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Listen to the Lambs

2009
Author:

Johnny Otis
Introduction by George Lipsitz

Listen to the Lambs

A rediscovered landmark in African American political and popular history

In the summer of 1965, the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts exploded in a race riot that spanned six days, claimed thirty-four lives, and brought America’s struggle with racial oppression into harrowing relief. Equal parts memoir, social history, and racial manifesto, Listen to the Lambs is a moving witness of collective turmoil and a people for whom the long-promised American Dream was nowhere to be found.

A disturbing, incisively written book . . . Johnny Otis’s on-the-spot reports and analyses of the powder keg that erupted in Watts should be required reading.

Los Angeles Times, 1968

In the summer of 1965, the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts exploded in a race riot that spanned six days, claimed thirty-four lives, and brought America’s struggle with racial oppression into harrowing relief.

For Johnny Otis, “Godfather of Rhythm and Blues,” the events of that summer would inspire one of the most compelling books to ever explore that fateful August in Watts. Originally published in 1968, Listen to the Lambs grew from a letter Otis wrote to an expatriate friend during the days following the riots. Otis moves back and forth between Watts and his own childhood to reveal an alternate history of the riots.

Equal parts memoir, social history, and racial manifesto, Listen to the Lambs is a moving witness of collective turmoil and a people for whom the long-promised American Dream was nowhere to be found.

Listen to the Lambs

Elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Johnny Otis is a celebrated American blues and R & B musician. He is a painter, sculptor, author, and, until recently, the host of the Johnny Otis Show.

George Lipsitz is professor of black studies and sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Among his many books are Dangerous Crossroads and Footsteps in the Dark (Minnesota, 2007).

Listen to the Lambs

A disturbing, incisively written book . . . Johnny Otis’s on-the-spot reports and analyses of the powder keg that erupted in Watts should be required reading.

Los Angeles Times, 1968

Listen to the Lamb’s stylistic and thematic shifts reflect the distress and instability of the 1960’s. The republication of Otis’s kaleidoscopic riffs on identity, music, brutality, and social change is welcome in an era sometimes understood as post-ethnic and post-ideological.

Studies in American Culture