CHARLES KRONENGOLD Author; Music Scholar" /> The Motown Sound: Creativity, Race, and Labor in American Popular Music fullscreen background
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MUS 42 — The Motown Sound: Creativity, Race, and Labor in American Popular Music

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 6—Jun 8
Time: 5:00—6:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 8
Units: 2
Tuition: $520
Instructor(s): Charles Kronengold
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
5:00—6:50 pm (PT)
Apr 6—Jun 8
10 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 8
2 Units
Charles Kronengold
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
​​How did the Black-owned Motown record label emerge from midcentury Detroit to become "the sound of young America"? What defined it, and who created it? In this course, we’ll listen hard to records by Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas, The Four Tops, and others. We’ll examine the ways Motown presented its artists, analyze live performances, and consider the people who made Motown matter—microphone in hand or behind the scenes. We will learn how Mowton records were made and talked about, from Detroit to Los Angeles, and how they connected with soul, pop, and other ’60s and ’70s genres. We’ll register the strengths of Motown’s top-down model—and how artists chafed against it. Above all, we’ll seek to hear Motown as a kind of Black music: it aimed for universality and succeeded globally while reflecting Black struggle and African American creativity and collaboration.

This course treats the Motown Sound as the work of many hands, spotlighting stars like The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder; songwriters like Holland–Dozier–Holland, Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, and the Corporation (anonymized by label boss Berry Gordy so they wouldn’t become too famous); plus session musicians like James Jamerson, who made the electric bass an instrument to regard, and percussionist Bobbye Hall, one of the few women among '60s studio musicians.
To hear a sampling of the songs/pieces on the syllabus, check out this playlist >

Author; Music Scholar

Charles Kronengold writes and teaches about 20th-century music, film, and aesthetics. He is the author of Living Genres in Late Modernity: American Music of the Long 1970s and, with Adrian Daub, The James Bond Songs: Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism. He recently finished his second monograph, Crediting Thinking in Soul and Dance Music. He taught music history at Stanford for 14 years.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.