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Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs

William Zinsser
Hardcover: 279 pages
David R. Godine Publisher
March 1, 2001
ISBN: 1567921477

William Zinsser discusses hundreds of American popular songs through the lives of their composers and lyricists, devoting a chapter to each of over two dozen writing teams and individuals, including George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, Vincent Youmans, Andy Razaf, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, and Hoagy Carmichael, to name a few.

Interspersed between composers and lyricists are chapters about American songs in general: “Anatomy of the Popular Song,” “Sheet Music,” “The Songs of World War II,” “Singers of the Song,” and a final chapter entitled “Songs by Category.”

Without becoming over-analytical, Zinsser discusses the compositional characteristics that make the songs great, their melodies, harmonies, rhythms and syncopation. Zinsser’s text is also filled with interesting anecdotes; many are first-hand experiences from his tenure at the New York Herald Tribune where he was a theater and movie critic and drama editor in the late ‘40s and 50’s.

With regard to the jazz standards, Easy to Remember is one of the best books available. The focus is on the origins and characteristics of American popular songs, many of which have become jazz standards. It is enjoyable reading, informative, and an excellent source for research and contains three indexes for “People,” “Musicals and Movies,” and “Song Titles.”

William Zinsser is the author of over 15 books on writing, baseball and jazz, including Mitchell and Ruff: An American Profile in Jazz. He now teaches at the New School in his hometown, New York City.


The JazzStandards.com bookstore provides you with a catalog of 200 books associated with the jazz standards. Organized by category, each entry has an editorial comment to aid you in your research and guide you in your recreational reading.

 

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The books used to research and develop JazzStandards.com are listed at the right and the listing may be considered the site bibliography.

The primary focus of these books is not always the jazz standards per se, so each entry is annotated indicating the book's relevance to the subject. If there is a book you feel we have overlooked, please let us know the title and how it supports the research or recreational study of the jazz standards.

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Follow the links for more JazzStandards.com book reviews

Songs and Instrumentals
The American Musical Film Song Encyclopedia
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The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Er...
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators,...
American Songwriters: An H.W. Wilson Biograp...
Big Bands Songbook
Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwri...
The Gershwin Style: New Looks at the Music o...
The Great Song Thesaurus
Hollywood Sings!: An Inside Look at Sixty Ye...
Hollywood Song: The Complete Film and Musica...
Jazz Standards
Listening to Classic American Popular Songs
The Music of Gershwin
The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Popular ...
The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD
Popular Song: Soundtrack of the Century
Reading Jazz: A Gathering of Autobiography, ...
The Real Book
The Song Is Ended: Songwriters and American ...
Stardust Melodies
Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song
The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia
Weather Bird: Jazz at the Dawn of Its Second...

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Writer Biographies
Ain't Misbehavin': The Story of Fats Waller
Alec Wilder in Spite of Himself: A Life of t...
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators,...
American Songwriters: An H.W. Wilson Biograp...
Ascap Biographical Dictionary (1981)
ASCAP Biographical Dictionary of Composers, ...
Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke...
Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, The Earl...
Bix: Man and Legend
Black and Blue: The Life and Lyrics of Andy ...
Can't Help Singin'
Cole Porter: A Biography
Cole: A Biographical Essay
Days to Be Happy, Years to Be Sad: The Life ...
Don't Explain: A Song of Billie Holiday
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Drifting and Dreaming: The Story of Songwrit...
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington in Person: An Intimate Memoir
Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwri...
Faces in the Crowd: Players and Writers
Father of the Blues: An Autobiography
Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective
Frank Loesser: A Most Remarkable Fella
Genius and Lust: The Creative and Sexual Liv...
Gershwin: A Biography
Gershwin: His Life and Music
Getting to Know Him: A Biography of Oscar Ha...
Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Cou...
Great Men of American Popular Song
Groovin' High: The Life of Dizzy Gillespie
Hard Bop Academy
Harold Arlen: Rhythm, Rainbows, and Blues
Harry Warren and the Hollywood Musical
I Should Care: The Sammy Cahn Story
Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist
Irving Berlin: A Daughter's Memoir
Irving Berlin: A Life in Song
Irving Berlin: American Troubadour
Jazz: A History of America's Music
Jerome Kern: His Life and Music
John Coltrane
Jule: The Story of Composer Jule Styne
Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway
The Lullaby of Broadway (Al Dubin)
Lullaby of Broadway: Life and Times of Al Du...
Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn
The Melody Lingers On: The Great Songwriters...
The Memory of All That: The Life of George G...
Miles: The Autobiography
Mister Jelly Roll
Monk
Music Is My Mistress
Musical Stages: An Autobiography
The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Popular ...
On the Sunny Side of the Street : The Life a...
The Oxford Companion to Popular Music
The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of Ame...
Portrait of Johnny: The Life of John Herndon...
Reading Jazz: A Gathering of Autobiography, ...
Reminiscing in Tempo: A Portrait of Duke Ell...
Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation...
Riding on a Blue Note: Jazz & American Pop
Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant
Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer
Song by Song: The Lives and Work of 14 Great...
The Song Is Ended: Songwriters and American ...
Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy...
Swing, Swing, Swing: the Life and Times of B...
They're Playing Our Song: Conversations With...
To Be or Not to Bop: Memoirs of Dizzy Gillespie
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The World of Count Basie
The World of Duke Ellington
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Performer Biographies
88: The Giants of Jazz Piano
Ain't Misbehavin': The Story of Fats Waller
American Musicians: 56 Portraits in Jazz
Artie Shaw: His Life and Music (Bayou Jazz L...
At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Ja...
Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke...
The Big Bands
Big Bands Songbook
Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings
Bird Lives!: The High Life and Hard Times of...
Bird Lives!: The High Life and Hard Times of...
Cats of Any Color: Jazz Black and White
Charlie Parker: His Music and Life
Chet Baker: As Though I Had Wings
Chet Baker: His Life and Music
Dizzy: The Life and Times of John Birks Gill...
Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend
Don't Explain: A Song of Billie Holiday
Down Beat: Sixty Years of Jazz
DownBeat - The Great Jazz Interviews (A 75th...
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington in Person: An Intimate Memoir
Extraordinary People in Jazz
Faces in the Crowd: Players and Writers
Fancy Fretwork: The Great Jazz Guitarists
Father of the Blues: An Autobiography
Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective
Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Cou...
Goodbyes and Other Messages: A Journal of Ja...
The Great Jazz Pianists: Speaking Of Their L...
Groovin' High: The Life of Dizzy Gillespie
Hard Bop Academy
High Times Hard Times
I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of J...
It's About Time: The Dave Brubeck Story
Jazz and Its Discontents: A Francis Davis Re...
The Jazz Bass Book: Book/CD Pack (Bass Playe...
The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music
The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide
Jazz Singing: America's Great Voices from Be...
Jazz: A History of America's Music
John Coltrane
John Coltrane: His Life and Music (The Michi...
Lady Sings the Blues (with a Revised Discogr...
A Lester Young Reader
Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis ...
Living with Jazz: A Reader
Lullaby Of Birdland: The Autobiography Of Ge...
Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn
Meet Me at Jim & Andy's: Jazz Musicians and ...
Miles: The Autobiography
Mister Jelly Roll
Monk
Moving to Higher Ground
Music Is My Mistress
Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole
The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
Of Minnie the Moocher & Me
Oscar Peterson: The Will to Swing.
The Oxford Companion to Popular Music
The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD
Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington
Reading Jazz: A Gathering of Autobiography, ...
Reminiscing in Tempo: A Portrait of Duke Ell...
Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation...
Ride, Red, Ride: The Life of Henry "Red" Allen
Riding on a Blue Note: Jazz & American Pop
Satchmo: The Genius of Louis Armstrong
Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz
Sidney Bechet: Treat it Gentle (autobiography)
Singing Jazz: The Singers and Their Styles
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Stan Getz: A Life in Jazz
Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper by Ar...
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Super Drummer: A Profile of Buddy Rich
Swing, Swing, Swing: the Life and Times of B...
Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of P...
To Be or Not to Bop: Memoirs of Dizzy Gillespie
Tommy Dorsey: Livin' in a Great Big Way, A B...
Traps The Drum Wonder: The Life of Buddy Rich
Trumpet Blues: The Life of Harry James
Waiting for Dizzy
Willie and Dwike
The World of Count Basie
The World of Duke Ellington
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Lyrics
Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist
Listening to Classic American Popular Songs
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Lyrics on Several Occasions
The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of Ame...
Reading Lyrics
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Historical
150 Years of Popular Musical Theatre
All the Years of American Popular Music
American Musicians: 56 Portraits in Jazz
The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Er...
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators,...
American Song: The Complete Musical Theater ...
At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Ja...
Barney, Bradley, and Max: Sixteen Portraits ...
The Big Bands
Big Bands Songbook
Bird Lives!: The High Life and Hard Times of...
Bird Lives!: The High Life and Hard Times of...
Cats of Any Color: Jazz Black and White
Complete Book of the American Musical Theater
Down Beat: Sixty Years of Jazz
DownBeat - The Great Jazz Interviews (A 75th...
Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Developmen...
Extraordinary People in Jazz
Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective
The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958 (A Da...
Goodbyes and Other Messages: A Journal of Ja...
The Great Jazz Pianists: Speaking Of Their L...
Great Men of American Popular Song
Groovin' High: The Life of Dizzy Gillespie
Hard Bop Academy
High Times Hard Times
I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of J...
Inside Jazz
Jazz and Its Discontents: A Francis Davis Re...
The Jazz Bass Book: Book/CD Pack (Bass Playe...
Jazz on Film: The Complete Story of the Musi...
The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide
Jazz Singing: America's Great Voices from Be...
Jazz Styles: History and Analysis
Jazz West Coast: The Lost Angeles Jazz Scene...
Jazz: A History of America's Music
Joel Whitburn Presents a Century of Pop Music
Joel Whitburn's Pop Hits 1940-1954: Singles ...
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954: The ...
A Lester Young Reader
Live at the Village Vanguard
Living with Jazz: A Reader
Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contr...
Meet Me at Jim & Andy's: Jazz Musicians and ...
Moving to Higher Ground
A New History of Jazz
Nice Work If You Can Get It: My Life in Rhyt...
Of Minnie the Moocher & Me
The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of Ame...
Popular Song: Soundtrack of the Century
Reading Jazz: A Gathering of Autobiography, ...
Recorded Music in American Life: The Phonogr...
Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation...
Riding on a Blue Note: Jazz & American Pop
The Song Is Ended: Songwriters and American ...
Spreadin' Rhythm Around: Black Popular Songw...
The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930...
This Was Your Hit Parade
Visions of Jazz: The First Century
We Called it Music: A Generation of Jazz
Weather Bird: Jazz at the Dawn of Its Second...
The World of Swing: An Oral History of Big B...
Your Hit Parade & American Top Ten Hits: A W...

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Jazz Studies
Bebop: The Music and Its Players
Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Developmen...
Enjoying Jazz
Faces in the Crowd: Players and Writers
Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective
The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958 (A Da...
Inside Jazz
The Jazz Bass Book: Book/CD Pack (Bass Playe...
The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music
Jazz Styles: History and Analysis
Listening to Classic American Popular Songs
Mel Bay Jazz Theory Handbook Book/CD Set
Metaphors for the Musician: Perspectives fro...
Moving to Higher Ground
The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
A New History of Jazz
Visions of Jazz: The First Century
Weather Bird: Jazz at the Dawn of Its Second...

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Pop Charts
The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits
Billboard Top 1000 X 5
Joel Whitburn Presents a Century of Pop Music
Joel Whitburn's Pop Hits 1940-1954: Singles ...
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954: The ...
This Was Your Hit Parade
Your Hit Parade & American Top Ten Hits: A W...

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Hollywood Films
The American Musical Film Song Encyclopedia
Can't Help Singin'
Faces in the Crowd: Players and Writers
Great Hollywood Movies
Hollywood Musicals
Hollywood Sings!: An Inside Look at Sixty Ye...
Hollywood Song: The Complete Film and Musica...
Jazz on Film: The Complete Story of the Musi...
The Melody Lingers On: The Great Songwriters...
The MGM Story

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Broadway Musicals
The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia
American Song: The Complete Musical Theater ...
Broadway: An Encyclopedia
Can't Help Singin'
Complete Book of the American Musical Theater
New Complete Book of the American Musical Th...

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