August 10, 1981 12:00 PM

by Joseph C. Smith

The author is a black composer and singer-pianist who under the name Sonny Knight appeared on the same bill as such rock ‘n’ roll greats as Fats Domino, James Brown and the Everly Brothers in the 1950s and ’60s. His first novel begins with the early days of rock in 1956 and ends in 1963. It argues the now familiar thesis that such white idols as Elvis Presley usurped the songs and style of black artists, the founders of the genre. One black from a Chicago ghetto develops a multimillion-dollar record company, but white gangsters force him to sell out. The book’s beginning is mechanically written and the ending is false. In between, though, Smith does a commendable job of serving up an authentic slice of pop history. (Grove Press, $12.95)

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