Ben Yagoda’s history of popular music in the Unified States from 1885 to 1968 features a huge cast of characters: George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein II, and a dozen more. Music started to change in the 1950s and morphed into Rock & Roll. I was surprised by Yagoda’s discussion of Carolyn Leigh, the writer of “Young at Heart,” which became a huge hit when Frank Sinatra sang it. The song was sold for $15,000 giving Warner Records “unlimited usage” to the song which went on to sell 350,000 copies that year. After all the “deductions,” Carolyn Leigh’s check was only $3,500. That’s the way the music business worked back in the Fifties.
Yagoda surprised me again during his story of Burt Bacharach’s development as a hit song generator. Bacharach hired a backup singer, Dionne Warrick. He fell in love with her voice and her “special kind of grace and elegance.” (p.251). In 1962, she recorded “Don’t Make Me Over.” But when the record was released, the name on the label was misspelled “Warwick.” Dionne Warrick adopted the new spelling and became “Dionne Warwick.” I never knew that.
If you’re a fan of music of the first two-thirds of the the 20th Century, you’ll find The B Side a delight! I want to drop everything and listen to The Great American Songbook! Are you a fan of this music? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Prologue: Premises, Premises 1
I Mr. Miller and Mr. Schwartz, 1954 13
II I Get a Kick out of You, 1885-1933 31
III Jukebox Saturday Night, 1925-1942 59
IV As Time Goes By, 1941-1948 87
V What Happened to the Music? 1946-1954 111
VI Brill Building Boys, and Girl, 1950-1955 149
VII The Big Beat, 1951-1968 175
VIII Fly Me to the Moon, 1939-1965 221
Epilogue: Do You Believe in Magic? 1957-1965 241
Books Cited 286