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Book Review

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.

About the Bookstore
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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.


Some of our books may be found at Amazon for two or three dollars!


The books used to research and develop JazzStandards.com are listed in this bookstore and 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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