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Book Review – The Funk Queen Dawn Silva

It is a story that covers a large enough “arc of history” and intersects not only with many famous people who are well known by the general public, but also with key events from American History that are also happening within the same timeframe.


“the arc of history is long but it bends towards justice”

This is one of the most unusual books I have ever reviewed.

That’s because it is multiple things all at the same time and can be consumed in multiple ways.

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Weight: 6 pounds ~ 1 oz
Pages: 544 (Five-Hundred-Forty-Four)
Chapters: Fifty-One
Photos: Over 300 ~ Black/White ~ Color ~ Classic Memorabilia & Graphic designs
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One way to consume the book: An Alternate American History

  • It is the autobiography of a person who is well known in some circles, superficially known in a larger circle and unknown by the general public.
  • It is a story that covers a large enough “arc of history” and intersects not only with many famous people who are well known by the general public, but also with key events from American History that are also happening within the same timeframe.
  • In that sense the story can be consumed in much the same way that we consumed “The Godfather,” which was as you will recall a detailed history of a “immigrant family”, over a long period of time, that we all knew on a superficial level prior to consuming the story, that intersected with well-known political, musical & cultural events in American History, that we were already quite familiar with.
  • BTW Dawn Silva is a wonderful storyteller as the reader will discover as she masterfully tells this story. Most people with love it, although there are many in the music industry who will be fuming after reading it.
  • Because of the amazing pictures combined with backstories, this book screams out for a “Ken Burns Style Documentary” (Think about how he did “Civil War,” “Baseball” etc)

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Another way to consume the book: A Family Pictorial History

  • Have you ever been fortunate enough to collect all of your family photo albums (from both sides of your family) together in one place for a period of time and then spread them out on the floor and tried to make sense of them? Not an easy thing to do (especially for Black people, because of the number of lost connections and disconnections.)
  • However, if you have been lucky enough to be able to sit with some of the older folks in your family and obtain as much of the backstory as possible about those photos in that album, you can begin to piece together a coherent story about those photos, that will not only make sense to you, other people in your family, but also to other people who are not in your family.
  • While most Black Americans have come to terms with the fact that they may never know the true detailed history of their family. They are obsessed with knowing the true detailed story of the part of their family story that they can feel, touch and already know a tantalizing piece of. That is the portion of the story represented by the photos in those family albums, that they know lots of detail about some of the pictures and very little detail about many of them, but some of that detail can be filled in by.
  • As the current “oldest person in my family,” and the current “custodian” of ALL of my family’s photo albums, I have some experience with this problem/opportunity. For example, I can remember a weekend back in the late 1980’s when I spent an entire weekend “interviewing” my grandmother, while we went thru all of her photo albums. I had my cassette recorder going as she described all of the photos she had and of course till that time, I had no clue who any of these people were or just how they were connected to me.
  • Today all of my grandmother’s photo albums are safely stored on a bookshelf in my home. My hope is that before it’s time for me to leave this planet, somebody (my daughter?) will sit down with me and go thru the photo albums, learn what I know and of course eventually take possession of the photos themselves.
  • In viewing the beautiful (and large) collection of family photos, and reading the accompanying backstories, I can only surmise that our friend Dawn Silva has gone thru this process and used the book as a vehicle for documenting the result of it.
  • Oh btw, it also contains many previously unpublished/unseen photos of Dawn’s “extended family” (behind the scenes/candid photos of Dawn with some of the most famous artists in the history of popular music)
  • Why should you care about the story/history of Dawn Silva’s family/extended family?
  1. It’s damn interesting.
  2. The photos are beautiful.
  3. In a sense, Dawn’s “Extended Family Album,” are literally the images that filled our minds as music fans who came of age during the 1970’s & 1980’s.
  4. You may be inspired to do something similar with your own family story.

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Another way to consume the book: A 1960’s – 1990’s Timeline of Black Culture

  • First we get a look at “average” 1960’s Black Culture thru the eyes of teenaged Dawn Silva, in Louisiana and California.
  • Then we get a look at 1970’s – 1980’s Black Culture on “steroids,” from Dawn as she is on the scene literally as that culture is being created for consumption by teenagers like myself by the people who were at the center of it (Platters, Sly & the Family Stone, Parliament-Funkadelic, Gap Band, Eurythmics, Ice Cube, etc.)

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One last way to consume the book: The Rise and Fall of Funk Music

  • For “funkateers” (like Dawn Silva, myself and millions of others around the world,) for major portions of our lives, and our world was dominated by funk music.
  • We thought it was the beginning, middle and the end to most everything in our lives.
  • We took it seriously and we believed that it took us seriously.
  • The music of artists like Sly & the Family Stone and Parliament Funkadelic and those influenced by them was the most popular music in the world. And Dawn Silva was a direct participant in the creation of that music and one of the leading and visible exponents for the culture that it spawned. As such the book is a primer on that history, literally from the horse’s mouth, from someone who was actually there.
  • We thought the “the music, the people and the one” (as author Rickey Vincent defined it) was going to last forever. We continued to cling to that belief long after the commercial world of music/culture left it behind for dead.
  • Dawn tells us the complete story of Funk, front stories and backstories  (warts and all.) Just like Baseball cards have two sides, think of this book as containing “the other side,” of everything that you think that you already know about the history of Funk music & culture.

“the arc of history is long but it bends towards justice”

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The bulk of this book takes place during the 1970’s & 1980’s, long before our society evolved with respect to the general treatment of females in the workplace (or the home-place for that matter.) As a female band member seeking something approaching “equal treatment,” Dawn Silva is portrayed here as a victim of the then prevailing manner that women in the music industry were treated. She was mentally & physically abused, ripped off, and more. She discusses these events in detail and until someone proves otherwise I will presume that they are true, since she isn’t the only source I have heard about these events from.

You should as well, because as we have all learned from the “me too” movement, we should ALWAYS listen to women, whenever they tell us that they have been abused. And not only because most of the time, they are telling us the truth. But more importantly, as “me too” has taught us, the more we refuse to listen to women, the longer the “bad guys” will continue to not be accountable for their wrongdoing.

So, in a sense I would like to conclude that in writing this book Dawn Silva has accomplished all of the above and perhaps most importantly she has demonstrated that “the arc of history is long but it bends towards justice” can even be applied to our own individual stories.

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5/18 @ 8p est DAWN SILVA BOOK READING + INTERVIEW, LIVE on Soul-Patrol

Dawn will read selections from her new book: THE FUNK QUEEN (600 pages including 300 pictures.) And of course, we will also interview her.
Register at the following link:

The 600 page EPIC Funk Music/Culture first hand account, covering Dawn’s career as a key member of the following legendary groups:

  • Brides of Funkenstein
  • Parliament Funkadelic,
  • Sly & the Family Stone
  • Gap Band

Trust me, if you are looking for a “liner notes style history of the funk” (this is the wrong place for that.)
This book covers some of the basic turf that you might expect, from a musical perspective.
But it also covers all of the details, “behind the music,” such as:

  • The corrupt recording deals.
  • The corrupt concert promoters.
  • The corrupt radio operators & promoters.
  • The “stolen” copyrights.
  • The racism.
  • The lies.
  • The sexual misconduct.
  • The drugs.
  • The child exploitation.
  • The sexism.

None the less, it is a history of the Funk music era, the good, the bad and the ugly, as told by someone who was a first hand participant as an artist and a whole lot more.

Dawn is going to be joined by special guest Henry Mayers who will provide some additional insight on the events on the promotion side of things during this era.
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