Book Review: Rock & Roll Books
Reviewed by Scott Schinder, Fri., Dec. 6, 2013
Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosionby Robert Gordon
Bloomsbury, 480 pp., $30
The triumphant and tragic story of Memphis' Stax Records, where black and white musicians created a massive body of brilliant soul music in the heart of the segregated South at the height of the Sixties' Civil Rights movement, receives definitive telling in Respect Yourself. Colorblind outpost from the conflicts raging in its hometown, the label's early success took a dark turn with flagship star Otis Redding's fatal plane crash and Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. That sets the stage for the worsening vibes and sordid business dealings leading to the company's downfall. While much of this history arrives well-documented, veteran Memphis chronicler Robert Gordon imbues it all with a wealth of fresh insight and perspective, offering revealing interviews with virtually all of the principal and peripheral participants. He's also an astute enough musicologist to convey the power of Stax's output, and how its enduring appeal transcends the forces shaping the music's creation.