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Mace & Crown | August 22, 2017

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Music Critic Rashod Ollison Brings His 'Soul Serenade' to ODU

Morgan Engelhardt
Contributing Writer

Rashod Ollison

Rashad Ollison at ODU speaking about his new book, “Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl” on January 27. Photo by Adam Flores

Throughout our lives, music defines our memories, both past and present, whether as a comfort or a catalyst. Music and culture critic Rashod Ollison used soul music as an escape from a childhood with separated parents, being an outcast and living in a broken home.

Ollison, author of a recent memoir, “Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl,” came to ODU Wednesday evening for a book reading, to share his reflections on writing the memoir and a book signing.

Rashod’s success started at the Virginian-Pilot and took four years of work to get published. His memoir deals with the challenges he faced as a child with divorced parents and not feeling able to “fit” into his community.

Ollison discussed how it felt to put his own personal stories down on paper for readers to see and how he got through having to relive all the happy and painful memories.

“There were times that it was difficult. Certain memories had to show who these people [his family] were and who I was. Sometimes it was too real for me, and I would take a break and go to therapy to relax,” Ollison said.

Ollison shared one particular moment in his life that was difficult for him to write down and even harder to remember. The moment when his mother took his father to court over child support made Ollison change the way he saw his father early in his life.

When having to remember the painful memories, however, he came to a realization that some people seem to understand later in life.

“It made me see my family as actual people, and not just as my parents,” he said. “The big takeaway after writing this all down was that families do the best with what they’ve got.”

One of the biggest impressions on Ollison’s life were his father’s old records that were left to him after his parent’s divorce. He listened to these records, and they influenced the music he came to love, despite not being what most children his age listened to during that time.

This left Ollison feeling outcasted. While other kids his age listened to Biggie Smalls, N.W.A. and Ice Cube, Ollison listened to soul music from artists like Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and Rick James. This shaped his musical tastes and even led to his collecting vinyl records to this day.

“I still listen to my dad’s records, but I’ve also made a collection of my own,” Ollison said. “Some days I just go out to find vinyls and just sit and listen to them at home. I’ll get in moods where I’ll listen to a certain artist for a straight week.”

His music binges led to the title of his memoir, “Soul Serenade”– the title of a song by King Curtis, which Ollison frequently listened to as a child.

Ollison will be on a tour of the East Coast in support of his new book. All of the songs that inspired him during the writing of “Soul Serenade” can be found in a Spotify playlist he created on his website.