2009: 142. Classic American Popular Song

“This book begins where Alec Wilder left off.  In 1972, Wilder, with the assistance of James T. Maher, published American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, in which he examined, with great good taste, concision and opinionated candor, some 850 songs from the first 50 years of the century.”

Classic American Popular Song: The Second Half-Century, 1950-2000, David Jenness and Don Velsey

      As the first sentence quoted above indicates, this is a sequel of sorts to a classic book about popular song in the first half of the century.  As such, the authors have sort of an agenda - they mean to show us that despite what you might think, classic American song has not died in the second half of the century, but has flourished.  The thing is, they have a very narrow definition of what constitutes a “classic song” and a lot of the book is dedicated to telling us what is and what isn’t in that category.  And then once they do categorize something as a classic American song, they discuss it, sometimes in depth, sometimes glancingly, and tell us whether or not its a good song.  They have strong opinions, is what I’m saying.  And I think you’d need to be them (or someone else in a very narrow niche of people who are the same kind of scholars they are) to really appreciate all that’s going on with the book, because it’s sort of narrowly focused.  But that having been said, I did enjoy it - I enjoyed sections more if I’d heard of the song or the singer, of course, but even the ones that were completely new to me were interesting because the authors are clearly knowledgeable and experts in their field (which I guess is popular music?) and were so enthusiastic about their own subject that it carried even an amateur like me along with it.

Date/Place Completed:  December 2009; D.C.

Categories: Non-Fiction; Book Resolutions

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017