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Midnight at the Barrelhouse: The Johnny Otis Story Unknown Binding – 2 Oct 2013

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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Not Mere Biography 5 April 2010
By Ted - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This thoughtfully written, carefully constructed and multi disciplinary work is the definitive biography of a 20th century musical polymath. An artist, visionary and activist whose contributions to American Music place him high among the ranks of our most important and treasured cultural innovators. Lipstiz chronicles Johnny Otis' more then 60 year career, showing how some of the greatest triumphs of that career were often played out behind the scenes, with Johnny as a producer, mentor and cultivator of other performers talents. He further portrays the life of John Otis as a "Life well lived" looking beyond his significant performing and recording achievements to documenting the community based activism, print, pulpit and broadcast punditry that Johnny's sensitivity and his sense of justice forced him to undertake, often at the expense of his own musical carer. The book rightfully extols Mr. Otis' work as a cultivator of new talent and an angry champion of those many forgotten and shamefully discarded (black) creators of american popular music.
Though this book is no mere biography. It is an examination of 20th Century American Society. A look at how culture, race and economy have been negotiated thru and transformed by, African Americans. In that way it is an analysis similar to the work of Ken Burns but orders of magnitude deeper, more thoughtful, less saccharin and more damming then Mr. Burns' work.
Midnight at the Barrelhouse will explain much to any american who asks, how did we get here, and it should be required reading for those many insular, self absorbed "artist" who populate todays "music industry"
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing history of music and society 15 Jun. 2010
By kevnm - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Midnight At The Barrelhouse is a fascinating look at a complex and talented man. Johnny Otis, born of Greek-American parents, was so enamored of black music and culture that he more or less "became" a black person. His concerns were those of the African-American community, his political consciousness was formed by his experience within that community, and his musical career in jazz and rhythm & blues saw him promote and contribute to a vital cultural heritage.

Otis spent his life promoting and celebrating Black culture and this book follows him through his career touring with jazz acts, acting as impresario to blues and r&b shows, discovering young talent, and promoting respect and equality. Stories of Los Angeles' Central Avenue scene, the clubs, the record companies and the touring bands all provide an opportunity to illustrate the racism that musicians, and all black people, faced in the period covered. Especially welcome are Professor Lipsitz's examinations of the social and economic trends that favored white acts, led to the disintigration of vital Black neighborhoods, and replaced thriving cultural centers with tv and suburbs.

If allowed a minor quibble, I might suggest that some of Otis's musical heroes who didn't receive national recognition were limited as much by their talent as by racism. The argument that racism held them back is difficult to sustain in the face of the sales and recognition achieved by Chuck Berry, Duke Ellington, James Brown, Otis Redding, Miles Davis and many more. That is certainly not to suggest that racism didn't hurt many careers, only that it wasn't the only possible explanation, as Otis and Lipsitz sometimes seem to suggest.

That's a minor point in an otherwise excellent look at the struggle, the oppression and the triumphs of the people and the music that Johnny Otis celebrated.
Motivating and inspiring! 25 Nov. 2011
By Mark S. Crawford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I knew the name "Johnny Otis" but I didn't know much about the person. After reading this book I feel like a slacker! Is there anything this man hasn't done?! He was a musician, a composer, a producer, a talent scout, a DJ, an activist, a painter, an author, a preacher, an all around entrepreneur, and a devoted family man. He seems like the kind of person that can get more done in one day that most can in a week!

Even more remarkable is that he accomplished all of this in a time of segregation, during which he deliberately picked a side. He explained this in one of his earlier books stating, "As a kid I decided that if our society dictated that one had to be black or white, I would be black." In this book it's written about him that, "Although considered to be a white man by the standards of a white supremacist society, Johnny Otis chose to become "Black by persuasion." His decision to embrace and inhabit an identity rooted in the collective, cumulative, and continuing struggles of Black people has enabled him to live a life replete with moral purpose and profound connection to others (p. 178)."

Throughout his life, Mr. Otis was at the beginning of several different cultural trends, as well as jumped in and added his energies to various existing movements. I appreciate all his music, the incredible performers he discovered and nurtured, and most of all I appreciate that he ". . . insisted on justice, love, and personal responsibility . . ." and that he ". . . believed in teaching by example, in treating other people right (p. 110)."

The book is an easy read and full of positive messages. To me, one of those messages was not about becoming rich and famous, but to follow your passions and give back along the way.

Mr. Otis has given our country so much and I hope someday he receives a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a National Medal of Arts, and a Kennedy Center Honor!
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
unsung heroes 5 Jan. 2011
By fuddybo of Rotherham - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How things move on.When I won the school English prize in the mid-sixties, I chose Paul Oliver's 'Conversation With The Blues', a very unusual book for a time when even general histories of Rock'n' Roll, Blues, R&B and Soul music were not available. Now all that is taken for granted-we know the overall story, and we're looking into the detail: the stories of labels like Stax and Peacock, relatively lesser-known artists like Wynonie Harris and Big Jay McNeely, the Brill Building songwriters. And Johnny Otis, an immeasurably important figure in music history, a Greek American who described himself as 'black by persuasion' and a man without whose influence white people's radio diet might still consist of musical baby food like 'You're A Pink Toothbrush, I'm A Blue Toothbrush'. Well-written, well researched. Top book. Next- Cosimo Matassa? Bobby Charles? Allen Toussaint? Roll 'em Pete!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Disappointment. 6 April 2014
By William P. MccOrd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sadly, I was expecting something terrific from Johnny Otis, the white musician, bandleader and entrepreneur who chose to live as a black man in the black community for his entire adult life. What I found was the gripefest of a cranky old bitter man. Disappointed, big time.
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