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Book Review

The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Great Lyricists

Philip Furia
Paperback: 336 pages
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
May 1, 1992
ISBN: 0195074734

Philip Furia discusses in detail the lyricists who wrote many of the popular songs in the years between World War I and II, when, as the author puts it, “a close relationship between the popular music industry, then known as Tin Pan Alley, and the musical comedies of Broadway and Hollywood gave the songs of that era, as I try to show in the book, their distinctive character.”

The book is arranged with Irving Berlin, Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein, and Johnny Mercer each receiving a full chapter. A chapter is shared by Howard Dietz and Yip Harburg and one by Dorothy Fields and Leo Robin. There are also chapters devoted to “Alley Standards,” “Early Alley,” “Lyricists of the 1920’s,” “Hollywood Lyricists,” and “Jazz Lyricists.”

This is the first book to read if you want to better understand the lyrics of the songs that have become the jazz standards, and it is excellent for research or recreation. All references to songs and composers are included in the index.

Philip Furia is a University of Minnesota professor of English and author of Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer; Irving Berlin: A Life in Song; Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist; American Song Lyricists 1920-1960 (Dictionary of Literary Biography); and Pound’s Cantos Declassified.

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.


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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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