City Songs and American Life, 1900-1950

June 2019
30 black and white illustrations
350 pages
9x6 in
ISBN: 9781580469524
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS025000, HIS054000

City Songs and American Life, 1900-1950

Michael Lasser

An insightful look at the urban sensibility that gives the Great American Songbook its pizzazz.
Nothing defines the songs of the Great American Songbook more richly and persuasively than their urban sensibility. During the first half of the twentieth century, songwriters flourished in New York City, the home of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Harlem. A lot of them were native New Yorkers, or else they got to Gotham as fast as they could. It was as if they were standing on the West Side of Manhattan, facing west and describing America to the Americans: not its geography or politics but its heart.

Michael Lasser's introduction to City Songs and American Life, 1900-1950 describes his coming of age in Broadway theaters and jazz clubs around Manhattan in the 1950s. The following chapters look closely at songs, but the book never ceases to give one man's take on the music he has lived with for more than half a century. First, an exploration of the ways in which songs portrayed Broadway and Harlem. Then a chronological look at how the urban sensibility evolved in the early decades of the century, followed by the Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II.

Michael Lasser, a former teacher and theater critic, is host of the syndicated public-radio show Fascinatin' Rhythm (winner of the Peabody Award) and the author of two previous books.

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Keywords: MusicSocial History

Table of Contents

Introduction: Encountering the City
The City's Clamor
Broadway's Melody
Harlem's Renaissance
Recordings, Radio, and Talkies
Starting the Century
The Flapper and the Jazz Age
The Great Depression
World War II

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