The Twist
By Jim Dawson

book cover

"Dawson, co-author of What Was the First Rock 'N' Roll Record?, this time offers not just a history of one song and one dance, but also an example of cultural appropriation. He traces the song to African spirituals and ragtime's 'Messing Around,' and the dance to the lindy and Southern California's Bop. The Twist broke into the mainstream when high society slummed among the hipsters, bringing in its wake the forces that would adopt the Twist and package it for teenage culture. The Twist's success was an early example of the collusion of the television and record industries in making hits, as well as of the further appropriation of black culture when the song's original singer, Hank Ballard, was replaced by the lighter-skinned and teenaged Chubby Checker. The dance's pelvic motions put an end to touch dancing, while the song would change rock history despite sexual innuendo and racial taboos. In contemporary music, 'one-hit wonders' often capture the fancy of the record-buying public, but the Twist was a one-hit wonder that hit over and over again. While Dawson's account in no way rivals the kind of scholarship of Greil Marcus's 'Lipstick Traces,' it is a well-researched survey of what would become the soundtrack of a generation worldwide."--Publishers Weekly, March 27, 1995

The Twist is now available for Kindle: The Twist [Kindle Edition]



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