Respect Yourself

Respect Yourself

Stax Records and the Soul Explosion

Book - 2013
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The story of Stax Records unfolds like a Greek tragedy. A white brother and sister build a record company that becomes a monument to racial harmony in 1960's segregated south Memphis. Their success is startling, and Stax soon defines an international sound. Then, after losses both business and personal, the siblings part, and the brother allies with a visionary African-American partner. Under integrated leadership, Stax explodes as a national player until, Icarus-like, they fall from great heights to a tragic demise. Everything is lost, and the sanctuary that flourished is ripped from the ground. A generation later, Stax is rebuilt brick by brick to once again bring music and opportunity to the people of Memphis.

Set in the world of 1960s and '70s soul music, Respect Yourself is a story of epic heroes in a shady industry. It's about music and musicians -- Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, the Staple Singers, and Booker T. and the M.G.'s, Stax's interracial house band. It's about a small independent company's struggle to survive in a business world of burgeoning conglomerates. And always at the center of the story is Memphis, Tennessee, an explosive city struggling through heated, divisive years.

Told by one of our leading music chroniclers, Respect Yourself brings to life this treasured cultural institution and the city that created it.

Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury, 2013.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9781596915770
Characteristics: xvi, 463 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm


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Jul 02, 2015

"The death of Otis and the Bar-Kays dimmed their soul. The pillaging by Atlantic tore at their self-respect. The assassination of Martin Luther Kind choked their heart. In a state of shock, Stax was a body getting cold." (1968)
Not as smooth as Motown, not as mammoth as Atlantic, not as blues-based as Chess, Memphis records label Stax nonetheless produced some of the most soulful and gritty black music of the 60s and 70s. This history traces the label from its humble roots to its stunning success to its sad decline and fall. Founded by two white siblings, Stax released albums by iconic artists like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, and Isaac Hayes. Like Muscle Shoals and Motown, it had more or less a house band (Booker & the M.G.s) and brought together some of the most creative singers, musicians, and songwriters. The first half is the most exhilarating and writer Robert Gordon also ties the music in with the racial tensions and civil rights movement of the period. Otis Redding and his band's plane crash was a tremendous blow, both personally and professionally, but the label regrouped and had success in the 70s with songwriter turned star Isaac Hayes and the Wattstax concert. The second half of the book deals more with the economic side of the label, which is mostly depressing, and Stax's ignominious end. Regardless, its legacy, both musical and cultural, is enormous and the book is a fine tribute to the label and the extraordinary artists who were part of the Stax family. Also check out "Soulsville U.S.A." and "Otis!"


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