What a Difference a Day Makes: Women Who Conquered 1950s Music

Univ. Pr. of Mississippi. Nov. 2023. 277p. ISBN 9781496848956. pap. $30. MUSIC
In an already tough music industry for pop singers in the 1950s, Black women encountered additional challenges in securing honest management, fair contracts, and recognition on the charts. Bergsman (All I Want Is Loving You) reveals their struggles, triumphs, and behind-the-scenes stories as they performed, recorded, and left a legacy of song renditions defined by superior vocal abilities and creative interpretations. Year by year through this decade, he weaves well-researched details into a captivating narrative that explores the personal and professional lives of such iconic musical groundbreakers as Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Etta James. He also focuses on names not as frequently recalled—Savannah Churchill and Edna McGriff among them. Fascinating anecdotes about an eclectic array of songs, both enduring and forgotten (“Teach Me Tonight”; “The Wallflower”), are not to be missed, nor is the background material about emerging girl groups, such as the Shirelles, who increasingly moved into the limelight in the 1960s. Comprehensive notes and a selected discography further enhance this superb volume.
VERDICT Balancing the biographical and the historical, this informative and stylishly written work illuminates the lives and contributions of these gifted performers. For popular-music lovers.
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