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American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950 Hardcover – April 27, 1990


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (April 27, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195014456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195014457
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Remains today the best single examination of its subject."--The Washington Post Book World

"Provocative, informative, opinionated, and never dull" --Down Beat

"Wonderful" --The New York Times

"A joy to anyone who really cares about American popular music....An invaluable reference" --Max Morath

"A rewarding book, endowed with grace and wit" --Milton Babbitt

"Invaluable and pioneering" --Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker

"A singular book" --Studs Terkel

About the Author


Alec Wilder was the composer of such famous songs as "I'll Be Around," "It's So Peaceful in the Country," and "While We're Young," as well as theater and film scores and chamber music for every instrument in the orchestra.

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Customer Reviews

I just find it fun to read.
W. Soule
Like many i am proud to say that this book was really for me what i needed to start digging into the history of many songs before the rock era.
ALAIN ROBERT
Wilder's book is invaluable to a serious student or fan of our greatest pop music.
eperkins@mind.net

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Yes, the man is opinionated, and one may argue with some of his more controversial and unsparing critiques. His analyses are grounded in a thorough understanding of music, and he does not retreat from criticizing the most popular. I think that the whole topic is perhaps more subjective than Wilder lets on, but at least he's forthright about his opinions, and provides hundreds of musical annotations to illustrate his views. I'll also agree with the reviewer who criticizes Wilder's view that post-50's popular music was written by "amateurs." Still, this is widely regarded as a must-have for the student of popular music, and it's an excellent, albeit somewhat technical critique of popular music's "golden age." Recommended!
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By ALAIN ROBERT on August 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
ALEC WILDER himself a composer has written what is generally considered the bible of AMERICAN POPULAR MUSIC.More than thirty years have gone by since the first édition of this book and it remains fresh.Like many i am proud to say that this book was really for me what i needed to start digging into the history of many songs before the rock era.From BERLIN and KERN to the often forgotten greats like DONALDSON and McHUGH they are all there and mister WILDER knows what he is talking about;he had talked to many writers and composers who were at the time of the first édition still with us.Personal opinions are of course a matter of taste;we are for example not obliged to believe everything he says.Most of the time mister WILDER is right:EXAMPLE:he believes that RICHARD RODGERS was perhaps the most gifted composer of his time.Few can really disagree with that.In fact,there is only one major problem with this book,if you don't read music it won't be too enjoyable for you,because there are many examples with sheet music to proves the points he wants to make.Everyone who has an interest in the history of AMERICAN popular music should buy that book.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By joel fass on August 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
Lord knows there is a place for criticism in music. The problem is that too often the most ill-qualified, wrongest people practice it, and are rewarded with the bully pulpit of widely read publication and nice paychecks to boot. Alec Wilder is a "right" person, if ever there was one. He's no outsider or "wannabe". His insights on the procedures and content on the songwriting of his brethren come from his own long, hard struggle with the form. And he did it VERY well, giving his observations yet more credence. He has the courage of his convictions, putting a hard critical ear to the work of his peers, betters, "worsers"---whoever, while owning up to his prejudices and acknowledging that it is, after all, only his opinion. I'm glad he covered the people he did, and only disappointed and perplexed that he passed on Strayhorn (I suppose because his work was outside the theater/movie/pop song orbit of the others). I would have appreciated his insights. Such skill, courage, and honesty in criticism is at the very least a breath of fresh air.
Neither music lovers, nor especially fellow composers should take Wilder's words as the gospel, though, as I feel he'd be the first to implore. It's hard enough to compose and ignore the criticism in one's one head, let alone hear the muse over the strains of a duet. Another thing to consider in placing importance on even as eloquent and well-formed criticisms as these is Wilder's harrowing self-doubt about his OWN composing, and general worth (which comes through loud and clear in his autobiographical "Letters I Never Sent") And listeners should follow their own ears and hearts. Take Wilder's survey for what it is, very high quality opinion.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is an invaluable source of matrial for both the casual reader and the dedicated student of popular music. Alec Wilder is a very knowledgeable authority on this subject, having contributed a number of fine songs of his own to the music of Tin Pan Alley!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Alec Wilder's brilliant book contains insightful commentary and musical examples of the songs of Kern,Gershwin,Rogers,Berlin,Porter,Arlen,and just about every other significant American songwriter and lyricist...except for Alec Wilder himself. This book is an excellent resource for all teachers,students and music lovers alike.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Susan Fong on June 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have had this book since it was originally published in 1972. I keep it because it is an insightful commentary on some of America's greatest composers, Rodgers, Kern, Gershwin, etc. I would have to agree with Mr. Wilder that Richard Rodgers' music represents "the highest degree of consistent excellence, inventiveness, and sophistication." And since Mr. Wilder is himself a fine composer, he should know. He supports his opinions with intelligent, knowledgeable analysis.
People seem to have a knee jerk reaction whenever the name "Gershwin" is mentioned, but I agree with Mr. Wilder's assessment that RICHARD RODGERS' music was the most CONSISTENTLY masterful in the history of musical theater. Rodgers' range was incredible from the playful jazziness of "Manhattan" and "Lady is a Tramp" to the sophistication of "If I Loved You" and the lesser known, "Do I Hear A Waltz". Rodgers was an astonishing talent. Rodgers even wrote the lyrics and music to the lovely musical "No Strings". I get so tired of only hearing about Gershwin's greatness. Rodgers was every bit as good, if not better than Gershwin. I think Rodgers gets penalized at times because not only was his music great, but it was very accessible and popular with everyday audiences. A part of Gershwin's music strikes me as somewhat pretentions as are some of the tunes in "Porgy and Bess" and "An American In Paris". Rodgers seems to touch a familiar cord with audiences young and old, from generation to generation. As I video store owner, I know that people were willing to pay $50 or more for an out of print edition of the video "Sound of Music". None of my other videos could fetch such a good price.
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