Mariah Carey, and Janet Jackson (who grappled with guilt over her success). Smith interweaves heartfelt stories of her own life as she provides evidence of the continual erasure of Black women’s contributions to the evolving music industry, even as they upended all cultural norms and created unprecedented sounds.
VERDICT In this fascinating tribute, Smith ensures that the achievements of these Black women musicians will not be forgotten.
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