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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

February 18, 1996|CHRIS GOODRICH

ONE NATION UNDER A GROOVE: Motown and American Culture by Gerald Early (Ecco Press: $17; 144 pp.). References to the "Motown sound" commonly carry two happy cultural associations: of unparalleled crossover success, and of shrewd, independent black business ownership. Early, director of African American studies at St. Louis' Washington University, is right to understand Motown as "a modern black urban community built on technology, on the American bourgeois principles of consumption and production, and on the Booker T. Washingtonian principles of casting down one's buckets where one is," but one finishes this volume thinking it a work in progress. Early has a number of interesting insights on Motown as a middle-class black phenomenon and on its function today as a unifying memory, but much of "One Nation Under a Groove" seems undigested and unselective. There's a good book to be spun out of this material, but this is more a proposal for it than the real thing--as may be judged from Early's reliance on a modest amount of material, much of it derived from Nelson George's Motown history "Where Did Our Love Go?"

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