The Great American Songbook is a very loosely defined creation that attempts to represent some of the best songs of the 20th Century. Drawn primarily from the Broadway theatre, Hollywood musicals, and popular song, selections included in the Songbook are usually from the 1920s to the early 1960s, and are an important part of the repertoire of jazz musicians, who describe such songs simply as “jazz standards.”
Some of the composers and lyricists most commonly associated with the Great American Songbook are Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, and Duke Ellington. Performers of the past and the present who have recognized the wealth of material found in the Songbook include such notables as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, and Michael Feinstein.
Most of the songs in the Great American Songbook are written in “verse-chorus” form. The verse is a musical introduction that is typically of a free musical structure, with speech-like rhythms and a non-metrical delivery. This leads to the chorus, which is recognized as the more central part of the song, sometimes even being the only part of the song that is performed. The subject matter of most of the songs is love, in all its varieties.
Several of my all time favorites are “My Romance” by Rodgers and Hart, “Embraceable You” by George and Ira Gershwin, and “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Kahal and Fain. What are your favorites?
Filed under: Choral experiences Tagged: | Aretha Franklin, Broadway, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Embraceable You, Frank Sinatra, George Gershwin, Great American Songbook, Harold Arlen, hollywood, I'll Be Seeing You, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Lorenz Hart, Mel Torme, Michael Feinstein, My Romance, Nat King Cole, Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers, Rod Stewart, Toney Bennett