Maureen MahonMay 4, 2021
Black Diamond Queens
African American Women and Rock and Roll
Duke University Press 2020
Maureen Mahon’s book, Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (Duke University Press, 2020), focuses on the contributions to rock and roll by African American women from Big Mama Thornton to Tina Turner, and the erasure and marginalization of most of these women in other histories of popular music. Mahon draws on recordings, press coverage, archival materials, and interviews to document the history of African American women in rock and roll and puts them back into a narrative that generally emphasizes the role of white male guitar players in the development of the genre. She considers how the racialized vocal timbre of African American women’s voices has shaped rock from the girl groups of the early 1960s to the background singers who created the sound of some of the most iconic tracks recorded by the bands of the British invasion. Running throughout the book is a deep analysis of how the stereotypes about Black women crashed into the lived experiences of her subjects, affecting their careers, their relationships, and their music. By uncovering this hidden history, Mahon reveals a powerful sonic legacy that continues to reverberate into the twenty-first century.
Kristen M. Turner is a lecturer in the music and honors departments at North Carolina State University. Her research centers on race and class in American popular entertainment at the turn of the twentieth century.