Rock remains in a hard place as long as historians and critics alienate the form from its racially, regional, gendered, and queer roots. No popular music genre’s name encapsulates its own social and cultural complexities so accurately and so succinctly. Both a verb and a noun, the doubleness of the term evokes the kinds of problems that Amiri Baraka famously outlined in relation to swing, that early-­twentieth-­century pop sensation innovated, in part, by black horn ensembles that staked out daring and insistent improvisational action with one another and set the tempo for a new modern rhythm and sonic velocity (L. Jones 1963). Just as Baraka traced the reification of swing resulting from the culture industry’s successful efforts to reengineer it and steer it into the hands of white big-­band leaders and their orchestras, so too might some critics contend that rock represents the calcification of a once vibrant, mobile, euphorically adventurous black expressive form. This line of argument suggests that once one takes the “roll” out of the equation, this music that first emerged on the Chitlin’ Circuit and in subcultural black nightclubs in postwar America before traveling across the radio waves and into white youth culture would ultimately change....

This essay may be found on page 184 of the printed volume.

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