Ready For a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem for a Changing America
Can a song change a nation? In 1964, Marvin Gaye, record producer William "Mickey" Stevenson, and Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter wrote "Dancing in the Street." The song was recorded at Motown's Hitsville USA Studio by Martha and the Vandellas. Released on July 31, the song was supposed to be an upbeat dance recording--a precursor to disco, a song about the joyousness of dance, the song of a summer. But events overtook it, and the song became one of the anthems of American pop culture. The Beatles had landed in the U.S. in early 1964. By that summer, the '60s were in full swing. 1964 was the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Act, and the lead-up to a dramatic election that completely changed American politics. As the country grew more radicalized in those few months, "Dancing in the Street" gained currency as an activist anthem. The song took on new meanings, multiple meanings, for many different groups that were all altered as the country changed. Told by the writer who is legendary for finding the big story in unlikely places, Ready for a Brand New Beat chronicles that extraordinary summer of 1964 and showcases the momentous role that a simple song about dancing played in our nation's history.
Arts and Humanities | Creative Writing | History | Nonfiction
Kurlansky , M. (2013). Ready For a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem for a Changing America. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.