American pop music is arguably this country’s greatest cultural contribution to the world, and its singular voice and virtuosity were created by a shining thread of Black women geniuses stretching back to the country’s founding. This is their surprising, heartbreaking, soaring story—from “one of the generation’s greatest, most insightful, most nuanced writers in pop culture” (Shea Serrano)
“Sparkling . . . the overdue singing of a Black girl’s song, with perfect pitch . . . delicious to read.”—Oprah Daily
A weave of biography, criticism, and memoir, Shine Bright is Danyel Smith’s intimate history of Black women’s music as the foundational story of American pop. Smith has been writing this history for more than five years. But as a music fan, and then as an essayist, editor (Vibe, Billboard), and podcast host (Black Girl Songbook), she has been living this history since she was a latchkey kid listening to “Midnight Train to Georgia” on the family stereo.
Smith’s detailed narrative begins with Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved woman who sang her poems, and continues through the stories of Mahalia Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Mariah Carey, as well as the under-considered careers of Marilyn McCoo, Deniece Williams, and Jody Watley. Shine Bright is an overdue paean to musical masters whose true stories and genius have been hidden in plain sight—and the book Danyel Smith was born to write.
About the Author
Danyel Smith is an author, award-winning journalist, and producer. She’s the creator and host the Spotify-exclusive Black Girl Songbook, a music and talk show that centers black women in music. A 2021 Yaddo Fellow, Danyel was a senior producer and editor at ESPN, and a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford, where she cofounded HRDCVR, an innovative hardcover culture magazine. In addition to writing for NPR, The California Sunday Magazine, The New Yorker, Teen Vogue, and The New York Times, Danyel has served as editor of Billboard, editor at large at Time Inc., and editor in chief of Vibe. The author of two novels—More Like Wrestling (2003), and Bliss (2005)—Danyel lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Elliott Wilson.
“Memoir, criticism, and cultural history meet in this masterful study of the brilliant Black women who shaped American pop music . . . In this soulful, enriching portrait of these extraordinary artists’ struggles and triumphs, Smith widens the canon to usher in new luminaries.”—Esquire, “The Best Books of Spring 2022”
“From Phyllis Wheatley to Mahalia Jackson to Dionne Warwick, this captivating examination of Black women in music doesn’t miss a beat. Endlessly readable, Shine Bright calls overdue attention to the groundbreaking women who made American music.”—Ms. Magazine, “April 2022 Reads for the Rest of Us”
“An enriching and entertaining book about the Black women geniuses who shaped pop music.”—Business Insider
“Black women have been writing hits that shape American and international culture for generations. It’s more than time for us to celebrate, showcase, and learn the histories of women who made our worlds brighter and more meaningful with their songs. This is an intimate ode to musical genius throughout history.”—Buzzfeed
“Rarely has a narrator been so perfectly matched to her subject. A lyrical, long-overdue feat of personal memory, cultural history, synthesis, and love.”—Isabel Wilkerson, author ofCaste and The Warmth of Other Suns
“Danyel Smith’s ‘voice’ is as vibrant, knowing, and evocatively joyous as that of the singers she writes about.”—Paula J. Giddings, author ofWhen and Where I Enter
“Dazzling . . . Smith, in celebrating the legacies of seminal Black women in pop music, has cemented her own legacy as one of the generation’s greatest, most insightful, most nuanced writers in pop culture. Shine Bright is wonderful.”—Shea Serrano, author ofHip-Hop (And Other Things)
“This book is revelatory about the specific experiences of Black women in music . . . These are chapters full of heart and wonder.”—Dawnie Walton, author ofTheFinal Revival of Opal & Nev
“Riveting and rapturous, searingly candid and unstoppably audacious . . .”—Daphne A. Brooks, author ofLiner Notes for the Revolution
“Danyel Smith paints the big picture of Black women’s central role in American music by making sure every detail is perfectly rendered. A landmark work as personal as it is profound.”—Ann Powers, author of Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music
“In this fascinating tribute, Smith ensures that the achievements of these Black women musicians will not be forgotten.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“[A] masterful examination of the Black women artists who’ve indelibly shaped American popular music . . . This lyrical and whip-smart work is a cause for celebration.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)