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Christian Eede
29 January 2024, 12:58

New book explores the impact of synths and new music tech on R&B

Let The Music Play: How R&B Fell In Love With 80s Synths explores work by Prince, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock and more

the cover of Let The Music Play on a black background

A new book, set to be published in February, will explore the impact that synths and various forms of music technology had on the development of R&B through the '80s and '90s.

Set to be released by publisher Velocity Press, Let The Music Play: How R&B Fell In Love With 80s Synths is described in a press release as "the overlooked story of how R&B, disco and funk were transformed by the explosion of music tech in the era of ghetto blasters and Ronald Reagan".

Written by journalist and editor Steven Vass, it explores classic work by artists such as Prince, Stevie Wonder, Sade and Herbie Hancock, as well as the famed songwriting and production duo Jam & Lewis, who made work for the likes of Janet Jackson, TLC, Mary J. Blige, Usher and many others. The book generally focuses on the era of music ranging from 1978-1988.

Velocity Press' synopsis of Let The Music Play says "it tells the fascinating stories of the artists involved [in the development of R&B] and how they made some of the best-loved records of the era – creating a blueprint for music today".

The book will be published on 5th February, but can be pre-ordered here.

Revisit DJ Mag's 2023 piece on how Herbie Hancock's classic 'Future Shock' album transcended genre and blazed a trail for hip-hop here.

Elsewhere, DJ Paulette released her first book, Welcome To the Club: The Life and Lessons of a Black Woman DJ, via Manchester University Press last week. Another recently released book, The Bars Are Ours: Histories and Cultures of Gay Bars in America,1960 and After, explores the past and present of queer nightlife in the United States. 

In April, White Rabbit Books will release Futuromania: Electronic Dreams, Desiring Machines and Tomorrow's Music Today by Simon Reynolds, which documents influential electronic sounds from the 1970s onward.