Robert Gordon has been writing about Memphis music and history for thirty years and is the author of It Came from Memphis, Can’t Be Satisfied, The King on the Road, and The Elvis Treasures. He won a Grammy in 2011 for his liner notes to the Big Star box set Keep an Eye on the Sky. His film work includes producing and directing the documentary Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story for PBS’s Great Performances. Gordon lives in Memphis.
The story of Stax Records unfolds like a Greek tragedy. A white brother and sister build a monument to racial harmony in blighted south Memphis during the civil rights movement. Their success soon pits the siblings against each other, and the brother abandons his sister for a visionary African-American partner. Under integrated leadership, Stax explodes as a national player until, Icarus-like, the heights they achieve result in their tragic demise. They fall, losing everything, and the sanctuary they created is torn to the ground. A generation later, Stax is rebuilt brick by brick and is once again transforming disenfranchised youth into stellar young musicians.
Set in the world of 1960s and ‘70s soul music, Respect Yourself is a character-driven story of racial integration, and then of black power and economic independence. It’s about music and musicians—Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, and Booker T. and the M.G.’s, Stax’s interracial house band. It’s about a small independent company’s struggle to survive in an increasingly conglomerate-oriented world. And always at the center of the story is Memphis, Tennessee, an explosive city struggling through volatile years. Told by one of our leading music chroniclers, Respect Yourself is the book to own about one of our most treasured cultural institutions and the city that created it.
"A marvelous history . . . Mr. Gordon captures the glory years of Stax in a series of exciting chapters that reflect his fine ear for prose as well as for the music the studio made." —Wall Street Journal
"The voices of the members of the Stax family, and Gordon’s deep knowledge of Memphis, give the book a significance that extends beyond a single recording studio." —New York Times Book Review
"To read Respect Yourself is to step back into a time and place . . ." —Chicago Tribune
"The triumphant and tragic story of Memphis' Stax Records . . . receives definitive telling in Respect Yourself . . . Gordon imbues it all with a wealth of fresh insight and perspective." —Austin Chronicle
"A masterful storyteller, music historian Gordon artfully chronicles the rise and fall of one of America's greatest music studios, situating the story of Stax within the cultural history of the 1960s in the South." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"[Respect Yourself is] wonderful cultural history of not only a record company but also the city of Memphis itself." —Booklist, starred review
"Spellbinding . . . Deep cultural and social history enlivened by a cast of colorful characters." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Respect Yourself is the definitive document of one of America’s most important record labels, an engrossing tale of creativity, resilience, and struggle in the face of unprecedented adversity." —Los Angeles Review of Books
"[Gordon] chronicles the ex
"A joyous and heartbreaking story that says a lot about America." —
Richard Hell, Wall Street Journal