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Comment: Fine. Cloth, D-j. 2006. Originally published at $28.95.
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Work Songs Hardcover – April 13, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


“In previous books, Ted Gioia proved himself one of our most incisive thinkers about jazz. Now he has integrated vast expanses of knowledge and recordings from cultures across the globe to shed valuable new light on work songs. A dazzling accomplishment.”—John Edward Hasse, Curator of American Music, National Museum of American History

“Ted Gioia enriches and makes real the powerful message that music is, and has always been, an integral part of the toolkit that ordinary humans have used to navigate life. He shows that, far from being a pastime to fill idle moments or a distraction from everyday preoccupations, music addresses fundamental issues of human existence, survival, and liberation. Gioia’s work offers hope to those who fear that the corporate mass media may have suffocated the age-old impulse of ordinary people to make music their own.”—John Sloboda, author of Exploring the Musical Mind

“This is a wonderful book. Work Songs invites the reader into the best of two worlds—serious theory and fun content. It is written in a clear and easy style, sprinkled here and there with verbal wit and passionate eloquence.”
(Maura Kealey, Journal of Folklore Research)

"[A] stimulating and well researched journey right back to the dawn of music. . . . Gioia's handling of the material is exemplary, and although he has undertaken an impressive amount of research and condenses a tremendous amount of information, his writing moves along with a briskness and vitality. . . . The musical history Work Songs powerfully details offers a glimpse of how we can re-establish a vital link between music and our everyday lives. . . ."
(Mike Barnes, The Wire)

"[A] volume to cherish for its documentary insights. . . . Work Songs is alive with feeling and sensitivity. Though the subject may sound academic, this material is by no means dry. The pages burst with intensity and emotion. Many thanks to Gioia for a fine book, one that is both a scholar's delight and a reader's sweet dessert! Highly recommended."

(Lee Prosser,

About the Author

Ted Gioia, pianist, composer, and one of the founders of Stanford University’s Jazz Studies program, is the author of Healing Songs, also published by Duke University Press, as well as several celebrated books, including West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945–1960. His book The History of Jazz was selected as one of the best books of the year by Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post, chosen as a notable book of the year by the New York Times, and honored with the Bay Area Book Reviewers’ award for best nonfiction work of the year. His book The Imperfect Art won the ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award and was named a Jazz Book of the Century by the Jazz Educators Journal. He has recorded several compact discs as a leader, including The End of the Open Road and Tango Cool.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (April 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822337266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822337263
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #704,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ted Gioia is a pianist, critic and music historian. The Dallas Morning News has called him "one of the outstanding music historians in America." Two of Gioia's works have been named notable books of the year by the New York Times, and three others have been honored with the ASCAP-Deems Taylor award. In addition, Gioia was one of the founders of the jazz studies program at Stanford and formerly served as editor-in-chief of, a major music web portal.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dana Sedelnick on April 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Work Songs by Ted Gioia, in my opinion is an eclectic piece of literature with a multi-faceted approach to explaining the origins and cultural significance of the work songs. This book gives tangible look into the lives of the people who created and labored to work songs. I have found it fascinating how the description of the usage of work songs: transcends national borders and cultural boundaries and are expressed as essential parts of the human consciousness. Ted Gioia express beautifully the essence of what it means to be human by expressing the woes, toils, and the resilience of the human spirit through ones own voice
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