Pop Music lecture: Kimberly Mack—female blues singers


Mar. 11, 2020, 7pm to 9pm

Campus Location

Office/Remote Location

Room 147
Kimberly Mack


The Arnold Shaw Popular Music Center at UNLV is pleased to announce its 2020 lecture series. From February through April, six scholars will visit Las Vegas to discuss the history and future of pop, rock, punk, jazz, blues, and contemporary Christian music.

In the early 1980s, the music executive, composer/arranger, and writer/historian Arnold Shaw founded UNLV’s Popular Music Center. Shaw believed that Las Vegas rested its fame—and indeed its very existence—upon two main pillars: gaming and popular entertainment. He envisioned the Popular Music Center as a foundation that would stand alongside the UNLV Center for Gaming Research as uniquely opportune sites for study, archival work, and exchange in the cultural milieu of our city.

It is in this spirit that we now invite an exciting mixture of junior and senior scholars from diverse disciplines (English, Philosophy, Musicology, and Religious Studies) to share their expertise with the university and the Las Vegas public about the varied traditions of popular music making throughout history. These scholars will raise questions about the definition of popular music, the methods for understanding popular music and culture, and the political ramifications of this activity.

All of these events are free and open to the public.

Lecture 3:

Big Mama and Amy: Autobiographical Fictions and Addictions

Join Dr. Kimberly Mack for a conversation about two transatlantic blueswomen who create works in the mold of the early-20th-century American blues queen. Focusing on mid-20th-century American blues legend Big Mama Thornton, and the late contemporary English singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, this talk considers the ways in which blueswomen talk back to their limiting representations through autobiographical self-expression. In Thornton’s early years, she was dubbed the “New Bessie Smith,” serving as a bridge between the classic blueswomen and contemporary reimaginings of the classic blues queen. Through unconventional autobiographical performances on stage and in interviews, Thornton reclaimed ownership of her work as young white performers such as Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin garnered critical accolades and enjoyed tremendous commercial success covering her songs. The lyrics of Amy Winehouse, too, are part of a tradition of American classic blues expression. In songs such as “You Know I’m No Good” and “Wake Up Alone,” Winehouse’s vocals, lyrics, and performance style engage with music traditionally performed by blacks in the United States and create an alternative autobiography that contests her public persona largely derived from sexist and misogynistic mass-media representations of her life.



Admission Information

Free and open to the public

Contact Information

Arnold Shaw Popular Music Center / School of Music
Jonathan Lee

More info on this event

External Sponsor

Arnold Shaw Popular Music Center (Jonathan Rhodes Lee, director), School of Music