Thursday, December 27, 2007

House That George Built

I've been reading Wilfred Sheed's The House That George Built which calls itself a history of the golden age of American popular music. The George of the title is of course George Gershwin. Sheed sees Gershwin as the man who fused jazz and popular song, making way for the pop tune. All of the major historical and cultural influences are here in Sheed's book: Broadway, the movies, radio, World War II.
It should come as no surprise that Sheed sees the advent of television and rock 'n roll as the beginning of the end of the golden age of popular music - a period which ran roughly from the 1920s into the 1950s.
Naturally, you can't write about popular song without mentioning Sinatra. Though Sheed's book is all about the men who wrote the music, he does give Sinatra credit not just for popularizing the songs but also for never failing to mention the names of the composers and lyricists of each and every song. At least in that respect, Sinatra was always a class act - always giving credit where it was due.
The story of Sinatra's friendship with Jimmy Van Heusen and the portions of the book about Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and Cy Coleman make this journey with Sheed more than worth it. The author's love of popular music envelops every page.

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