This volume is a graphically improved re-edition and re-invention of a book that first appeared in 1999. The classic Corio portraits have been swapped in a few places, but the line-up of brilliance they represent is unchanged, as is the text itself, apart from a little polish here and there. All quotes are taken from either the lifetime of original interviews I have conducted as a music journalist, first published in the mid-1970s British rock press, or from the many months of interviews I conducted specifically for The Black Chord, unless otherwise noted. My choice of additional subjects was dictated by David’s magnificent portrait gallery. I wanted to, if not directly quote, at least contextualize every artist. In the intervening decades, many have left us. Some shine even more brightly. Regarding others whose luster has been tarnished by scandal, it may be a poignant surprise to recall how they were viewed before the sad, sordid truth came out.
Like my dear friend and colleague David Corio—who had shot some of my own finest portraits—I came up in the London media and arts scene of the 1970s and ’80s; in the early ’90s, we both moved to New York. We shared the same typical Londoner’s sort of eclectic pan-Black aesthetic: A love of soul, jazz, hip hop, R’n’B, music from Africa, particularly Francophone West Africa, and we had a special passion for reggae and dub. We shared a cultural formation, one that is reflected in this eclectic collection.
When he told me in the closing years of the last century that he was planning a book of his portraits and asked if I might be interested in writing it, I sat with the archive and marveled. Through his serious commitment to and passion for music, he had kept on shooting since 1976, usually for a publication or label, but often for love, until his archive spelled out much of the arc of Black popular music from the latter half of the 20th century. I found it epic. Over a North London lunch with Trinidadian writer and broadcaster Isaac Fergusson, we discussed the way music has flowed in cycles of creativity; how the Africa from which so many individuals had been stolen remained the foundation for virtually everything we loved to listen to. That idea, that truth, resonated and took form in an alluring vibration. We decided to call it The Black Chord, as no matter how different were the sounds, together they formed one mighty harmony. —Vivien Goldman
David Corio was born in London, England, in 1960. He began his professional career in 1978, taking photographs for NME, followed by The Face, Time Out, and Black Echoes, covering a wide range of music and portraiture. After a stint as a music writer at City Limits, he worked as a freelance photographer for the Daily Telegraph, The Times, Q, Theatre Royal Stratford, and Greensleeves Records, among others.
David’s photographs are held by the National Portrait Gallery, The Photographer's Gallery, The I.C.A., and The Victoria and Albert Museum in London; The National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington D.C., and the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tennessee; and have been exhibited at The Hayward Gallery, Getty Images Gallery, Rock Archive Gallery, and The Special Photographers Gallery in London; International Centre of Photography, The Morrison Hotel Gallery, The Brownwyn Keenan Gallery, Corso Como Gallery in New York City, and the Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle; Elliott Halls Gallery and The Tropen Museum in Amsterdam.
David has lived and worked in London and New York City, and his work has been published in the New York Times, The Times, the Telegraph, Rolling Stone, and Mojo. He has also worked for the School of Visual Arts, the Swedish Institute, New Jersey Institute of Technology, the Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineers, Greensleeves Records, VP Records, Heartbeat Records, Universal Music Group, EMI, and Island Records.
The Black Chord, a comprehensive collection of David's photographs of black musicians was published by Universe in 1999 with text by Vivien Goldman. Megaliths, a 14-year project photographing the prehistoric standing stones of England and Wales, with text by Lai Ngan Corio, was published by Jonathan Cape/Random House in 2003. The Couture Accessory, with text by Caroline Rennolds Milbank and styling by Lai Ngan Corio, a book of haute couture accessories was published by Abrams in 2002.
“No one’s More Punk than Vivien Goldman,” pronounced Pitchfork Magazine.
In that freewheeling spirit, the boundary-busting Vivien Goldman is a writer, educator, broadcaster—and she's a musician too. A Londoner, she has lived in Paris and Jamaica and now resides in New York. Since she started out in the vigorous British rock press of the 1970s, often working with Bob Marley (the subject of two of her books), her can-do attitude and outernational insights have been on wide display in the realms of journalism, books, radio, television, university teaching, multi-media lecturing, museum dialogs, the recording studio, and the stage—and her beat goes on.
Revenge of the She-Punks, Goldman’s award-winning sixth book (University of Texas Press, 2019), won Rough Trade’s Book of the Year in the US and the UK, and earned her the Best Music Journalist Award from Germany’s Reeperbahn Festival. It has been translated into seven international editions
In a unique career move, Goldman released her first album, Next Is Now, in 2021, produced by Youth (Killing Joke, The Orb, Paul McCartney, Poly Styrene). Brooklyn Vegan made it LP of the Week and The Washington Post, Forbes and Pitchfork, among others, enthused about what Lucie O’Brien called “a moving statement on love, exile, struggle and companionship... Goldman sings with a sense of musical liberation.” (Mojo)
It was a remarkable renaissance for the post-punk music Goldman made in the early 1980s as part of The Flying Lizards, and solo with members of PiL,The Raincoats, Aswad and Robert Wyatt. When this scattered work was re-issued in a 2016 compilation album, Resolutionary, it prompted HBO to include her cult classic “Launderette” in their series, The Deuce.
“The Afrobeat Artist,” a book on the work of Lemi Ghariokwu, the visual artist whose sleeves projected Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the creator of Nigeria’s Afrobeat sound, will be published by Hat & Beard Press in 2024. A book of her collected music journalism, Roots, Routes and Revolution, will be published by White Rabbit Books (UK) in 2024.
“The breadth of modern black music is captured beautifully in The Black Chord.“
—Vibe, November 1999
“... a stunning collaboration that traces the history of black music.”
—Harpers Bazaar, October 1999
“Trying to draw a cord around artists from 18th century Africa to 19th century America to 21st century England may seem overly ambitious for one handsome coffee table book. But in a virtuosic act of connect the dots, journalist Goldman and photographer Corio create an insightful homage to diasporic music.”
—Interview, December 1999
“In words and indelible images, The Black Chord displays the lasting joys of community and how this communion can elevate the present while ennobling the future.”
—Billboard, November 1999
“It is unlikely that a more definitive and comprehensive book about the history of black popular music will be published. Goldman and Corio have created a musical encyclopedia of the ages.”
—Detroit City View, November 1999
“There are few books that tell the story of black music as well as The Black Chord. From cover to cover, vivid images accompany the story of the beats that are the backbone of modern music. Buy the book and hear your own chord.”
—Code, April 2000
“For a fascinating photo-historical tour of black music, turn to The Black Chord…”
—The New York Times, November 1999
Published by Hat & Beard Press, 200 pgs, 27.94 × 25.4 cm, Hardcover, 2023, 978-1-955125-35-2