This book looks at one of the most significant cultural changes in urban Britain over the last 60 years, the influence of Jamaican popular music and culture on the lives of young white people. Black Culture, White Youth was one of the first detailed studies of this phenomenon. Out of print for a number of years, this important work is now republished with a revised introduction, a new conclusion and previously unpublished photos. The book offers a snapshot in time of a developing multiculture in a specific regional context, the city of Birmingham in the West Midlands of England.
The first half of the book traces the historical development of Jamaican popular music from its origins in African-derived folk forms to the evolution of reggae. The book explores how these traditions were recreated in Britain, and how they came to occupy a central position in black British youth culture in the 1970s and 80s. Subsequent chapters show how reggae was marketed and popularised in particular forms by the entertainment industry, focusing on the role of Island Records with Bob Marley and the Wailers. The book then traces the succession of popular responses to Jamaican music within white youth culture, from the mod and skinhead subcultures, to the movements of punk and Two-tone.
The second half of the book is based on research undertaken in Birmingham during the first half of the 1980s. It undertakes a detailed, ethnographic study of the lived experiences of one particular group of young white people. It conveys those experiences in the words of young people themselves, capturing the responses generated by their engagement with the black youth culture of the time. These chapters explore what it means to these young white people to have grown up alongside their black peers, shared the same classrooms, neighbourhoods, streets and youth clubs. How did they identify with and adopt the language, style and music of their peers? What consequences and effects did these affiliations have in terms of the politics of racism?
This book offers a glimpse of emerging multicultures and embryonic identities that have since become commonplace features of the everyday cultural landscape in urban Britain. In doing so, the book provides a portent to today’s multicultural Britain. The processes described in the book are a foretaste of the cross-cultural hybridity that followed in its wake in post 80s music and youth culture. Black Culture, White Youth reveals something of the enduring power of music as a channel of communication across ethnic and racial boundaries, but it also sheds light on the real contradictions and tensions in these processes, and their implications for the politics of “race”, culture and identity.