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There are few things more precious and interesting than a Golden Age. There was a Golden Age of a particular kind of music that ran from the twenties through the fifties: the golden age of popular standards; the songs that constitute The Great American Song Book. These tunes were written by dapper, creative giants like Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, Hoagy Charmichael, Jerome Kern, and Dorothy Fields. Urbane sophisticated talents who created a body of work that effortlessly captures that urbanity and sophistication.
They created tunes focused on the subject of romantic love and exploring all the stages and aspects of the arc of a great love affair: from the initial “walking on air” to the jaded ennui of “never again”. They were obsessed with this theme and subject. Describing, exploring, and driving deep into all its mysteries. These composers and lyricists were in love with Love.
These tunes wed lyrics and music into songs that were crafted by songwriting teams originally centered around Tin Pan Alley; The Brill Building on Broadway in Mid town Manhattan. These songwriting teams in many cases split the composing tasks along functional lines: one writing the music and on writing the lyrics. The composers were writing vehicles for others to perform and usually pitched the tunes in the context of a Broadway or Hollywood musical. They were cranking out tunes for the Hollywood and Broadway dream factories at a prodigious pace. They really worked! Cranking out so many songs, they have a tossed off, effortless quality and a guileless directness. They feel unpretentious and casual: genuine and authentic. But their craft and genius raise these songs to high art.
Many of these tunes became popular hits in their own right, lifted out of the shows and movies, and have been recorded by all the great performers. Fred Astaire debuted many of these tunes and was a favorite of the writing teams. He was known as much for his singing as his dancing! Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Buble are some of the latest to pay homage to the songbook.