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
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: NPR, Publishers Weekly
LONGLISTED FOR THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD
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.
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.