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The Persistence of Sentiment

The Persistence of Sentiment: Display and Feeling in Popular Music of the 1970s

Mitchell Morris
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    The Persistence of Sentiment
    Book Description:

    How can we account for the persistent appeal of glossy commercial pop music? Why do certain performers have such emotional power, even though their music is considered vulgar or second rate? InThe Persistence of Sentiment, Mitchell Morris gives a critical account of a group of American popular music performers who have dedicated fan bases and considerable commercial success despite the critical disdain they have endured. Morris examines the specific musical features of some exemplary pop songs and draws attention to the social contexts that contributed to their popularity as well as their dismissal. These artists were all members of more or less disadvantaged social categories: members of racial or sexual minorities, victims of class and gender prejudices, advocates of populations excluded from the mainstream. The complicated commercial world of pop music in the 1970s allowed the greater promulgation of musical styles and idioms that spoke to and for exactly those stigmatized audiences. In more recent years, beginning with the "Seventies Revival" of the early 1990s, additional perspectives and layers of interpretation have allowed not only a deeper understanding of these songs' function than when they were first popular, but also an appreciation of how their significance has shifted for American listeners in the succeeding three decades.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95505-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-33)

    I first began looking for ways to write about the artists discussed in this book in the mid-to-late 1990s. The timing matters for a several reasons—a vaguely discernible twenty-year cycle of rubbishing and rehabilitation in much postwar popular culture, for instance; the generational and technological shifts that enabled the appearance of a broader range of values and investments among critics, whether professional, amateur, or somewhere in between; or for that matter, a gradual shift in academic writing about popular music from a largely defensive, morally and aesthetically engagé style of scholarship to one more willing to give itself up...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Black Masculinity and the Sound of Wealth Barry White in the Early 1970s
    (pp. 34-58)

    One early beneficiary of the 1970s revival was the magnificent songwriter, producer, and singer, the late Barry White. A gigantically imposing figure with resonant bass voice to match, White had been absolutely central in the development of disco, one of the 1970s’ hallmark styles, and his music flourished during its years of popularization. With the arrival of the Reagan years, disco was widely reported to have died, and its artists were carried along to mainstream oblivion. But disco never really died, of course, and neither did Barry White (until 2003, that is). The unmistakable sign of White’s crossover revival was...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Transport and Interiority in Soft Soul
    (pp. 59-87)

    Early on in her prickly, brilliant filmWithout You I’m Nothing(1990), the comedienne Sandra Bernhard adopts the persona of a black would-be diva thoroughly at home with the players and other ubiquitous habitués of inexpensive cocktail lounges and party clubs. Although there are African American venues that are high-falutin’ and expensively appointed, Bernhard’s imaginary venue is not one of them. We might think of the fictional audience for Bernhard’s fictional performer as consisting of Barry White’s lower-class cousins, lazily applauding Bernhard’s small-time song-stylist in the small hours of the evening. Lots of the typical markers of that social world...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Audience and Barry Manilow
    (pp. 88-117)

    On February 5, 2002, Arista Records releasedUltimate Manilow, a substantial retrospective album containing Barry Manilow’s greatest hits, mostly from the 1970s.¹ Although a number of similar collections had been released during the 1980s and early 1990s, this latest production nevertheless debuted at number three onBillboard’s 200 chart and remained in the top 100 through August. To promoteUltimate Manilowas well as his 2001 multistyle concept albumHere at the Mayflower, a tour drawing huge crowds ensued and led in turn to an intense burst of publicity in newspapers, magazines, and television. Press coverage of the albums and...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Voice of Karen Carpenter
    (pp. 118-142)

    In the years of its greatest popularity, the brother-sister duo of Richard and Karen Carpenter never lacked disparagers. The Carpenters and their music brought out nearly as much hostility as attraction among American audiences, whether attributable to the glossy sentimentality that listeners often found in their music, to the unnaturally wholesome family values they seemed to present (like the Bradys or the Partridge Family, but in real life, like Donny and Marie), or to their untroubled willingness to play the White House even while the Watergate scandal intensified. But the complicated way in which the Carpenters embodied a politically tinged...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Cher’s “Dark Ladies” Showbiz Liberation
    (pp. 143-172)

    In June 2002, Cher seemed to be beginning a long adieu to her career as a pop music performer. It was long since time to depart, she thought; as she exclaimed to one audience that protested loudly when she announced her plans, “Give me a frigging break. I’ve been a diva for 40 frigging years. This is the last time I’m going to do this.”¹ Her fans refused to let her go quickly. Living Proof—The Farewell Tour was originally planned to move through fifty cities in the United States and Canada in the space of four or five months....

  10. CHAPTER 7 Crossing Over with Dolly Parton
    (pp. 173-208)

    The 1990s and first decade of this century were an unquiet time for Dolly Parton. She had been a celebrated star, an icon, ever since she moved from the world of country music into mainstream pop in the 1970s, and on into film, television, and related showbiz endeavors in the 1980s; but by the early 1990s Parton’s ground seemed to be shifting beneath her. She stopped having hit songs, even on the country charts. By 1993, she believed that the problem was not simply hers, but one suffered by all country singers whose careers had begun before the 1970s. It...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 209-230)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 231-240)
  13. Index
    (pp. 241-248)