The Woody Guthrie Award for Outstanding Book on Popular Music

The International Association for the Study of Popular Music-US Branch (IASPM-US) presents the Woody Guthrie Award each year to the most outstanding book on popular music. Winners are awarded $1,000 and are announced each year at the IASPM-US Annual Conference.

IASPM-US requests your nominations for the most distinguished English language monograph in popular music studies published during 2015. Books may be nominated by any member in good standing of IASPM, by members of the prize committee, by their authors, or by publishers. Copyrights must state 2015.

The deadline for nominations is September 1, 2016. Nominations should be sent electronically to Kariann Goldschmitt ( and should include the author’s name, book title, and publisher’s information including ISBN. The society will announce the winner at the spring 2017 IASPM-US meeting.


2015 Woody Guthrie Award Winner

Eric Weisbard, Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music


The 2015 Woody Guthrie Award goes to Eric Weisbard for Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music (University of Chicago Press). Top 40 Democracy is the first comprehensive history of commercial radio formats, and a retelling of American popular music history throughformats. Weisbard’s wide-ranging book explains how AOR, Country, Rhythm & Blues, and Adult Contemporary formats crystallized in the mid-1970s, while tracing the concept of the format back to antebellum minstrel shows and forward to the “we’ll play anything” “Jack” stations of the 2000s. Weisbard tells this story through long-overdue profiles of the Isley Brothers, Dolly Parton, and Elton John, all artists who achieved commercial success and career longevity by navigating the changing “multiple mainstreams” of their respective formats. Other chapters contain complete histories of A&M Records and Cleveland’s WMMS, in which Weisbard emphasizes the sometimes-neglected perspectives of A&R men, DJs, promoters, and other industry players. Weisbard’s readable prose and encyclopedic knowledge of pop music history make each story engrossing.

Weisbard challenges popular music scholars and fans to re-examine our preoccupation with genres, and our tendency to dismiss “the mainstream.” If genres are exclusive clubs, formats are pluralist societies with few membership restrictions. Contrary to rockist notions of Top 40 as diluted, inauthentic, and featureless, Weisbard portrays it as eclectic, sometimes bizarre, and often beautifully inclusive. By attending to formats, Weisbard writes that we can “rediscover the middle of American culture as a place at least as complicated, diverse, and surprising as the margins.” Top 40 Democracy is an alternative to narratives that have ignored the middle of the road.

Weisbard’s work rose to the top of an impressive field of books. The committee reviewed twelve eligible titles in all, and agreed that 2014 was a particularly strong year for popular music studies. We selected two additional titles for honorable mention:

In Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music (University of California Press), Nadine Hubbs uses country music to uncover longstanding alliances between white working class and queer subcultures. Such alliances have been obscured by stereotypes of low-status whites, or “rednecks,” as uniformly bigoted and homophobic, and of “middle America” as homogenous and provincial. Hubbs trenchantly critiques middle-class disavowals of working class culture (exemplified by the phrase “I’ll listen to anything but country”), and meticulously analyzes songs by the Foo Fighters, Gretchen Wilson, David Allen Coe, and others. Hubbs writes that “To hear country on its own terms, we must seek out the particular values and devalued culture of the working class.”

The second book we’d like to honor is The Political Force of Musical Beauty (Duke University Press) by beloved past president of the IASPM-US Barry Shank. In one of the most challenging and ambitious books about popular music in recent memory, Shank explores how music can inspire experiences of community and belonging despite the particularity of individual perception. His diverse case studies (which range from post-war Japanese classical composition to Hardcore punk to Tuareg rock) illustrate how music can produce a sense of unity without hardening that unity into stable and oppositional national, ethnic, or cultural identities. Shank argues that music can be an agent of change, not simply a vehicle for delivering political messages. The collective experience of recognizing a collection of sounds as music (and, by extension, as beautiful) is politically powerful. In Shank’s inspiring words, “the experience of beauty is the recognition of the way things could be, the way things should be. The ability to produce beauty, therefore, is an index of the ability to imagine a better future.”

2014 Woody Guthrie Award Winner

Lila Ellen Gray, Fado Resounding (Durham: Duke University Press)

The committee considered eighteen submissions, and we were greatly impressed by the strength of the field. Narrowing the list was no easy task!

Our unanimous choice for this year’s winner is Lila Ellen Gray’s Fado Resounding: Affective Politics and Urban Life, an impressive ethnography exploring Portugal’s most famous genre of popular music. Elegantly written and full of insight, the book takes readers into Lisbon’s taverns where amateur fado musicians or fadistas gather regularly to sing, socialize, and, most importantly, listen. Drawing on her own experiences learning to sing in a style that many claim cannot be taught, Gray unravels the many threads connecting fado’s cultivated “soulfulness” to Portuguese national identity. Although situated primarily in early twenty-first century Lisbon, the book also takes readers on a number of historical detours to show how discourse about the genre’s past performs cultural work in the present. As committee member Kevin Fellezs explains, “The book blends historical narratives, ethnographic detail, urban geography, and the biography and reception of fado’s international star, Amalia Rodriguez into a rich narrative that sheds light on the way music has always articulated the social through the emotional.” Gray succeeds in explaining how fado, like all dynamic musical genres, has periodically transformed itself in response to performers and audiences needs, desires, and lived realities. And by studying the embodied processes that produce sound (and ideas about sound), she offers popular music scholars a model for post-essentialist research on the body, voice, and identity.


The committee also recognizes two honorable mentions:

Todd Decker, Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical (Oxford University Press)
Impressive for its depth of archival research and clear writing, Todd Decker’s Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical (Oxford) productively revisits the interracial roots of the American musical and narrates in elegant detail how performances of the musical evolved throughout the twentieth century.

Marc A. Hertzman, Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil (Duke University Press)
Marc Hertzman’s Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil (Duke) is a magisterial historiography. Theoretically informed and nuanced, the book revises understandings of the genre’s origins and development, and grants readers insight into the working of race in Brazilian national culture.

This year’s prize committee consisted of Loren Kajikawa, Kevin Fellezs and Emily Lordi.  The award was presented at the University of Louisville during the IASPM-US 2015 Annual Conference on February 21, 2015.

2013 Woody Guthrie Award Winner

Deborah R. Vargas, Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music: The Limits of La Onda (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press)

Dissonant Divas

Dissonant Divas challenges the masculinist and heteronormative limitations to traditional understandings of Tejano/Chicano music through its focus on the meaningful dissonance performed by a series of female musicians. In her analyses of performers like Rosita Fernandez, Chelo Silva, Selena, and Girl in a Coma, as well as her discussions of a de-masculinized conjunto and “brown soul,” Vargas disrupts the standard understandings of regional music production. She shows how these musicians combine tonalities and rhythms along with images and narratives into assemblages that solidify new political and musical relations. In the words of committee member Robert Fink, Dissonant Divas is “really a spectacular book, with a distinctive and powerful voice, and it fills a lacuna in popular music studies.” Kirstie Dorr praises “its novel yet thick archive and rigorous analysis of how the social and the sonic intersect.” Dissonant Divas moves forward the field of popular music studies in very important ways.

The committee also recognizes with an honorable mention, the runner-up in this year’s deliberations, Mark Katz’s Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ (Oxford University Press). Groove Music narrates the aesthetic and social history of the developing techniques of the DJ. A rich, detailed study anchored simultaneously in a hands-on knowledge of the instrument and a lengthy archive of original interviews, Groove Music aims the door shut on any question about the musicality of the world’s turntablists. Katz tells this story in a style both accessible and true to its subject matter.

This year’s prize committee consisted of Barry Shank (chair), and Robert Fink.  The award was presented at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during the IASPM-US 2014 Annual Conference on March 15, 2014.

2012 Woody Guthrie Award Winners


Nona Willis Aronowitz, ed, Ellen Willis, Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press)

This curated project demonstrates Ellen Willis’ importance as a female critic writing in the male-dominated era of 1970s rock. Willis’ writing is truly interdisciplinary, breaking down boundaries between journalism and scholarship as well as between fandom and analytical detachment. It is an important feminist recovery/recognition project, and an invaluable contribution to the fields of popular music, music history, and women’s and gender studies.


Kevin Fellezs, Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk and the Creation of Fusion (Durham, Duke University Press)

Birds of Fire is an engaging, well researched and argued interdisciplinary study of a long vilified musical movement. Fellezs’ book destabilizes our concept of genre itself, by analyzing the porousness between musical styles and traditions, and the complex power relations involved in the politics of borrowing and sharing of forms. Fellezs work not only makes a crucial contribution to jazz and rock studies but suggests approaches to the wider study of the production of popular music.

This year’s prize committee consisted of Jayna Brown (chair), Christine Balance, and Ulrich Adelt.  The award was presented at the University of Texas at Austin during the IASPM-US 2013 Annual Conference on March 2, 2013.

2011 Woody Guthrie Award Winner

Karl Hagstrom Miller has been named the winner of the 2011 Woody Guthrie Award for Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow (Duke University Press, 2010).  This award recognizes the most distinguished English language monograph in popular music studies published during the past year.  Segregating Sound was the unanimous choice of the prize committee, which reviewed 21 titles this year.  The committee extolled the depth of its research, its argumentative rigor, and its wide-ranging implications for scholars of music, race, and American culture.  As Kwame Harrison wrote in his assessment, the book “pushes us to rethink history” with an ear to the importance of “the sonic demarcation of racial segregation.”  Segregating Sound thus not only contributes enormously to our understanding of the ways musical expression has been shaped by racial formation, it demonstrates that the history of the United States simply cannot be fully understood without reference to the role popular music culture played in legitimating conceptions of racial difference.

Miller is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin.  His research uses popular music to explore the cultural, economic, legal, and intellectual history of the United States.  His special focus is on the ways that people have used music to forge their conceptions of race and region, to imagine their relationship to the wider world, to comprehend the past, and to dream about the future.  His current book project examines recent debates about illegal music filesharing over the internet within the context of the long historical struggles over the meaning and control of music as property.

Honorable Mention was given to Katherine Meizel for Idolized: Music, Media and Identity in American Idol (Indiana University Press, 2011).  Idolized was recognized for its impressive combination of media studies and ethnographic methodologies, and for its nuanced exploration of the ways American Idol represents and negotiates fundamentally conflicted conceptions of citizenship, democracy, and Americanness.  Meizel is currently Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Bowling Green State University.

This year’s prize committee consisted of Diane Pecknold (chair), Anthony Kwame Harrison, and Michael Mario Albrecht.  The award was presented at the Kimmel Center of New York University during the 2012 Joint Conference of IASPM-US and the EMP Pop Conference on March 23, 2012.

2010 Woody Guthrie Award Winner

Steve Waksman. This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk. University of California Press.

Honorable mentions:

Annie Randall. Dusty! Queen of the Postmods. Oxford University Press.

David Suisman. Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music. Harvard University Press.

Elijah Wald. How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music. Oxford University Press.

PRESS RELEASE: Steve Waksman has been named the winner of the 2010 Woody Guthrie Award for This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk (University of California Press), announced Barry Shank, president of IASPM-US. The award was presented on Saturday in Cincinnati at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza during the annual IASPM-US conference.

The Woody Guthrie Book Award committee, which was comprised of Anahid Kassabian (University of Liverpool), David Brackett (McGill University) and David Shumway (Carnegie Mellon University), considered 22 books for the award that recognizes the most distinguished English language monograph in popular music studies published during 2009.

“The committee voted unanimously for this book, praising its combination of rich historical research and insightful critical analysis of music and performance,” said David Shumway, chair of the committee. “Waksman successfully makes connections between two genres usually understood to have little to do with each other, and in so doing significantly revises the history of recent popular music.”

Waksman is associate professor of music and American studies at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. His research and teaching interests are in the history of U.S. popular music and popular culture during the 19th and 20th centuries, with particular focus on music technology, the musical production of identity, and live music performance in the public sphere. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Waksman is also the author Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience (Harvard University Press, 1999). Waksman’s essays on the guitar have appeared in the Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World and The Cambridge Companion to the Guitar, among other publications, and in 2008 he was the keynote speaker at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s American Music Masters conference honoring the legacy of Les Paul. In 1998, his dissertation on the electric guitar won the Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize awarded by the American Studies Association.

During the IASPM-US conference, Woody Guthrie Book Award honorable mentions were given to:

-Annie J. Randall for Dusty! Queen of the Postmods (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

“Randall offers a distinctive approach to the study of a single figure, including enough biographical information, but embedding it in a wide range of approaches that bring out her cultural significance,” Shumway said;

-David Suisman for Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).

“An original rethinking of the advent of recording and the establishment of the industry that argues convincingly that the recording industry is historically at the heart of the cultural industry and which establishes the beginnings of the permeation of everyday life with music,” Shumway said;

-and Elijah Wald for How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

“An informative, enjoyable, and largely original history of 20th Century popular music in the U.S.,” Shumway said. “It manages to be both a significant scholarly contribution that combines readability with solid historiography.”

2009 Woody Guthrie Award Winner

Alejandro Madrid. Nor-tec Rifa! Electronic Dance Music from Tijuana to the World. Oxford University Press.

Honorable mentions:

Charles Hiroshi Garrett. Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century. University of California Press.

Marybeth Hamilton. In Search of the Blues. Basic Books.

PRESS RELEASE: Alejandro L. Madrid has been named the winner of the 2009 Woody Guthrie Award for Nor-Tec Rifa!  Electronic Dance Music from Tijuana to the World (Oxford University Press), announced Beverly Keel, president of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music-US.

The award was presented Saturday at Loyola University in New Orleans during the annual IASPM-US conference.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Marybeth Hamilton for In Search of the Blues (Basic) and Charles Hiroshi Garrett for Struggling to Define a Nation:  American Music and the Twentieth Century (University of California).

The 2009 Woody Guthrie Award committee, which was comprised of Heidi Feldman, Cheryl Keyes and Steve Waksman, considered 21 books for the award that recognizes the most distinguished English language monograph in popular music studies published during 2008.

Madrid is a musicologist and cultural theorist whose research focuses on the intersection of modernity, tradition and globalization in music and expressive culture from Mexico, the U.S.-Mexico border, and the circum-Caribbean. In 2005 Alejandro received the prestigious Casa de las Américas Musicology Prize Prize for his book Sounds of the Modern Nation: Music, Culture, and Ideas in Post-Revolutionary Mexico. He is also co-editor of Postnational Musical Identities: Cultural Production, Distribution and Consumption in a Globalized Scenario (2007). Madrid is associate professor of Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Madrid’s book impressed the committee for its sophisticated blend of ethnographic research and theoretical analysis, and for its deft application of the “border studies” paradigm that has occupied scholars of the U.S. and Latin America in recent years, according to Waksman, the committee chairman.

Hamilton is Reader in American History at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research interests include the social and cultural history of the United States and the history of popular culture, as well as the history of sexuality and the history of the human sciences. She is also the author of When I’m Bad I’m Better: Mae West, Sex, and American Entertainment (1995). Hamilton’s book won favor for its insightful revisionist account of the cultural significance of the blues, the depth of historical research and the mix of accessibility and complexity found in the book’s method of analysis, Waksman said.

Garrett is an associate professor of musicology at the University of Michigan. His research and teaching interests focus primarily on 20th-century music, American music, jazz, popular music, music and racial/ethnic representation, and cultural theory.  He is a past recipient of several major prizes, including the Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship and the Alvin H. Johnson AMS-50 Dissertation Fellowship from the American Musicological Society as well as the 2002 Mark Tucker Award from the Society of American Music. Garrett’s book was impressive for its scope and ambition as a study of a diverse range of musicians and musical styles that cumulatively shed new light on the complicated nature of “American” musical identities, Waksman said.

“Madrid’s work presents an exemplary combination of ethnographic detail and theoretical rigor, applied to the activities of an electronic music collective situated in Tijuana, Mexico,” Waksman said. “It is one of the strongest works to date pursuing the contemporary paradigm of ‘border studies’ in a popular music context, and also marks a significant contribution to scholarship on electronic dance music and to the ways in which popular musicians and music fans negotiate their way through the experience of globalization.

“Madrid’s primary subjects, the musicians who formed the Nortec Collective in 1999 and continued its activities into the first decade of the 21st Century, use state-of-the-art music technologies to recast traditional musical styles of Northern Mexico into new, hybrid forms of musical expression. For Madrid, their location in Tijuana – a city that is defined by its proximity to the U.S./Mexico border and its status as a destination for tourists – marks their activity as a quintessential expression of the distinct cultural pressures and possibilities that reside in borderland areas.

“Madrid interprets the sounds created by the Nortec Collective with great nuance and insight,” Waksman said. “But he also goes well beyond the surface of their recorded works.  His years of fieldwork, interviewing members of the Collective and their fans, allows him to create a multi-layered portrait of this musical movement as it was being created and as it responded to new cultural developments.  He devotes considerable attention to the local conditions of musical production in Tijuana, offering a rich portrait of the city’s club life.  Importantly, he also pays attention to the processes through which the Collective’s work circulated beyond Tijuana and entered global networks of musical consumption and distribution.

“Throughout, Madrid draws upon the theoretical work of such figures as Benjamin, Zizek, Deleuze and Guattari to raise larger questions about the ways in which music exists as an aural embodiment of the changing relationships between local and global forms of subjectivity. The Guthrie award committee congratulates Alejandro Madrid for producing such an excellent work of scholarship that intervenes in a number of important critical conversations.

2008 Woody Guthrie Award Winner

Ingrid Monson. Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa.

PRESS RELEASE: Dr. Ingrid Monson has been given the Woody Guthrie Book Award 2008 for “Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa.” The award was presented during the 2009 IASPM-US conference in San Diego.

Painstakingly researched, “Freedom Sounds” is a concourse into the complex interplay between music, racial tensions and artistic innovation during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, according to the book award committee that was comprised of chair Barbara Fox and members Larry Witzleben and Trudy Mercadal.

“Monson examines the recasting of jazz in terms of prejudicial hardships such as reverse racism, playing to segregated audiences in the 1950s and African-American self-determination of the 1950s and 1960s,” the committee noted. “In addition, her work includes the ethos of the cold war, reaction to African musical expression and diasporic sensibilities in light of America’s infamous reputation for racial prejudice. Monsay clearly documents governmental support for jazz to be used as a ‘Utopian dream come true.’ “Her thorough research on sensibilities in America and the struggle to right itself in crisis are illuminated in her presentation of such events as the funding of State Department tours in 1956, desegregation of the American Federation of Musicians, economic strategies of empowerment and African nationalism,” the committee said. “The result is a compelling work that presents theoretical and cultural criticism in a complex era. Her research, archival listings and ample footnotes provide a wealth of information for future scholars by delineating without oversimplifying this impact on jazz history. “We congratulate Dr. Monson on her exploration of the interplay between music, politics and ethos during this critical time in jazz history.”

Dr. Monson is the Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music at Harvard. According to Harvard’s website, Professor Monson specializes in jazz, African American music, and music of the African diaspora. She is also the author of “Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction”, which won the Sonneck Society’s Irving Lowens award for the best book published on American music in 1996.

She is also editor of “The African Diaspora: A Musical Perspective” (2000). This collection of essays presents musical case studies from various regions of the African diaspora that engage with the broader interdisciplinary discussions about race, gender, politics, nationalism, and music. Contributors include Akin Euba, Veit Erlmann, Eric Charry, Lucy Dur‡n, Jerome Harris, Travis Jackson, Gage Averill, and Julian Gerstin.

She has published articles in Ethnomusicology, Critical Inquiry, World of Music, Journal of the American Musicological Society, and Women and Music. She is also a trumpet player.

She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in Musicology from New York University, her B.M. from New England Conservatory of Music, and her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Economics.

Previous Woody Guthrie Award Winners

2007 – Heidi Feldman. Black Rhythms of Peru: Reviving the African Musical Heritage in the Black Pacific. Wesleyan University Press.

2006 – Steven F. Pond. Head Hunters: The Making of Jazz’s First Platinum Album. University of Michigan Press

Honorable Mentions: Paul Austerlitz, Jazz Consciousness: Music, Race, and Humanity (Wesleyan University Press); Lisa Rhodes, Electric Ladyland: Women and Rock Culture (University of Pennsylvania Press); and Daniel Goldmark, Tunes for ‘Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon (University of California Press)

2005 – Bryan McCann. Hello, Hello Brazil: Popular Music in the Making of Modern Brazil. Duke University Press.

Honorable Mention: Tim Lawrence. Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979. Duke University Press.

2004 – Guthrie Ramsey. Race Music: Black Cultures From Bebop to Hip-Hop. University of California Press.

2003 – Bernard Gendron. Between Monmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant Garde. University of Chicago Press.

2002 – CO-WINNERS: Gary Giddins. Bing Crosby: A Pocketful Of Dreams: The Early Years 1903-1940. Back Bay Books; Theodore Gracyk. I Wanna Be Me: Rock Music and the Politics of Identity. Temple University Press (Sound Matters Series).

2001– Norman Stolzoff. Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture In Jamaica. Duke University Press.

2000 – Adelaida Reyes. Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free: Music and the Vietnamese Experience. Temple University Press.

Runner up: Steve Waksman. Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience. Harvard University Press.

1999 – Frances R. Aparicio. Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latin Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures. Wesleyan University Press/University Press of New England.

Runner up: Daniel Cavicchi. Tramps Like Us: Music and Meaning among Springsteen Fans. Oxford University Press.

1998 – Scott DeVeaux. The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History. University of Califonia Press.

1997 – Paul Théberge. Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology. Wesleyan University Press.