Reviews of Motown Books -
One Nation Under a Groove:
Motown and American Culture

Motown books: Groove cover

By Gerald Early, 1995

If you prefer your Motown books to contain fluff or dirt, then this one is not for you.

If you want to seriously consider Motown's relationship to the African-American community in a cultural, sociopolitical, and geographical context, then snatch it up, quick!

The notion of family. Black identity. R&B and related genres. What does Motown, the music and the company, have to do with those concepts? Author Early threads in relevant pieces of poems, novels, bios, articles, and slang to get his points across.

Sounds too academic? It is a collection of analytical essays. It's not mass-market reading.

To his credit, though, Early unfurls his ideas concisely in only a few well-focused chapters. He calls this book a "meditation" on Motown, something less finicky than it could be. His language has an unforced rhythm to it, and his presence looms throughout, not just when he reviews albums or movies. Even he's not above sharing gee-whiz-worthy trivia.

The book doesn't even look intimidating. The edition I read was physically small with a bold but simple design. Subheadings break up the text for easy skimming.

As a proofreader, I must mention that there are typos (grrr). But they don't really weaken the presentation.

In general, this is a uniquely intellectual treatment of Motown history, a good outline of the basic forces that shaped its story. Still, in the spirit of other Motown books (and songs), its ideas come in a nice, accessible package.

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