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Got to Be Something Here

The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound

2017
Author:

Andrea Swensson

Got to Be Something Here

The story, from start to superstardom, of the musicians who shaped the Minneapolis Sound

Beginning in the year of Prince’s birth, 1958, with the recording of Minnesota’s first R&B record by a North Minneapolis band called the Big Ms, Got to Be Something Here traces the rise of that distinctive sound through two generations of political upheaval, rebellion, and artistic passion.

Got to Be Something Here nails the atmosphere that I grew up in. Clubs, policies, and things that didn’t make sense back then, after reading this book make all the sense in the world. I think anyone who wants to understand musicians who hailed from North Minneapolis needs to read it. There are answers in these pages.

André Cymone

Beginning in the year of Prince’s birth, 1958, with the recording of Minnesota’s first R&B record by a North Minneapolis band called the Big Ms, Got to Be Something Here traces the rise of that distinctive sound through two generations of political upheaval, rebellion, and artistic passion.

Funk and soul become a lens for exploring three decades of Minneapolis and St. Paul history as longtime music journalist Andrea Swensson takes us through the neighborhoods and venues, and the lives and times, that produced the Minneapolis Sound. Visit the Near North neighborhood where soul artist Wee Willie Walker, recording engineer David Hersk, and the Big Ms first put the Minneapolis Sound on record.

Across the Mississippi River in the historic Rondo district of St. Paul, the gospel-meets-R&B groups the Exciters and the Amazers take hold of a community that will soon be all but erased by the construction of I-94. From King Solomon’s Mines to the Flame, from The Way in Near North to the First Avenue stage (then known as Sam’s) where Prince would make a triumphant hometown return in 1981, Swensson traces the journeys of black artists who were hard-pressed to find venues and outlets for their music, struggling to cross the color line as they honed their sound.

And through it all, there’s the music: blistering, sweltering, relentless funk, soul, and R&B from artists like Maurice McKinnies, Haze, Prophets of Peace, and The Family, who refused to be categorized and whose boundary-shattering approach set the stage for a young Prince Rogers Nelson and his peers Morris Day, André Cymone, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis to launch their careers, and the Minneapolis Sound, into the stratosphere. A visit to Prince’s Paisley Park and a conversation with the artist provide a rare glimpse into his world and an intimate sense of his relationship to his legacy and the music he and his friends crafted in their youth.

Got to Be Something Here

Andrea Swensson is an author, radio host, and music journalist. She hosts a weekly program about the Minnesota music scene, The Local Show, at Minnesota Public Radio’s 89.3 The Current and contributes to the Local Current Blog. Prior to joining MPR, she was the music editor at City Pages, where she founded the AAN AltWeekly Award-winning Gimme Noise music blog.

Got to Be Something Here

Got to Be Something Here nails the atmosphere that I grew up in. Clubs, policies, and things that didn’t make sense back then, after reading this book make all the sense in the world. I think anyone who wants to understand musicians who hailed from North Minneapolis needs to read it. There are answers in these pages.

André Cymone

Anyone seeking to understand the community of black culture workers that birthed Prince and his peers should read Andrea Swensson's definitive history of the rise of the Minneapolis sound.

Zaheer Ali, New York University

Prince didn't come from nowhere (though Chanhassen is pretty close!). In Got to Be Something Here, Andrea Swensson explains the roots and context of a musician who changed the world. The book is scholarly and supremely well-researched, but as cool, gripping, and fun as any of his Purple Majesty's finest grooves.

Jim DeRogatis, author and co-host of Public Radio’s Sound Opinions