LISTENING FOR AMERICA: INSIDE THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK FROM GERSHWIN TO SONDHEIM By Rob Kapilow


Rob Kapilow is a composer, conductor, and music commentator. He loves this music and it shows in each of the chapters he writes about these great songs. Kapilow first provides the context for each song–the historic significance, the song’s genesis–and then proceeds to show how the song “works.” Yes, there is actual music–notes and everything–on the page. But Kapilow adds to the musical notation the actual music a web site, Listeningforamerica.net, where you can hear the music that printed on the pages of Listening For America.

I particularly liked the chapter on “Send in the Clowns.” Stephen Sondheim, who has written hundreds of songs, can’t believe “Send in the Clowns” is his most famous song. “It sounds like a piano bar song,” Sondheim told Hal Prince. Kapilow shows why “Send in the Clowns” is much more than a piano bar song. If you’re interested in this music and want to know more about these classic songs, I highly recommend Listening For America. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
PREFACE — xii
Prologue : Nothing Comes from Nothing — 1
Inventing America / Jerome Kern’s “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” — 21
The New Sexual Morality / Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It” — 40
Airbrushing the Depression / George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” — 57
Segregation and Opportunity in Harlem / Harold Arlen’s “Stormy Weather” — 82
Appropriation or Inspiration? / George Gershwin’s “Summertime” — 102
Immigration and the American Voice / Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek” — 133
How the Other Half Lived / Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine” — 156
Love in New York / Richard Rodgers’s “I Wish I Were in Love Again” — 181
The Impact of Recorded Sound / Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are” — 202
America Goes to the Movies / Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow” — 227
World War II and the Integrated Musical / Richard Rodgers’s “If I Loved You” — 249
America Gets a Classical Voice / Leonard Bernstein’s “I Can Cook Too” — 279
Will the Real Annie Oakley Please Stand Up? / Irving Berlin’s “I Got the Sun in the Morning” — 309
Fantasy in New York / Leonard Bernstein’s “Tonight” — 334
Rock and Roll, Broadway, and the Me Decade / Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” — 364
New Directions On and Off Broadway / Stephen Sondheim’s “Finishing the Hat” — 393
Epilogue : The Broadway Musical Goes Global –419
Acknowledgements — 427
Notes — 431
Credits — 435
Index — 449

20 thoughts on “LISTENING FOR AMERICA: INSIDE THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK FROM GERSHWIN TO SONDHEIM By Rob Kapilow

  1. Deb

    I love almost all of these songs. Not sure I’m ready for this level of a “deep dive” into what makes them work, though. Time to listen to Ella Fitzgerald singing the Great American Songbook.

    Reply
  2. Jeff Meyerson

    No, but it is interesting. I read Sondheim’s books about not only his work but that of other composers, which I found very informative. FINISHING THE HAT was the first one. We’ve been big fans of his for nearly 50 years.

    Reply
  3. Prashant C. Trikannad

    George, music is just that to me — music to the ears and little else. However, reading this book would be educational from a historical perspective. Besides, there are quite a few songs here I have never heard before.

    Reply
  4. Steve Oerkfitz

    I’m not a fan of standards but the selection here is pretty good. With one exception. Begin the Beguine. It’s like nails on a blackboard to me.
    Just read that James Taylor is doing an album of standards. That would put me to sleep for sure.

    Reply
      1. Steve Oerkfitz

        I would think it would be the other way around. Browne has done much more interesting work than Taylor who I find a monumental bore.

      2. george Post author

        Steve, I prefer Jackson Browne to James Taylor, but in this wacky bizzaro world of ours, Taylor has a bigger reputation, fan base, and bigger sales.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, we skipped the GRAMMY show. I’ve suspected that the “winners” were fixed and now more evidence is coming to light about how the Awards are rigged.

      Reply
    1. george Post author

      Jerry, same here. I find much of contemporary music unlistenable. I’ve been listening to Joe Simon’s classic “Drowning in a Sea of Love” and…loving it!

      Reply
  5. Cap'n Bob Napier

    I like Begin the Beguine and it was one of my father’s favorites! So there! The book sounds interesting but I would have to live another 500 years before I got to it!

    Reply

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