The story of Stax Records unfolds like a Greek tragedy. A white brother and sister build a record company that becomes a monument to racial harmony in 1960’s segregated south Memphis. Their success is startling, and Stax soon defines an international sound. Then, after losses both business and personal, the siblings part, and the brother allies with a visionary African-American partner. Under integrated leadership, Stax explodes as a national player until, Icarus-like, they fall from great heights to a tragic demise. Everything is lost, and the sanctuary that flourished is ripped from the ground. A generation later, Stax is rebuilt brick by brick to once again bring music and opportunity to the people of Memphis.
Set in the world of 1960s and '70s soul music, Respect Yourself is a story of epic heroes in a shady industry. It’s about music and musicians - Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, the Staple Singers, and Booker T. and the M.G.’s, Stax’s interracial house band. It’s about a small independent company’s struggle to survive in a business world of burgeoning conglomerates. And always at the center of the story is Memphis, Tennessee, an explosive city struggling through heated, divisive years.
Told by one of our leading music chroniclers, Respect Yourself brings to life this treasured cultural institution and the city that created it.
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I would have preferred a little less of the financial details of the seamy underbelly of the recording industry and lot more musical detail and analysis of the grooves vis a vis the other music of the period - there have been some interviews with Cropper and Art Jackson that could have provided source material for this. That said, the book is well researched and very compelling. It's not trying to be for musicians - it's trying to tell a great story and extrapolate it outward to the history of the civil rights movement and at this it succeeds brilliantly, so I can't ding it down to 4 stars just because I'm a music geek. It does exactly what it sets out to do. It's two concurrent stories - the Stax company and the civil rights movement, seen first through the prism of Memphis (a truly despicable racist disgrace of a city) and then through the personal prism of the many Stax personalities.
Both the author and narrator give the book the feel of a novel although it's non-fiction. The narrator is off the hook - she gives each character a voice and personality and makes the characters 3-dimensional. It's subtle and low-key and it takes a little while for her to ease you into the world of each character but by the end you really what a tremendous performance it is.
- A. K. Moore
Really good listen
The behind the scenes view of the record business back in the day, so to speak. I listened to a lot of this company's music growing up and was fascinated by how it started.
It didn't gloss over a lot, yet didn't try to nail anyone.
I probably wouldn't have read it- not much time to read hard copy these days.
No, so much information in the story to absorb, yet it holds you all the way through.
Very very good.