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Lives of the Great Songs Hardcover – February, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

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Most books on popular music are devoted to the singers, not the songs. This exception celebrates 35 exceptional popular songs, and although its contents represent a series from the British newspaper, the Independent, its orientation is distinctly American. The songs covered range from mainstream standards like "My Funny Valentine" and "How Long Has This Been Going On?" ; through country ("I Fall to Pieces" ), rock ("Satisfaction" ), and AOR ("Bridge over Troubled Waters" ) hits; right up to recent favorites (Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit" ). Some contributors focus on a song's genesis (as when Tom Jobim first set eyes on the beautiful "Girl from Ipanema" ), others on technical analysis (particularly of the well-crafted efforts of the likes of Gershwin and Porter). Some detail a song's various interpretations, while others concentrate on a particular rendition, such as John Coltrane's transcendent instrumental version of "My Favorite Things." Often, they make insightful observations on particular singers and the various permutations of pop over the decades. A collection bound to appeal to music lovers who appreciate the entire spectrum of popular music. Gordon Flagg

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Trafalgar Square Publishing (February 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857933745
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857933741
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,853,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Mcvey on July 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book, made up of essays about the history of 36 songs ranging from standards to more recent rock songs (and one piece of classical music) is a fascinating read. The quality of the essays varies; the best are the ones in which the actual history of the song and its various recordies are detailed. The stories behind "Across The Borderline", "These Foolish Things", and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" are as interesting as the songs themselves. I wasn't quite as interested the essayists act merely as music critics saying "This performance is good, this one's bad." I'm not familiar with some of the critics so I have no way of telling whether I care about Giles' Smith opinion of Art Garfunkle's performance on "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (which I disagree with). Some of these do work well, Robert Cushman's appraisals of performances of "Send In The Clowns", "The Way You Look Tonight", "You're the Top and "These Foolish Things" are all interesting and add to his stories of the songs writing. At the worst the essayist cops an attitude and seems to disdain the song he's writing about (Geoff Dyer on "My Favorite Things" in which he ends with a bitter rant that Julie Andrews' version is better known than Coltrane's). All told, though, an interesting, diverting read.
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