Rob Bowman

Robert Maxwell James Bowman, musicologist, writer, record producer, broadcaster (born 21 June 1956 in Toronto, ON).

Rob Bowman

Robert Maxwell James Bowman, musicologist, writer, record producer, broadcaster (born 21 June 1956 in Toronto, ON). Hon BA (York) 1978; MFA (York) 1982; PhD (Memphis) 1993. Rob Bowman began writing magazine articles about popular music as a teenager in 1971. In 1978 he completed an Honours B.A. in musicology at York University, and in 1982 completed an M.F.A. in ethnomusicology at the same university, studying under Robert Witmer. In 1983 he began PhD studies at the University of Memphis with David Evans.

Teaching Appointments

Rob Bowman is best known for having pioneered popular music studies in Canada at York University in 1979. He taught 1979-83 and 1986-93 as a part-time, contract, then adjunct instructor at York University, as well as part-time 1979-83 at Brock University and 1987-90 at George Brown College. In 1993 he became an assistant professor in Fine Arts (Music) at York University. He became in 1996 an associate professor in the same department and in 1998 director of the graduate program in music. He was listed by Maclean's nearly every year 1997-2008 as one of York University's most popular professors. His courses have covered such undergraduate and graduate offerings as rock music, rhythm and blues, music and society, world music, issues in ethnomusicology, African-American music, and popular music studies.

Writing, Producing, Broadcasting

Rob Bowman was book review editor for The Memphis Star 1984-8. He hosted 1987-94 CKLN-FM's show "The Trout Mask Airshow;" won a Grammy award for best album notes in 1996 and was nominated for four additional Grammy awards (in 1988 for best historical release and in 1992, 2000, and 2002 for best album notes); wrote and presented CBC's four-week 1991 special about Stax Records ("The Entertainers"); wrote Country Music Television's four-part 2001 documentary The Industry: How Stars are Created in Country Music; and wrote the script and wall panels for the Stax Museum of American Soul Music (which opened in Memphis, TN in 2003). He presented academic papers and guest talks in Canada and the US (eg on Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bob Dylan, Roy Brown, Stax Records, Otis Redding, African influences, Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown, and Elvis Presley), and was interviewed on radio, TV, and stage.

Among his best-known works are his 47,000-word album notes for Fantasy Records' 10-CD box set The Complete Stax/Volt Soul Singles Volume 3: 1972-1975 (1994; Grammy award 1996, Bowman also having co-produced the set); and his book Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records (1997; winner of the 1998 ASCAP Deems Taylor and ARSC awards for excellence in music research). From 1997 to 2004 he discussed a wide variety of popular music topics over several dozen appearances on CBC Radio's "Definitely Not the Opera."

Bowman's publications include his commissioned interview of the Rolling Stones for Acoording to the Stones (2003); co-authoring the 2008 edition of Rockin' Out: Popular Music in the U.S.A. (with Reebee Garofalo); 10 book chapters; 10 monographs; and hundreds of articles, book and recording reviews, and liner notes. He has produced or co-produced several dozen recordings, most of which are anthologies or compilations of American R&B recordings of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

See also: Anglo-Canadian Rock 'n' Roll and Rock Music; Rock Music in Quebec and French Canada.

Selected Writings

Articles and reviews for Beetle Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Time Magazine, and other publications.

Soulsville USA: The Story of Stax Records (New York 1997)

"The rattling of the drums: Political expression in world music," MusicWorks 49, Winter 1991

"Stax Records: A musicological analysis," Popular Music, Fall 1995

"Stax Records: A lyrical analysis," Popular Music and Society, Spring 1996

"Post-World War II rhythm and blues: Jump blues, club blues, and Roy Brown," Canadian University Music Review, No. 17/1, 1996

"So you want to be a rock 'n' roll scholar - well, you need to get an MBA," Canadian University Music Review, No. 18/1, 1997

with Reebee Garofolo. Rockin' Out (Toronto 2008)


Further Reading

  • McLean, Steve. "Bowman's love of music takes him to the Grammies," RPM Weekly, 29 Feb 1992

    "Musicologist finds himself in demand," Canadian Press Newswire, 24 Apr 1996

    Headlam, Bruce. "Soul doctor number one: Professor Rob Bowman's efforts to revive the history of Stax Records," Saturday Night, March 1998

    Flohil, Richard. "Escott and Bowman shine with reissue contributions," The Record, 19 Oct 1998