A Change Is Gonna Come

Music, Race & the Soul of America
Revised Edition
Craig Werner
The new edition of the groundbreaking chronicle of forty years of black music in America


A Change Is Gonna Come is the story of more than four decades of enormously influential black music, from the hopeful, angry refrains of the Freedom movement, to the slick pop of Motown; from the disco inferno to the Million Man March; from Woodstock's "Summer of Love" to the war in Vietnam and the race riots that inspired Marvin Gaye to write "What's Going On."

Originally published in 1998, A Change Is Gonna Come drew the attention of scholars and general readers alike. This new edition, featuring four new and updated chapters, will reintroduce Werner's seminal study of black music to a new generation of readers.

Craig Werner is Professor Emeritus of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin, and author of many books, including Playing the Changes: From Afro-Modernism to the Jazz Impulse, and Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul. He is currently finishing work on Freedoms, a two-volume history of the 1960s.

Praise / Awards

  • "No one has written this way about music in a long, long time. Lucid, insightful, with real spiritual, political, intellectual, and emotional grasp of the whole picture. A book about why music matters, and how, and to whom."
    —Dave Marsh, author of Born to Run: The Bruce Springstein Story and The Rolling Stone Record Guide

  • "This book is urgently needed: a comprehensive look at the various forms of black popular music, both as music and as seen in a larger social context. No one can do this better than Craig Werner."
    —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

  • "[Craig Werner's] ability to make significant connections in the development of widely disparate cultural traditions, his original perceptions of the links between music and literature, between the African-American cultural traditions and avant-garde modernist thought, suggest the mind of an exceptionally gifted intellectual. There is every reason to believe that Werner will emerge as a major figure of his generation."
    —Herbert Hill, Evjue-Bascom Professor of Afro-American Studies, University of Wisconsin, Former Labor Secretary of the N.A.A.C.P.

  • "Craig Werner's words reach across racial lines, expressing complex and frequently brilliant insights in an accessible manner. Should command the attention of anyone interested in moving toward a new understanding of race and American culture."
    —Nellie Y. McKay, Chair, Co-editor, The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature

  • "Werner...has mastered the extremely difficult art of writing about music as both an aesthetic and social force that conveys, implies, symbolizes, and represents ideas as well as emotions, but without reducing its complexities and ambiguities to merely didactic categories. This precise attention to historical nuance as well as cross-cultural dynamics and traditions permeates Werner's lucid analysis of the exceedingly rich and hybrid reality of American music in all of its dimensions from Gospel, Jazz, and the Blues to Rock and Roll and Hip Hop. This has allowed Werner's text [A Change is Gonna Come] to enter the elite pantheon of truly great books in the genre."
    —Kofi Natambu, African American Review, Terre Haute: Winter 2000. Vol. 34, Iss. 4; pg 716.

  • "Werner writes with a verve, with a fine sense of telling anecdote....A Change is Gonna Come is on balance a very impressive study. For its scale, for its detail, for its close attention to musics all too often attached (rap) or dismissed (disco, funk), for the coherent passion of its argument--for all these virtues Werner's book deserves its prominence and its praise."
    —Robert Cochran, African American Review. Terre Haute: Winter 2000. Vol. 34, Iss. 4; p714.

  • "A Change is Gonna Come: Music, Race & The Soul of America is both a history of race within music and American society at large in the past four decades....Werner manages to integrate substantial amounts of information into succinct sections and do justice to the story he tells at the same time. This is a book which is sure to earn a spot on the shelf with the best of recent musical history."
    —William Jelani Cobb, Emerge. Rosslyn: Apr 1999. Vol. 10, Iss. 6; p62-63.

  • ". . . an informative and 'reader friendly' survey of forty years worth of music and events in African-American history which played such an influential role in shaping the path of the American popular culture. Professor Werner manages to present an engaging and knowledgeable perspective of Afro-American music's intimate connection with its composers, performers, and audiences, while carving a vivid picture of the political credit it deserves. . . . A Change Is Gonna Come is both the perfect scholarly reference and an ideal nostalgic documentation of the history of African-American influence upon their own ethnic musical traditions."
    Wisconsin Bookwatch

Look Inside

Copyright © 2005, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Craig Werner mentioned in Books Combined (Link) | 5/9/2016

Product Details

  • 488 pages.
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Sales Restrictions

Our edition is available in Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Trinidad And Tobago, United States


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  • 2021
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  • 978-0-472-12962-1

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  • African-American studies, black music, American studies, music studies, musicology, blues music, Marvin Gaye, Motown, Mahalia Jackson, gospel, Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock, Aretha Franklin, disco, punk, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige, hip hop, Lauryn Hill