100 books like Songs in Black and Lavender

By Eileen M. Hayes,

Here are 100 books that Songs in Black and Lavender fans have personally recommended if you like Songs in Black and Lavender. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Olivia on the Record

Bonnie Morris Author Of The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture

From my list on the women’s music movement.

Why am I passionate about this?

My expertise as a scholar of the women’s music movement spans 40 years--ever since I attended my first concert and music festival in 1981. A lecturer at UC-Berkeley, I’m the author of 19 books on women’s history, and published the first book on women’s music festivals, Eden Built By Eves, in 1999 (now out of print.) More recently I’ve organized exhibits on the women’s music movement for the Library of Congress, co-authored The Feminist Revolution (which made Oprah’s list), and I’m now the archivist and historian for Olivia Records.

Bonnie's book list on the women’s music movement

Bonnie Morris Why did Bonnie love this book?

A wonderful overview of the early years of Olivia Records, this memoir from the social justice warrior of the original Olivia collective details how the first lesbian recording company was founded—and succeeded, despite all odds. Berson includes romantic insights on the artists’ passion for one another, as well as accounts of building a national audience. For two generations of women who came out with this music, the songs and albums remain critical anthems of female empowerment—and the only music that existed to affirm lesbians’ lives.

By Ginny Z. Berson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Olivia on the Record as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Literary Nonfiction. Women's Studies. LGBTQIA Studies. Music. The burgeoning lesbian and feminist movements of the '70s and '80s created an impetus to form more independent and equitable social and cultural institutions--bookstores, publishers, health clinics, and more--to support the unprecedented surge in women's arts of all kinds. Olivia Records was at the forefront of these models, not only recording and distributing women's music but also creating important new social spaces for previously isolated women and lesbians through concerts and festivals. Ginny Z Berson, one of Olivia's founding members and visionaries, kept copious records during those heady days--days also fraught with contradictions,…


Book cover of An Army of Lovers

Bonnie Morris Author Of The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture

From my list on the women’s music movement.

Why am I passionate about this?

My expertise as a scholar of the women’s music movement spans 40 years--ever since I attended my first concert and music festival in 1981. A lecturer at UC-Berkeley, I’m the author of 19 books on women’s history, and published the first book on women’s music festivals, Eden Built By Eves, in 1999 (now out of print.) More recently I’ve organized exhibits on the women’s music movement for the Library of Congress, co-authored The Feminist Revolution (which made Oprah’s list), and I’m now the archivist and historian for Olivia Records.

Bonnie's book list on the women’s music movement

Bonnie Morris Why did Bonnie love this book?

This comprehensive exploration of the women’s music movement in the 1970s and 80s looks at every angle of business and culture, from artists, companies, labels, distributors, publicity, session musicians, and more; the book includes over 100 interviews, and draws upon the author’s personal experience as a popular touring performer and recording artist.

By Jamie Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Army of Lovers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In California, a month before the Stonewall Riots in 1969, Maxine Feldman penned a song, “Angry Atthis,” about the shame surrounding lesbians. She didn’t know where she was going to sing her new song until comedy duo Harrison and Tyler asked her to open their shows. On the other side of the country and three years later, Alix Dobkin released Lavender Jane Loves Women, the first record produced, engineered and played by women.

Maxine and Alix had no business plan. They didn’t fit the mold set by mainstream music but they saw great potential to create a powerful soundtrack for…


Book cover of Fire in the Rain...Singer in the Storm: An Autobiography

Bonnie Morris Author Of The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture

From my list on the women’s music movement.

Why am I passionate about this?

My expertise as a scholar of the women’s music movement spans 40 years--ever since I attended my first concert and music festival in 1981. A lecturer at UC-Berkeley, I’m the author of 19 books on women’s history, and published the first book on women’s music festivals, Eden Built By Eves, in 1999 (now out of print.) More recently I’ve organized exhibits on the women’s music movement for the Library of Congress, co-authored The Feminist Revolution (which made Oprah’s list), and I’m now the archivist and historian for Olivia Records.

Bonnie's book list on the women’s music movement

Bonnie Morris Why did Bonnie love this book?

A memoir by one of the most enduring women’s music performers, covering her background in peace activism and solidarity with Black freedom singers that led to the creation of Redwood Records. Wonderful material on the many tensions concerning concerts for women only vs. forming alliances with other progressive communities and performance partners.

By Holly Near, Derk Richardson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fire in the Rain...Singer in the Storm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Singer-songwriter Holly Near reveals her professional triumphs and setbacks and her personal side, detailing her childhood, her activism, her emerging lesbianism, and her role in women's music


Book cover of Women in American Music Women's Studies Kresge College University of California

Bonnie Morris Author Of The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture

From my list on the women’s music movement.

Why am I passionate about this?

My expertise as a scholar of the women’s music movement spans 40 years--ever since I attended my first concert and music festival in 1981. A lecturer at UC-Berkeley, I’m the author of 19 books on women’s history, and published the first book on women’s music festivals, Eden Built By Eves, in 1999 (now out of print.) More recently I’ve organized exhibits on the women’s music movement for the Library of Congress, co-authored The Feminist Revolution (which made Oprah’s list), and I’m now the archivist and historian for Olivia Records.

Bonnie's book list on the women’s music movement

Bonnie Morris Why did Bonnie love this book?

Possibly the best and rarest of all publications about the start of the women’s music movement, this volume was prepared by the students at the University of California at Santa Cruz to serve as a textbook (and record of their experiences) for the first-ever course on feminism and music. Still available to good sleuths who find used copies floating around, the title page is Women in American Music. Women’s Studies, Kresge College, University of California, Santa Cruz, Spring 1975.

The idea for the class was initiated by Karlene Faith, who went on to be an influential producer and distributor; the book she helped edit includes interviews with early Olivia artists who were guest speakers and performers in the class. Before her untimely death, she too was working on a history of Olivia Records.

Book cover of The Music of Black Americans: A History

Daryl Cumber Dance Author Of From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore

From my list on African American folklore.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a devotee of the Word. I collect folklore. I teach literature. Generally I deal with everything from the Greek epics to Jamaican dub poetry, but my focus has been on African American folklore and culture. You might say that I'm something of a proselytizer, dedicated to seeking the Word, collecting and preserving the Word, interpreting the Word, spreading the Word. To paraphrase an old folk saying, "I've got the Word in me, and I can preach it, you know." My numerous collections of folklore have won awards and citations and enthusiastic praise from some impressive personalities and journals, but my greatest reward is witnessing the impact my collections have on ordinary, just plainlongso folk.

Daryl's book list on African American folklore

Daryl Cumber Dance Why did Daryl love this book?

The Music of Black Americans is the unmatched study of AA music. 

I love this book. I frequently reference it in my writing and teaching. There are many other studies of African American literature, but Southern’s is the classic, the key source out of which the other studies grew.

By Eileen Southern,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Music of Black Americans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beginning with the arrival of the first Africans in the English colonies, Eileen Southern weaves a fascinating narrative of intense musical activity. As singers, players, and composers, black American musicians are fully chronicled in this landmark book. Now in the third edition, the author has brought the entire text up to date and has added a wealth of new material covering the latest developments in gospel, blues, jazz, classical, crossover, Broadway, and rap as they relate to African American music.


Book cover of Music of the Common Tongue: Survival and Celebration in African American Music

Charles Hersch Author Of Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans

From my list on jazz’s connection to democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Music has always spoken to my innermost being, and coming of age in the late 1960s, I’ve been drawn to the quest for justice and equality in politics.  In my undergraduate studies at Berkeley, the late political theorist Michael Rogin, who interpreted Moby Dick as a parable of 19th Century race relations, taught me that my two interests could be combined.  As a professor of Political Science I’ve written books and articles that explore music’s ability to express ideas about politics, race, and ethnicity in sometimes unappreciated ways. 

Charles' book list on jazz’s connection to democracy

Charles Hersch Why did Charles love this book?

In this utterly unique book, Small contends that music does not consist of “works” but is rather an activity called “musicking” that enacts relationships – between sounds but also among the participants, including the audience. Through musicking we learn about ourselves in relationship to others, and that relationship can be one of submission (sitting quietly listening to an orchestra) or equality (jazz musicians improvising in response to each other while the audience shouts encouragement). In Small’s view, African American music enacts democratic relationships, in which all participate as equals, and individuality is enhanced rather than hindered by group solidarity.  

By Christopher Small,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Music of the Common Tongue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In clear and elegant prose, Music of the Common Tongue, first published in 1987, argues that by any reasonable reckoning of the function of music in human life the African American tradition, that which stems from the collision between African and European ways of doing music which occurred in the Americas and the Caribbean during and after slavery, is the major western music of the twentieth century. In showing why this is so, the author presents not only an account of African American music from its origins but also a more general consideration of the nature of the music act…


Book cover of Blues People: Negro Music in White America

Dennis McNally Author Of On Highway 61: Music, Race, and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom

From my list on jazz and the story it tells about America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a sophisticated education, including a Ph.D. in History from the University of Massachusetts. I have had a career, if that’s precisely the word, in the music business as the publicist for the Grateful Dead. I spent ten years researching what became On Highway 61. I have been a close observer of America’s racial politics at least since 1962, when the head of the Hollywood NAACP, James Tolbert, and his family, moved in next door to my family’s home in the white working-class neighborhood of Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley. Mr. Tolbert instructed me in music among other things, and I’ve been studying ever since.

Dennis' book list on jazz and the story it tells about America

Dennis McNally Why did Dennis love this book?

I have gone back to Blues People for all three of my books. His insight into the blues, jazz, and the relationship of white people and Black music still resonates, and the book is now 60 years old. Things would get much weirder in his life personally and between the races socially in the years after, but this book is no-bullshit truth.

By Leroi Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blues People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A must for all who would more knowledgeably appreciate and better comprehend America's most popular music." — Langston Hughes

"The path the slave took to 'citizenship' is what I want to look at. And I make my analogy through the slave citizen's music—through the music that is most closely associated with him: blues and a later, but parallel development, jazz... [If] the Negro represents, or is symbolic of, something in and about the nature of American culture, this certainly should be revealed by his characteristic music."

So says Amiri Baraka (previously known as LeRoi Jones) in the Introduction to Blues…


Book cover of The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening

Alejandra Bronfman Author Of Isles of Noise: Sonic Media in the Caribbean

From my list on sound and why you should care about it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been doing research in the Caribbean for twenty-five years. The region is diverse and magnificent. Caribbean people have sought creative solutions for racial inequality, climate and sustainability, media literacy and information, women’s and family issues. The transnational connections with the US are complex and wide-ranging, and knowing more about this region is an urgent matter. I work to understand how sound and media work because they structure our reality in important ways. Listening as a way of approaching relationships in work and play is key to our survival. So is understanding how media works, where we get our information from, and how to tell what’s relevant, significant, and true, and what is not. 

Alejandra's book list on sound and why you should care about it

Alejandra Bronfman Why did Alejandra love this book?

The author points to the ways American media designated sound as “black” or “white” even as “colorblindness” became the dominant paradigm for liberal attitudes towards race. While Americans claimed that they didn’t “see race”, they were exposed to an increasingly segregated soundscape and media environment. Stoever opens up new ways for us to listen to familiar voices, such as those of WEB du Bois, Lena Horne, Lead Belly, Richard Wright, and many more.

By Jennifer Lynn Stoever,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sonic Color Line as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The unheard history of how race and racism are constructed from sound and maintained through the listening ear.
Race is a visual phenomenon, the ability to see "difference." At least that is what conventional wisdom has lead us to believe. Yet, The Sonic Color Line argues that American ideologies of white supremacy are just as dependent on what we hear-voices, musical taste, volume-as they are on skin color or hair texture. Reinforcing compelling new ideas about the relationship between race and sound with meticulous historical research, Jennifer Lynn Stoever helps us to better understand how sound and listening not only…


Book cover of Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound

Allyson McCabe Author Of Why Sinead O'Connor Matters

From my list on music that put women center stage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a journalist whose work is often heard on NPR's national news magazines, and read in publications such as The New York Times, New York Magazine’s Vulture, BBC Culture, Wired, and Bandcamp. I'm most interested in stories about people, communities, and scenes that have been overlooked, forgotten, seen through a distorted lens, or perhaps never seen at all. I’m on a mission to get to a deeper understanding of what’s at stake in the way we see music and art- and the way we see ourselves.

Allyson's book list on music that put women center stage

Allyson McCabe Why did Allyson love this book?

Daphne A. Brooks’ book is a revolutionary work, centering more than a century of innovations by Black women in popular music who have been marginalized, overlooked, or erased.

Situating Zora Neale Hurston as a sound archivist and performer and Lorraine Hansberry as a cultural critic alongside blues pioneers such as Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith and contemporary artists like Janelle Monáe and Valerie June, Brooks doesn’t merely fill in blind spots.

She exposes how those blind spots reflect the partial, subjective view of white male critics and historians.

Showing us a different way of seeing and listening to culture, Brooks has informed and inspired my thinking, and some of the best work I’ve done as a journalist, including this piece about Elizabeth Cotten, whose music fueled the 1960s folk revival.

By Daphne A. Brooks,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Liner Notes for the Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award
Winner of the MAAH Stone Book Award
A Rolling Stone Best Music Book of the Year
A Pitchfork Best Music Book of the Year

"Brooks traces all kinds of lines, finding unexpected points of connection...inviting voices to talk to one another, seeing what different perspectives can offer, opening up new ways of looking and listening by tracing lineages and calling for more space."
-New York Times

An award-winning Black feminist music critic takes us on an epic journey through radical sound from Bessie Smith to Beyonce.

Daphne A. Brooks explores more than a…


Book cover of Memphis 68

Ljubinko Zivkovic

From my list on music in the late sixties and seventies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Popular music in all its shapes and forms has permeated my life since my pre-teen years and has remained both an intimate and professional preoccupation of mine throughout my life, even when I was doing other things professionally. Books dealing with all aspects of music, from artist biographies to its cultural and social examinations have been and remain that essential element that both fuel and satisfy that interest and give it that expanded feature it needs. As somebody who has a degree in journalism and had careers as a journalist, diplomat, and a translator, and now as a freelance writer, music and books on music remain that thread that connects them all.

Ljubinko's book list on music in the late sixties and seventies

Ljubinko Zivkovic Why did Ljubinko love this book?

Scottish author Cosgrove wrote probably the ultimate trilogy of books covering the 1967-69 period of soul music, of which the ‘68’ tome dealing with the Memphis sound and southern soul is one. Cosgrove is another author that looks at all the cultural and social aspects of music with an easy and understandable writing style that keeps you turning the pages with ease.

By Stuart Cosgrove,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memphis 68 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PENDERYN MUSIC BOOK PRIZE 2018

In the 1950s and 1960s, Memphis, Tennessee, was the launch pad of musical pioneers such as Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Al Green and Isaac Hayes, and by 1968 was a city synonymous with soul music. It was a deeply segregated city, ill at ease with the modern world and yet to adjust to the era of civil rights and racial integration. Stax Records offered an escape from the turmoil of the real world for many soul and blues musicians, with much of the music created there becoming the soundtrack to…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in African Americans, music, and feminism?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about African Americans, music, and feminism.

African Americans Explore 760 books about African Americans
Music Explore 650 books about music
Feminism Explore 341 books about feminism