Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black & White, Body and Soul in American Music
by Ann Powers
Dey Street Books
In this sweeping history of popular music in the United States, NPR’s acclaimed music critic examines how popular music shapes fundamental American ideas and beliefs, allowing us to communicate difficult emotions and truths about our most fraught social issues, most notably sex and race.
In Good Booty, Ann Powers explores how popular music became America’s primary erotic art form. Powers takes us from nineteenth-century New Orleans through dance-crazed Jazz Age New York to the teen scream years of mid-twentieth century rock-and-roll to the cutting-edge adventures of today’s web-based pop stars. Drawing on her deep knowledge and insights on gender and sexuality, Powers recounts stories of forbidden lovers, wild shimmy-shakers, orgasmic gospel singers, countercultural perverts, soft-rock sensitivos, punk Puritans, and the cyborg known as Britney Spears to illuminate how eroticism—not merely sex, but love, bodily freedom, and liberating joy—became entwined within the rhythms and melodies of American song. This cohesion, she reveals, touches the heart of America’s anxieties and hopes about race, feminism, marriage, youth, and freedom.
In a survey that spans more than a century of music, Powers both heralds little known artists such as Florence Mills, a contemporary of Josephine Baker, and gospel queen Dorothy Love Coates, and sheds new light on artists we think we know well, from the Beatles and Jim Morrison to Madonna and Beyoncé. In telling the history of how American popular music and sexuality intersect—a magnum opus over two decades in the making—Powers offers new insights into our nation psyche and our soul.
“No writer on music has as keen a mind or as great a heart as Ann Powers. Sex is the subject, but Good Booty is really a tour-de-force history of an entire century of pop, rich in feeling and fierce in insight. It’s a dazzling achievement.”—Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise
“With precision and wit, and across multiple musical genres, Powers contextualizes the complicated interplay of gender, sex, and race inherent in popular music within and against the backdrop of America’s puritanical founding.”— Library Journal (starred Review)
“SEX’N’DRUGS’N’ROCK’N’ROLL!’ is a great, shoutable slogan. Anyone who’s actually had sex knows it’s rarely that simple. From race to religion and repression to rebellion, Ann Powers makes the decades-long dance of music and desire a page-turning drama. Good Booty transforms stars I thought I knew, and uncovers cries and whispers I’d never heard. It’s an instant, indispensable classic, for a culture that always needs sexual healing.” —Carl Wilson, author of Let’s Talk About Love
“Informative and entertaining…Powers reveals an extraordinary breadth of knowledge and insight and has produced an absolutely essential addition to any pop culture collection.” —Booklist (starred review)
Ann Powers is NPR Music’s critic and correspondent and one of the nation’s leading music writers. She began her career at San Francisco Weekly, and has held positions at the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Village Voice, Blender, and the Experience Music Project. Her previous books include Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America and Tori Amos: Piece By Piece, which she cowrote with Amos; and Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Rap, and Pop which she coedited with Evelyn McDonnell. She was also the editor of Best Music Writing 2010. She lives in Nashville.