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Book Review

American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950

Alec Wilder
Hardcover: 576 pages
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
October 1, 1990
ISBN: 0195014456

Alec Wilder’s American Popular Song is perhaps the most quoted book on the subject. Hailed as “The definitive account on American popular music” and “The Bible of American popular music,” American Popular Song is a brilliant book containing insightful commentary and hundreds of musical examples of the songs of the great American songwriters. There are chapters on Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and shared chapters on Vincent Youmans, Arthur Schwartz, Burton Lane, Hugh Martin, and Vernon Duke. The chapter entitled “The Great Craftsmen” includes a dozen more writers, and the final chapter, “Outstanding Individual Songs: 1920 to 1950,” discusses such songs as “April Showers” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and “Sweet Lorraine,” outstanding pop songs composed by writers who are not elsewhere discussed in the book. A composer himself, Wilder draws praise as well as some harsh criticism for his opinions and in some cases his elitist tone.

With regard to jazz standards, no other book addresses more songs with concise comments on their melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic characteristics. There are three separate indexes for composers, lyricists, and song titles.

Alec Wilder was an American composer who wrote in his own style, a mixture of classical music and jazz. His “I’ll Be Around” is among the top jazz standards. He also served as author or editor of a number of music and song books.

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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