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Reading Lyrics Hardcover – November 21, 2000

4.9 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Gottlieb (editor, Reading Jazz) and Kimball (editor, The Complete Lyrics of Ira Gershwin) have assembled 1000 popular American and English song texts dating from 1900 to 1975 and arranged them chronologically by lyricist's birth date. Focusing solely on theater and film songs, the editors profile more than 100 songwriters, including Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein, Yip Harburg, and Stephen Sondheim. Each entry details their musical contributions and three or more lyrics with verse(s) and refrain. Country, rock, folk, and blues numbers go unmentioned, as they would not have fit in this single volume. "One-hit wonders" are also listed at the back along with an index of song titles. The inclusion of lesser-known songs by major figures such as Irving Berlin or by little-remembered writers such as Mann Holiner or Sam Coslow seems to pad the volume rather than enhance its usefulness. Unfortunately, the title, too, is misleading: Reading Lyrics is more of a compilation than an interpretative work. This book is recommended, however, as a sanctioned print alternative to various lyric web sites for libraries serving a clientele seeking popular song texts and information.DBarry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Most people remember a song better than they remember a poem. During the 1900^-75 scope of this sterling anthology, remembering a song was remembering a poem. That span was the heyday of the classic American popular song, which re-expressed all the old emotions in language invigorated by the dialects of all the external and internal immigrants drawn to America's burgeoning industrial centers. The typical classic American popular song--any of the 1,000-plus examples editors Gottlieb and Kimball have chosen--is rife with those pnemonic aids par excellence, rhyme and wordplay. Accordingly, you could use the book for a party game, the object of which would be seeing who recalls the most songs and, beyond that, can sing them. With lyricists including all the superstars, from Cohan to Sondheim, and plenty whose songs' fame have outlived that of their names, such as Haven Gillespie ("Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town") and Edward Eliscu ("Without a Song"), the party could take all of a grand night for singing. Oh!--get a copy for the reference desk, too. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (November 21, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375400818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375400810
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #336,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Finally! A book that not only places song lyrics within the realm of literature, but also contains those lyrics in their entirety, This is the most complete book of English and American lyrics around: It contains all the lyrics (other than a song sheet, where will you find refrain 4 of "The Lady is a Tramp?") to more than 1,000 songs from the late 19th century to 1975, including the prototypical works of Gershwin, Porter, Hart, Mercer, Comden and Green, Berlin, Fields, Cahn, and Strayhorn. Dozens of relatively less prodigious and famous lyricists are included as well.
The book is a dream for jazz lovers. With the complete lyric and verse of "Body and Soul" (for example), one can appreciate Billy Holiday's vocals or Coleman Hawkins' definitive sax, or--warn your housemates--sing along! From "Sweet Georgia Brown" (1925) to "All of Me" (1931) to "Peel Me a Grape" (1962), this is a rich compendium of the English language songbook.
The organization is somewhat confusing: Lyricists are ordered by date of birth. True, one glimpses the evolution of the form, but with little context or theory this presentation is often more confusing than illuminating. (Fortunately, there are capsule biographies as well as a brief but informative introduction.) Other tips to navigating the book: The Index of Songs contains all songs in alphabetical order, the year they were written, the source, if not a recording (e.g., show, nightclub act, film) and the singer most associated with the song. Unfortunately, there is no index of lyricists, so one must search the lengthy Table of Contents, or work backwards and find the lyricist through the Song Index.
Small matter. As far as I know, this is the only book of its kind. A wonderful reference, "Reading Lyrics" makes a wonderful gift for the shower singer, the jazz buff, or the poetry lover. Very highly recommended!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book pulls together something more than 1,000 sets of lyrics of the best known American popular songs from 1900 to 1975. It is a wide and well chosen selection that gives lots of coverage to well-known lyricists like Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart,Oscar Hammerstein, and Stephen Sondheim. It also provides lyrics for a lot of other well-known songs by less well-known lyricists. If you like American popular music, you will probably finding yourself lost in this book, looking and finding your particular favorite songs and going off to listening to some great recordings of the songs from which the lyrics are taken. The book is laid our well with clear print and with a good index.
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Format: Hardcover
I've conquered music reviews & the occasional movie one, but I had yet to try my hand at a book review. However, with this book, I just had to write about it & alert people to this great collection of some of the greatest words ever put to music in history. Some may wonder why certain songs from a certain lyricist are the only ones represented, but I imagine the lyrics that have best stood the test of time or are truly representative of the greatest of the person's repertoire are what's included. For a complete collection of lyrics, most likely a composer will have something of the sort published somewhere, but READING LYRICS is an excellent taster for those wanting to dive in.
Most music lovers of my generation like to listen to music where lyrics take second place to rhythm or melody, with the volume of both enough to render such good words useless. READING LYRICS looks at the first 3 quarters of the last century, perhaps the stretch of time when you could still hear what was being sung & eventually get the lyrics etched into your brain enough to repeat them at will. Naturally, those songs from the annals of musical theatre take up a fair share of the book, but that after all was its golden age until maybe the second half of the 1900s, when popular music truly became "popular" & theatre became more of a higher art. Both genres are represented on READING LYRICS (although this review is far from comprehensive what with the hundreds of lyricists discussed in here).
Even the most famous & worthy of household name status of songwriters get an inventory in READING LYRICS.
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Format: Hardcover
i defy you to go thru this volume and not shake your head in disbelief. while anyone reading this page will be familiar with the likes of berlin or mercer or porter or the like, you will be astounded by the number of great songs, both familiar and new, that were writen by names youve never known. jack yellen? haven gillespie? irving kahal? who the blazes were they? well, yellen gave us "aint she sweet?" and "happy days are here again"; gillespie "you go to my head" and "santa claus is coming to town"; kahal "i'll be seeing you" and "when i take my sugar to tea". oh yes, btw, they all had more standards to their credit. as other reviewers have said, this is a book you dont ust read, you SING! messrs. kimball & gottlieb are to be commended -- and id bet a volume 2 would be just as filled with gems.
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