Can Seth Save the Songbook?
Feb19

Can Seth Save the Songbook?

Update, Feb. 25. The votes are in, and not just for the Academy Awards, but also for Seth MacFarlane as host of the Oscar telecast. As predicted, MacFarlane simultaneously offended and entertained both critics and commenters to various degrees, but observers seemed surprised with his array of talents as singer and announcer, if not as comic cum host. (See links at bottom.) Several bloggers seemed to have no familiarity with MacFarlane...

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Songbook Suspect in Jazz’s Death
Jan16

Songbook Suspect in Jazz’s Death

A fine article in Salon by the L.A. arts writer Scott Timberg lays out the current state of jazz as a popular art form, and it ain’t pretty. The thing is, it hasn’t been pretty for about 50 years. As important as the term jazz is in the history of American music, the witless application of the word to everything from atonal electronic sound collages to traditional pop vocalists has hindered even a basic understanding, let alone an...

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You’ve Got a Friend Again
Dec18

You’ve Got a Friend Again

On December 13, the Library of Congress announced that Carole King would be the recipient of the 2013 Gershwin Prize in Popular Song. It seems like only yesterday that I unleashed a rabid tirade directed at the august committee of experts that awards the Gershwin Prize. I was called to action not so much by resentment of the choice for 2012—the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David—as by a need to smirk. I felt the committee had taken...

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Digging for Gems in the Music Mines
Jun14

Digging for Gems in the Music Mines

As someone who now has an iTunes library (my second, the pre-rock one) of almost 3.000 songs, I’m finally starting to develop the mindset you expect to see with dedicated (some say rabid) music collectors. I get both excited and irritated when I run across a song I’ve never heard—or heard of—and want it for my collection. I generally stick to songs or albums that I really like or consider historically important. I’m not a completist,...

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The Astaires: Life Before Ginger
Feb02

The Astaires: Life Before Ginger

A new biography shines light on one of the great forgotten stars of American show business, Adele Astaire, who left show business after a 20-plus-year partnership with her younger brother Fred, and watched him go on to become one of the most revered stars in the history of American musicals and movies. In The Astaires, Australian researcher Kathleen Riley reminds us that Adele was the unquestioned star of the dancing act the young...

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An Appreciation: Hugh Martin
Mar14

An Appreciation: Hugh Martin

Update: March 15, 2011: A great, great retrospective of Hugh Martin‘s and Ralph Blane‘s interviews and performances through the years with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross of NPR is here. Into his 90’s Martin’s Southern charm was intact. Another legend of the American Songbook has passed from the scene. Hugh Martin, writer of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” died in early March at the age of...

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