Celebrating Black History Month with 33 1/3

Spotify album covers

In honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating some of the most important musicians in Black history and culture. From classics like Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin to modern icons like Kanye and Janelle Monáe, our newest playlist has a little something for everyone. We’re featuring some of our favorite 33 1/3 artists alongside some of the most recent additions to the series and exciting upcoming releases. Listen now on Spotify and learn more about our latest books.

Happy Holidays from 33 1/3!

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Need a soundtrack to make your holiday a little merrier? Check out our newest 33 1/3 playlist! Featuring some of our favorite 33 1/3 artists and highlighting some of the most recent additions to the series, these songs will provide the perfect background to all your tree-decorating, cookie-baking, and present-opening festivities. Listen now on Spotify and learn more about the latest books in the series, including our 150th 33 1/3. Happy holidays!

From Elvis in His Canon

Eric Wolfson on his favorite Elvis albums Elvis has always had a precarious place in the rock and roll canon. Despite his massive influence, Elvis is usually left off those “Greatest Albums” lists, dismissed as a relic from the supposedly trivial era before the Beatles arrived. (Never mind that the Beatles would have never existed without Elvis.) And he is not alone. The same is true for his ’50s peers, as albums like Chuck Berry Is on Top, Jerry Lee Lewis’s Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, Here’s Little Richard,…

From Elvis in the White House

Eric Wolfson on Elvis, the man who admired Nixon, and Elvis, the American brand On June 9, 1972, Elvis held a press conference about his upcoming shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City. By this point, Elvis had already begun his Vegas tenure and was largely viewed as part of the establishment. Midway through, a female reporter asked him what he thought of war protesters and whether he would accept being drafted today. Elvis responds, “Honey, I’d just—I’d just—sooner keep my own personal views about that to myself…

From Elvis “In the Ghetto”

Eric Wolfson on Elvis becoming an American cultural icon From the moment Elvis entered the Army, he rarely skirted controversy for the rest of his career. To do so threatened to divide the coalition of fans he spent his whole career building, and his domineering manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker wouldn’t have that. Specifically, the Colonel was dead-set against one of Elvis recording one of his now-signature songs, “In the Ghetto,” his first Top 5 U.S. hit in four years and the finale of From Elvis in Memphis. In my book,…

From American Sound Studio in Memphis

Eric Wolfson on the contested history of “The Memphis Boys” Elvis Presley recorded From Elvis in Memphis at one of the most unheralded sites in rock and roll history, American Sound Studio. The studio was founded by a maverick guitarist/songwriter/producer named Lincoln “Chips” Moman (his nickname came from a love for gambling), who helped launch Stax Records, scouted its now-famous location, and produced its first hit (Carla Thomas’s “Gee Whiz” in 1960), before splitting because he felt like getting ripped off by the studio’s founders. Chips formed his own studio,…

From Elvis in 33 1/3

Eric Wolfson on why he wrote about From Elvis in Memphis for the 150th book in our series Until now, Elvis Presley was the single most influential figure in modern popular music who did not yet have a volume in the 33 1/3 series. And at the same time, despite countless books about Elvis’s life, music, influence, movies, lovers, religion, favorite recipes, cars, horses, and scores of other topics, no one has ever written a stand-alone book about one Elvis album. So writing this book felt mutually beneficial to both…

Nine Reasons Why I Chose to Write a Book About 24-Carat Black’s Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth

Zach Schonfeld on the significance of 24-Carat Black’s legacy I realize that 24-Carat Black’s 1973 soul-funk masterpiece may seem like an unlikely choice for the 33 1/3 treatment. I also realize that much of the target audience for this book series may not be especially familiar with 24-Carat Black. As I write in the book’s introduction, “Its influence is largely invisible. It never sold ten million copies. It doesn’t show up on Rolling Stone lists of the 500 greatest albums of all time. At the time of writing, it doesn’t…

Beyond 24-Carat Black: A Sample Revenue Reading List

Zach Schonfeld on the various dimensions of sampling When I tell people about my book about 24-Carat Black, I often mention that the group’s music has been sampled hundreds of times throughout hip-hop. If you’ve listened to, say, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN, or Nas’s double-platinum album It Was Written, you’ve heard bits and pieces of 24-Carat Black. But the surviving members of 24-Carat Black haven’t received royalties for those samples, even when the samples were legally cleared. The latter half of my 33 1/3 book explores both the creative and legal…

An Interview with 24-Carat Black’s Saxophonist and Road Manager

Zach Schonfeld in conversation with Jerome Derrickson While researching and reporting my 33 1/3 book about 24-Carat Black’s progressive funk masterpiece Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth, I tracked down and interviewed ten surviving members of 24-Carat Black. (Some from the group’s original lineup, others from the group’s Chicago-based second lineup.) These interviews were long and fascinating, full of vivid recollections of 24-Carat Black’s unusual rise and fall, but—for obvious reasons of space and narrative flow—I could only quote small portions of them in the book. So I figured I could use this…