Fine Arts

Self-Reliance and Freedom in ‘The Great American Songbook’


Conferees discussed the nature and historical context of the "Great American Songbook" era, examining such issues as: What makes a song uniquely "American"? What qualifies an American popular song as "great"? What factors and events set the stage for the Songbook's rise, fostered its flourishing, and contributed to its eventually withering away?


Conference Readings

Lead Sheets: "St. Louis Blues" and "They Didn’t Believe Me"

Lead Sheets: "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" and "Take the A Train"

Lead Sheets: "God Bless America" and "Of Thee I Sing, Baby"

Lead Sheets: "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" and "Pick Yourself Up"

Lead Sheets: "Cheek to Cheek" and "Love is Here to Stay"

Lead Sheets: "That’s All" and "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?"

Clarke, Donald. The Rise and Fall of Popular Music. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996.

Feinstein, Michael with Ian Jackman. The Gershwins and Me. New York: Simon & Shuster, 2012.

Hirschman, Charles. “The Contributions of Immigrants to American Culture.” Daedalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (Summer 2013): 26-43.

Myers, Marc. Why Jazz Happened. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.

Sheed, Wilfrid. The House That George Built: With a Little Help from Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty. New York: Random House, 2007.

Wilder, Alec. American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950. Edited by James T. Maher. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Yagoda, Ben. The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song. New York: Riverhead Books, 2015.