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In Rebels Wit Attitude, music writer and professor Iain Ellis throws a spotlight on the history of humor as a weapon of anti-establishment rebellion, paying tribute to the great rebel humorists in American rock history and investigating comedy and laughter as the catalyst and main expressive force in these artists' work. The performers who are the subject of Ellis's study are not merely funny people - they are those whose art exudes defiance and resistance, whether aimed at social structures and mores, political systems, aesthetic practices, or the music industry itself. Subversive rock humor has emerged as a formidable force of modern art, building a reputation for rock music as a rebellious - sometimes dangerous - form of expression that can dismay the adult mainstream as it empowers the youth culture. In this study of rock's impact on youth through the decades, Ellis proves that the most subversive rock humorists serve as the conscience of our culture. They chastise pretensions, satirize hypocrisy, and pour scorn on power, corruption, and lies. Discussing the work of iconic figures as diverse as Chuck Berry, Lou Reed, the Ramones, the Talking Heads, the Beastie Boys, Missy Elliott, Ellis examines the nature of the rock humorist, asking why and in what ways each performer uses humor as a weapon of resistance to various status quos. The commentary on these artists' work is the basis for a deeper discussion of the historical foundations and other socio-cultural contexts of humorous art, and Ellis delves into the larger issues of politics, nationality, geography, generation, art, social class, race, gender and sexuality that surround his subject. The chapters, divided by decade, include introductory sections outlining each decade's defining forces and contextual features. While lyrics constitute Ellis's primary field of analysis, his exploration goes well beyond that, moving into a discussion and interpretation of image, performance, product, and musical content.
Essays and critical profiles draw attention to those whose music and persona exude defiance--from the Beatles and the Kinks to the Smiths the Sex Pistols--to investigate the nature of rock humor and the ways these groups used it to attack prevailing social structures. Original.
This major essay collection takes a fresh look at how differences among people matter for music and musical thought.
The use of irony in music is just beginning to be defined and critiqued, irony in popular music being especially worthy of study because it is pervasive, even fundamental to the music, the business of making music and the politics of messaging. Contributors to this collection address a variety of musical ironies found in the ‘notes themselves,’ in the text or subtext, and through performance, reception and criticism. This interdisciplinary volume creates new methodologies and applies existing theories of irony to musical works that have made a cultural or political impact through the use of this most multifaceted of devices.
Surveys the stand-up comedy of the 1970s, citing the contributions of celebrity comics, from George Carlin and Richard Pryor to Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman, in an account that also evaluates the roles played by such clubs as Catch a Rising Star, the Improv, and the Comedy Store.
Prior to the civil rights movement, comedians performed for audiences that were clearly delineated by race. Black comedians performed for black audiences and white comedians performed for whites. Yet during the past forty-five years, black comics have become progressively more central to mainstream culture. In Laughing Mad, Bambi Haggins looks at how this transition occurred in a variety of media and shows how this integration has paved the way for black comedians and their audiences to affect each other. Historically, African American performers have been able to use comedy as a pedagogic tool, interjecting astute observations about race relations while the audience is laughing. And yet, Haggins makes the convincing argument that the potential of African American comedy remains fundamentally unfulfilled as the performance of blackness continues to be made culturally digestible for mass consumption. Rather than presenting biographies of individual performers, Haggins focuses on the ways in which the comic persona is constructed and changes across media, from stand-up, to the small screen, to film. She examines the comic televisual and cinematic personae of Dick Gregory, Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson, and Richard Pryor and considers how these figures set the stage for black comedy in the next four decades. She reads Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock as emblematic of the first and second waves of postcivil rights era African American comedy, and she looks at the socio-cultural politics of Whoopi Goldbergs comic persona through the lens of gender and crossover. Laughing Mad also explores how the comedy of Dave Chappelle speaks to and for the post-soul generation. A rigorous analytic analysis, this book interrogates notions of identity, within both the African American community and mainstream popular culture. Written in engaging and accessible prose, it is also a book that will travel from the seminar room, to the barbershop, to the kitchen table, allowing readers to experience the sketches, stand-up, and film comedies with all the laughter they deserve.

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