Saturday, November 11, 2017


 Genre: Music / Chicano History
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Date of Publication: September 15, 2017
Pages: 160


In 2007, Ruben Molina published the first-ever history of Mexican-American soul and R&B music in his book, Chicano Soul: Recordings and History of an American Culture. Ten years later, Chicano Soul remains an important and oft-referenced study of this vital but often overlooked chapter of the greater American musical experience. Chicano soul music of the 1950s and 1960s still reverberates today, both within Chicano communities and throughout many musical genres. Molina tells the story of the roots of Chicano soul, its evolution, and its enduring cultural influence.

"Brown-eyed soul" music draws on 1950s era jazz, blues, jump blues, rock `n' roll, Latin jazz, and traditional Mexican music such as ranchera, norteño, and conjunto music. With its rare and gorgeous photos, record scans, concert bills, and impressive discography (to say nothing of its rich oral histories/interviews), it is one of those rare works that speaks to both general and academic audiences.

As a teen in the 1960s, Ruben Molina used to take a bus to Hollywood to shop for records, and his passion for vinyl never waned. As a dedicated community historian, Molina interviewed dozens of the artists whose music he loves. Much of Chicano soul music's recent recognition and renaissance can be traced directly to Molina. He has deejayed with the Southern Soul Spinners crew since 2010.

Praise for Chicano Soul: 
“[Chicano Soul} is nada if not revelatory… Molina seeks acknowledgement of this under-the-radar genre. With this book, he’ll get it. By linking the trail of Chicano soul bands to the route of the Mexican-American migrant workers across the United States as well as the migration of south-of-the-border families into Texas after the Mexican Revolution, the author presents a compelling account of rock and roll heroes literally unsung. Molina makes a case for teenagers who took their parents’ musical traditions, the trappings of black R&B bands with pop sensibilities, and channeled them into a vibrant sound that helped define the culture it sprang from.” ~Austin Chronicle
My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I've always believed that music is what ties us together as people and enhances the human spirit. I remember being at a Canadian dance club many years ago and realizing how powerfully binding music can be. There I was an American black girl in the midst of Canadians, Americans, young people, older people, white people, Asian people, Hispanic people, (even, Emmanuel Lewis was there!) and we were all experiencing the joy of the music ... together. Good music transcends cultural, generational, gender, and socioeconomic boundaries. What Ruben Molina did in crafting this anthology of stories about many of the key players in the Chicano Soul (aka brown eyed soul) genre provides a more holistic review of a genre of music that has been historically overlooked.

In this work, Molina provides a plethora of personal narratives and interviews of the musicians. This structure gave the stories more life by providing authentic voices that permeated throughout the anthology. Additionally, there are many color photos that supplement the narratives. If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, this book has quite a bit to say! The most interesting (and sad) fact I learned in reading this book is so many of the artists were rather young when they started off in their careers. Many of them dropped out of school to pursue a career in entertainment. I suppose this is common in the industry, but as a proponent of education, I found it to be disappointing (and maybe naive) that they couldn't have both. The most troubling part, but not surprising, is not all the musicians were able to reach their full potential because of the ignorance of others. Radio stations and disc jockeys, getting in their own way, by not playing songs because the musicians weren't black (and it was a "black" radio station) or bands not being able to get a gig because the music had too much of an R&B influence (and the venue was targeted more to Latinos). It's tough when people are hindered because they are stuck between two (or more) worlds.

While the overall premise of the book is compelling, there were some observations I made that, I believe, could have made the book even better had they been implemented. The author provides the audience with a lot of names - individual musicians, bands, producers, etc. And because the height of this Chicano soul movement was during the 60s and 70s, we learn that band member turnover was high due to the disproportionate rate of Latinos and Blacks being drafted to serve in the Vietnam War. So, there was a large cast of "characters" being shuffled around, making it difficult for discern who was who and who was with which band group. Couple that with the mainstream names of James Brown, Little Richard, Elvis, Ritchie Valens, and the like, it was quite a bit of information to digest. I think a family tree-type chart to accompany the discography of recordings in the appendix section would have been helpful in providing more clarity. Additionally, I would have liked for the author to include more historical context to help clarify how what was going on in the world at the time affected Chicano Soul. The book is not without this. There are some mainstream ideas and events noted; however, I would have liked to see more of this.

In our current divisive and contentious times, Molina's book, Chicano Soul: Recordings & History of an American Culture, is an important piece of non-fiction that clearly illustrates we are better when we bring our unique perspectives and talents together under this melting pot of diversity we call the United States of America. Even when it seems we are losing our hope and unity, music will, in part, save us. Molina's book shows us that.

Recommendation: I think this book would be a good read for someone, who lived during this time period, and would like to reminisce as well as for a younger music lover looking to broaden his or her scope of music history. In short, this book is a coming of age story about a special genre of music that touched a broad audience of Americans all across the country.

Until next time ... Read on! 

Buy Now:

About the Author:
As a teen in the 1960s, Ruben Molina used to take a bus to Hollywood to shop for records, and his passion for vinyl never waned. As a dedicated community historian, Molina interviewed dozens of the artists whose music he loved. Much of Chicano soul music’s recent recognition and renaissance can be traced directly to Molina. He has deejayed with the Southern Soul Spinners crew since 2010.

More Blogs on this Tour:

09-Nov Promo The Page Unbound
10-Nov Promo Texas Book Lover
12-Nov Promo Books and Broomsticks
13-Nov Review Hall Ways Blog
14-Nov Promo Chapter Break Book Blog
15-Nov Review Missus Gonzo
16-Nov Promo Syd Savvy
17-Nov Promo Tangled in Text
18-Nov Review Forgotten Winds

Location: Fort Worth, TX, USA


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About Melyssa

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Hello! Thanks for visiting my blog. I am an avid reader who enjoys reading fiction. I also read biographies as well as fiction and non-fiction books about the Holocaust and Civil Rights period ... and I've been known to read a blog or two! If you'd like me to review a book, please complete the contact form below my bio. I'll be in touch!

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