Soul Music

Tracking the Spiritual Roots of Pop from Plato to Motown
Joel Rudinow


The idea is as strange as it is commonplace—that the "soul" in soul music is more than just a name, that somehow the music truly taps into something essential rooted in the spiritual notion of the soul itself. Or is it strange? From the civil rights movement and beyond, soul music has played a key, indisputable role in moments of national healing. Of course, American popular music has long been embroiled in controversies over its spiritual purity (or lack thereof). But why? However easy it might seem to dismiss these ideas and debates as quaint and merely symbolic, they persist.

In Soul Music: Tracking the Spiritual Roots of Pop from Plato to Motown , Joel Rudinow, a philosopher of music, takes these peculiar notions and exposes them to serious scrutiny. How, Rudinow asks, does music truly work upon the soul, individually and collectively? And what does it mean to say that music can be spiritually therapeutic or toxic? This illuminating, meditative exploration leads from the metaphysical idea of the soul to the legend of Robert Johnson to the philosophies of Plato and Leo Strauss to the history of race and racism in American popular culture to current clinical practices of music therapy.

"Exceptionally illuminating and philosophically sophisticated."
—Ted Cohen, Professor of Philosophy, University of Chicago

"In this audacious and long-awaited book, Joel Rudinow takes seriously a range of interrelated issues that most music theorizing is embarrassed to tackle. People often ask me about music and spirituality. With Soul Music, I can finally recommend a book that offers genuine philosophical insight into the topic."
—Theodore Gracyk, Professor of Philosophy, Minnesota State University Moorhead

Joel Rudinow teaches in the Philosophy and Humanities Departments at Santa Rosa Junior College and is the coauthor of Invitation to Critical Thinking and the coeditor of Ethics and Values in the Information Age.

Praise / Awards

  • "It's a rich feast of words, ideas and connections, a major work."
    —David Bolling, SONOMA

  • "Rudino takes readers on an excursion into the philosophy of soul music as he defines the genre."
    —T. Emery, Austin Peay State University, CHOICE

  • "...The book's clarity of thought and expression would work well in the classroom, even for students with little background in either philosophy or music."
    —Jeanette Bicknell, British Journal of Aesthetics

  • "Rudinow - a philosopher of music and musician - takes the reader on a thought-provoking journey that addresses all of these questions."
    —Cheryl Fracasso, Perspective

  • "...a thought provoking contribution to the literature on African-American popular music from within the academy."
    —Andrew Flory, American Music

Look Inside

Copyright © 2010, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 264 pages.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02279-3

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • Philosophy of Music, "devil's music", African-American music, Popular Music, American Studies, Cultural Studies, Blues, Gospel music, Aesthetics