The list author says: "Alec Wilder's AMERICAN POPULAR SONG The Great Innovators 1900-1950 was first published in 1972 and it remains the most stimulating, thorough, and influential book on its subject. Wilder was a talented songwriter himself and his book sparked a major renaissance of interest in the Broadway/Hollywood/Tin Pan Alley/jazz tradition of songwriting - or, as it's since become known, the Great American Songbook (or GAS). Tony Bennett called it "the Bible", and if it isn't definitive, that's because nothing could be. It goes through the canon, composer by composer, with first and last chapters on important individual songs by lesser-known writers. This list follows the book, song by song, citing (when available) one recording of every song examined or mentioned by Wilder.
Chapter 1 THE TRANSITION ERA: 1885 TO WORLD WAR I"
"Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair (Stephen Foster, music and lyric - 1854) Father Sydney MacEwan "formal...handled in a highly musical fashion, yet it contained none of the native quality...a quality clearly rooted in Negro life and Negro music""
"De Camptown Races (Stephen Foster, music and lyric - 1850) Pete Seeger "even though [Foster] added to the body of steretype blackface music, he DID at times use his rare gift as a melodist to rise - SOAR - above such music""
"Old Black Joe (Stephen Foster, music and lyric - 1860) The Robert Shaw Chorale "granting...all its limiting stereotype characteristics, one must still recognize the direct impact of Negro church music in Foster's best songs""
"Some of These Days (Shelton Brooks, music and lyric - 1910) Sophie Tucker "perhaps THE landmark of the transition era...a straightforward, well-written rhythm ballad...it never repeats its initial idea""