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Stardust Melodies: A Biography of 12 of America's Most Popular Songs Paperback – September 1, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Friedwald’s writing, both erudite and funny, complements the standards he so clearly loves, like melody set to the perfect lyric."  —Entertainment Weekly

About the Author

Will Friedwald is the author of Jazz Singing, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, Sinatra! The Song Is You, and The Warner Bros. Cartoons. He coauthored The Good Life with Tony Bennett and was a contributor to The Future of Jazz. He is one of the leading contemporary writers of liner notes.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556525575
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556525575
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #764,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"How potent cheap music is."
-Noel Coward

I believe that Will Friedwald included the Noel Coward line about the potency of cheap music in the introduction to his "Stardust Melodies" simply to see those two words - potent and music - in the same sentence. There is nothing "cheap" about the popular songs featured in his book, but they are all undeniably "potent." The power of popular music, according to Friedwald, is its ability to "move us on a deep level, and in a way that few other artistic mediums can." Friedwald has obviously been moved - profoundly so --and his book is a phenomenally entertaining biography which encompasses the creation, debut, musical intricacies and recording history of a dozen American pre-rock popular songs.

I had to keep reminding myself that Friedwald wasn't actually alive when these songs first launched (he is a tail-end "boomer" and most of the songs in his book were written in the 1930's) because he relates the details at his disposal in such an electrifyingly cinematic way, you'd think he had been inside each composer's head (or at the very least, sitting in the composer's living room with a video camera) when the songs came to birth. When George Gershwin said to his friend Kay Halle "sit down, I think I have the lullaby" (for Porgy and Bess), she was immediately moved to tears at the raw beauty of Summertime. Cole Porter raced over to the piano to finish the introduction to his latest (and ultimately, greatest) composition, Night and Day, after he heard his hostess, Mrs. Astor, complain about the "drip, drip, drip" of her broken drain pipe.
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Format: Paperback
I don't have time to write a full-length review, and I bought and read this book some time ago. Suffice it to say that it's a treasured part of my library and should be much more widely read. These songs are deathless little works of art, no less fine for being popular and having their roots in the quirky, funky realities of American life. Friedwald gets it.
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I was really disappointed in this book. While the author is obviously well-versed in the intricacies of composition & syncopation, that's

not why I purchased this book. I wanted to know the very basics of how the songs came together, why they were written in the first place

and the history that surrounded the composition - including the history of their times. What I didn't want is the mechanics of the song-

writing. I needed a glossary of terms to decipher the author's lingo. The sad fact is that the author spent an inordinate amount of time

and space breaking down the "science" of a song and a laundry list of the performers who interpreted the words and music. I was

looking for who, what, when and mostly why... the author gave me a textbook for Composition 101. Too bad.
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