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”Somebody has to pay the dues,” says LaVern Baker. Here are the remarkable stories of six dazzlingly talented performers who blazed the R & B trail—the story of the performers' music and also of their struggle against racism and financial exploitation: Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker, two of the most popular female black singers of the 1950s; Little Jimmy Scott, whom Madonna calls the only singer who ever really made her cry; Charles Brown, master of the “club blues” style; Floyd Dixon, a more rambunctious fellow-traveler; and the earthy, urbane Jimmy Witherspoon, who recorded some of the biggest R & B hits ever.

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