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Black By Design: A 2-Tone Memoir [Paperback]

Pauline Black

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Book Description

June 12 2012

"The best voice that ever graced 2-Tone." - Rolling Stone

"The iconic queen of ska. . . . It's gritty, witty, and compelling." - Elle

Lead singer for platinum-selling 2-Tone band The Selecter, Pauline Black has been in the music business for over thirty years. The only woman in a movement dominated by men, she was very much the Queen of British Ska. She saw The Specials, Madness, Dexy's Midnight Runners, and all the other top bands of that generation at their very best . . . and worst.

Black was born in 1953 of Anglo-Jewish/Nigerian parents. Adopted by a white, working class family in the fifties, Pauline was always made to feel different, both by the local community and members of her extended family, who saw her at best as a curiosity, at worst as an embarrassing inconvenience.

Weaving her rise to fame and recollections of the 2-Tone phenomenon with her moving search for her birth parents, Black By Design is a funny and enlightening memoir of music and roots.

Pauline Black is a singer and actress who gained fame as the lead singer of seminal 2-Tone band The Selecter. The band's new album was released in September 2011.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (June 12 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184668790X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846687907
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.5 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #467,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Gritty, witty and compelling Elle Black paints a vivid portrait of simmering racial tension in Britain after the Second World War ... Intelligent and affecting Independent Stories aplenty ... fascinating Metro The story of a brave, intelligent woman's struggle to make sense of the world around her Mojo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Pauline Black is a singer and actress who gained fame as the lead singer of seminal 2-tone band The Selecter. The band has recently reformed and in September 2011 releases a new album, 'Made in Britain'.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black By Design July 18 2012
By Holly F. Homan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Pauline Black's autobiography is very intelligent and sensitively written. Ms. Black, who was and still is the lead singer for the UK ska revival band the Selecter, writes about being half black but adopted by a working class white family in heavily casted England in the fifties and sixties. Ms. Black writes about the abject racism that existed (and still does to a large degree) not only in Britain, but when she visited the US while on tour with The Selecter. She writes about the relationships between her and other band members as well as portraying very honestly the seedier side of being in a rock band and all that entails.

At all times the book is very engrossing book and had me hooked from the very beginning. She not only writes about her experiences of being the only person with black skin living in an all-white community, and her experience of being a singer in a rock/reggae band, but also of how she tracked down her birth parents and learned her true identity. At no time does this book get boring. Instead the book is a very honest depiction of race relations and personal relations without being gossipy or judgmental. An excellent read and I highly recommend it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book! Sept. 22 2011
By Peter Summers - Published on
This is a thoroughly readable and engaging book right from the start - Pauline Black can write.. She is by turns reflective, honest, musical, funny, brutal and sad. What a life: black girl adopted by white parents in the late 1950's, by luck falls into the emerging Two-Tone Ska scene with The Selector, finds fame of varying degrees, and eventually tracks down her birth parents. I like Pauline as a person.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black by Design - fantastic page turner Aug. 14 2011
By CampbellX - Published on
Black by Desifgn is roller coaster journey of emotions and insider stories and pictures of the forming of The Selector ska band. Pauline Black does not flinch from going into the gory details of meeting famous people and the story of her life. Black by Design is a historical document of life lived in Thatcherite Britain at the cutting edge of culture.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish this book didn't have an enjoyable April 14 2013
By Dorothy C. Lewis - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Black by Design: A 2-Tone Memoir by Pauline Black is a great book. I loved it despite Ms. Black's jumping around in her telling of her life's event. But then again, maybe that is why I really love this book. Her jumping around is as if she is talking to you in person as opposed to writing about her life in a linear fashion.

Although I'm not into ska music, I learned a lot about its history and even went to YouTube to check out Pauline and her group The Selecter. This book is not only Ms. Black's memoir but an historical look on racial and musical tensions in England during the 50s-70s; musical tensions between muscians and the music industry (MTV era) during the 80s and 90s; and what fascinated me the most, the sociological and emotional view of a mixed raced woman in England during that time. Pauline Black discusses her life fronting a male ska band, her life as an actor and how she felt being being adopted and being black and or mixed raced. It is a great read and will keep you enthralled.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent and insightful woman Oct. 26 2012
By Robin Webster - Published on
This book was a must read for me. The reason being I read an interview with Pauline Black in a national newspaper where she was talking about her experiences of being transracially adopted. I was amazed to find that her experiences mirrored my own. Like me, Pauline Black was adopted as a baby in the UK in the early 1950's then brought up in a white area with no other black or mixed race families in sight. The similarities did not end there. As I did, she traced her natural mother (who was white) to Australia, and managed to trace her black father but alas he was dead before she got a chance to meet him. Because of this, I found the parts of the book dealing with transracial adoption in the 1950's, moving, honest and insightful. There was no blueprint for transracial adoption then and Pauline Black manages to detail her journey in a balanced and clear way of how she forged her identity as a mixed-race person. She was not only able to outline the difference in perspective between the growing transracially adopted child and the rest of its family in the 1950's but also the positives. Like Pauline Black I was loved by my family and have met people who were brought up in care homes in the 1950's and the damage that can be caused being raised in that environment can be irreparable. I also share her view that things are better today with regard to transracial adoption but mistakes are still made in the UK, particularly in rural areas.
I have to say that I was 30 years old when the 2-Tone groups came onto the scene in 1980 with their own brand of fast paced Ska. Like all the 2-Tone bands Pauline Black's band `The Selector' was embraced by a large section of British youth at that time. Because of my age I did not really connect with the energy of the music. In view of this I found myself skipping large sections of the book. However, I do acknowledge that `The Selector's music was coming from a real place. I also felt that at a time when the far right was having a resurgence in Britain, the 2-Tone groups were not only a breath of fresh air but were also a counter-balance to the influence of the far right. This is a book written by an intelligent insightful woman that with hard work has managed to live her life on her own terms. However, in my view, the book's appeal is limited to those who have an interest in the 2-Tone groups, or people that are interested in the history of transracial adoption.

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