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A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers Hardcover – November 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
—Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic
“A perfect holiday gift . . . An authoritative, comprehensive and oft-amusing guidebook that leads readers through the lives and recordings of hundreds of singers, from Louis Armstrong to Hank Williams.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Incisive and useful . . . In this mammoth volume, jazz critic Will Friedwald does for jazz and pop vocalists what David Thomson has done so brilliantly in his New Biographical Dictionary of Film. . . . The author also acts as a consumer guide, steering the reader toward particular songs or albums. . . . Vastly entertaining.”
—Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post
“In this passionately opinionated encyclopedia of the old-school virtuosos of the American songbook, music writer Friedwald celebrates 200-odd performers of jazz and pop standards, from the mid-20th-century titans to latter-day acolytes, with a raft of unjustly obscure singers in between. . . . [Friedwald] accords each a substantial career retrospective, selected discography and wonderfully pithy interpretive essay. His tastes are wide-ranging and idiosyncratic . . . However unconventional, his judgments are usually spot-on . . . Friedwald’s exuberant medley is that rarest of things: music criticism that actually makes you sit up and listen.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A fun reference book to dive into, get lost in—and use to add more songs and singers to your collection. . . . When it comes to the Great American Songbook, Will Friedwald is the keeper of the flame. He’s written some of the best books on popular song of the past quarter-century, from his engaging Jazz Singing to . . . his Sinatra! The Song is You [which] is one of the best studies of a singer’s craft ever written. With A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, Friedwald gave himself a daunting task: put together essays on every singer he can who made a career singing those great songs. ‘Every’ is a lot, but Friedwald doesn’t miss too many, from the early 20th century to the cabaret singers of the post-swing revival. The essays—more than 200 in all, including pieces on multiple artists—are part biography, part career overview, focusing on the singers’ highs and lows while tossing in bits of fun trivia.”
—Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“I think Will Friedwald’s Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers will be of real interest to anyone who cares about the music.”
—Hugh Hefner, editor-in-chief of Playboy
“If there were such a volume as the Great American Songbook, this book should be right next to it on your shelf. It is truly the definitive work on those who sing and swing those songs.”
—Alan Bergman, Grammy and Academy Award–winning songwriter
“Will Friedwald has created an instant classic reference tome with his Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, the wealth of information and the breadth of knowledge being quite staggering. It is written without academic posturing but with wit and warmth and accessibility, covering in fascinating detail the careers of everyone from Jolson and Sinatra, of course, to Lee Wiley, Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich; from Armstrong to Doris Day, and everyone in between. It will surely be considered an essential text.”
“This extensive work is essential and comprehensive. In opinionated, sometimes witty essays, Friedwald sorts out the lives and careers of more than three hundred singers, some of the greatest vocalists of the twentieth century including such giants as Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Bessie Smith. There are also dozens of unexpected inclusions. For example, Martha Raye merits almost seven pages and her entry helps dusts off her historical reputation as not just a zany character but rather an incredibly gifted and complex artist. . . . Friedwald spent ten years researching this magisterial reference book and it is certain to delight and inform anyone with a passion for the iconic music of America.”
—Larry Cox, Tucson Citizen
“The closest thing we have to a standard text on American pop from the first half of the twentieth century . . . Friedwald is a deeply attentive and emotionally attuned listener. His descriptions of performances are so precise and detailed that Stardust Melodies could serve as a primer for how to listen to prerock music.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Excellent . . . [With] good humor and lively anecdotes, Friedwald brings an open mind to the kaleidoscope of musical stylings that these songs have been treated (or subjected) to.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Friedwald’s writing, both erudite and funny, complements the standards he so clearly loves, like a melody set to the perfect lyric.”
—Entertainment Weekly, “A”
“Informative and witty . . . So full of good stuff that I kept being distracted and forgetting what I was looking for.”
Sinatra! The Song Is You
“The most important book published about Frank Sinatra to date.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Indispensable . . . A man with unexcelled knowledge of American popular song, Friedwald looks intensively at [Sinatra’s] career . . . Sinatra! hits a welcome high note . . . Excellent.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Blithe, respectful, snappy, and smart, Friedwald catches the creative fire of the singer . . . This is the best book ever written about Sinatra’s deepest secret: his craft.”
Top Customer Reviews
What makes a jazz or pop singer "great"? Tricky question. The 811 double-columned pages of this book provide a series of contentious, informed, and highly entertaining answers in the form of extended essays on its two hundred or so performers. (The BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE, which Friedwald spent a decade writing, is modeled after David Thomson's BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF FILM, but with much longer, and better written, entries.) For Friedwald, great pop music is centered on the American songbook, and its finest singers were active during the LP era, the heyday of the concept album (1955 - 1985). What this means for his book is that he doesn't write about too many singers born after 1950, though Diana Krall, Kurt Elling, Michael Feinstein, Audra McDonald, and Dee Dee Bridgewater are among the boomers too interesting NOT to warrant an essay apiece.Read more ›
I read a couple hundred books every year. If not more than that. This book is my favorite from 2010. It's a masterpiece.
I am reading this book with joy. I am only up to the D's, (Matt Dennis) and I just can't put it down. My leisure reading has been set aside as I devour this book. I delight in his humor, his turn of phrase, and the research in each biography. One would think in a work this comprehensive that he had countless contributors, but this work is filled with his personal feelings and personal opinions, all provocative.
I have read Mr.Friedwald's book on Frank Sinatra's music and recording, which is the best on the subject, as well as his many CD liner notes. His extensive liner notes on the Mosaic Records' reissue of Mildred Bailey's music is exemplary.
The book is over 800 pages in length, in small font. If the font was "normal" this would be a two volume work. All fans of the music must buy this book. If you do I know you will get as much pleasure as I have. (I recently bought it as a birthday gift for a friend and he loves it and raves about it as much as I have).
Buy This Book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very informative book.What Will should do next is write an in depth biography of Anita O'Day.Published 2 months ago by bizyz aka
Was an editor involved in this? Would have been a good idea. Like the song goes..."Didn't he ramble, RAMBLE...". Read morePublished 7 months ago by Geoff C. Adams
When one reads this book it is as close as listening to the music. I could hear, feeli, taste, smell and see what Will was writing about and it has expanded my view of a field I... Read morePublished on June 29, 2014 by B. A. Kittay
Will Friedwald always does a great job writing about music. I read his book on Frank Sinatra and was impressed, so I was glad to see him turn his attention to many other Jazz and... Read morePublished on February 24, 2014 by Kevin McKechnie
For anyone who doesn't just enjoy popular music, but who likes to know how we came to be listening to the music we have now, this book is a must. Read morePublished on May 2, 2013 by Ian A. Dodds
Covers all the jazz & pop singers in detail with personal observations!
Arnie Fox- author of Compendium of Over 2000 Jazz Pianists
I have several books by Will Friedwald but this one tops them all. This is the definitive book about the great jazz and pop singers. Read morePublished on February 5, 2012 by A. J. De Koning
I didn't realize I owned this book until discovering it was ready for download to my Kindle, five weeks after my errant finger had accidentally one-clicked it. Read morePublished on November 5, 2011 by Giuseppe C.
This book is patterned after David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film. The font and page layout is a dead ringer for the Thomson book. Read morePublished on October 27, 2011 by William W. Kerrigan