By Daphne A. Brooks

About Daphne A. Brooks

Daphne A. Brooks is Professor of African American Studies and Theater Studies at Yale University. She is the author of two books, Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850–­1910 (2006), and Jeff Buckley’s Grace (2005).


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 …

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