Crooners, Divas and the Timeless Standards of the Great American Songbook

What do you get when you combine the music of the Broadway and musical theatre, Hollywood musicals and a little Tin Pan Alley? You get The Great American Songbook. The Great American Songbook is a compilation of musical standards from the 1920’s to the 1960’s.

The Great American Songbook is made up of hundreds of songs that are inherent to, and define the early American music culture.

Many great singers and songwriters have contributed to this highly regarded repertoire of songs that are sung by musical artists even today. A few of the Songbook songwriting legends include:

Irving BerlinWhite Christmas, God Bless America

Harold ArlenOver the Rainbow, That Old Black Magic

Duke EllingtonIt Don’t Mean a Thing (If You Ain’t Got that Swing),

George and Ira GershwinSomeone to Watch Over Me, Embraceable You

Cole PorterI’ve Got You Under My Skin, What is This Thing Called Love

Rodgers and HammersteinOh What a Beautiful Morning, Some Enchanted Evening

In the early years many singers pulled much of their music from the Songbook. Artist such as: Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin are among the notable few. Many artists have released albums that were a compilation of hits strictly from the Great American Songbook. Ella Fitzgerald recorded 252 songs from the it in her Songbook series Verve.

Many jazz musicians, including past and present crooners and divas look to the Songbook as their main source for musical jazz standards. That has never changed throughout the genre’s history.

If you think the Great American Songbook is a thing of the past, think again. Contemporary artists of today draw much of their music from this source. The Songbook has seen an amazing revival in recent years. Modern day musicians from every music genre perform the Great American Songbook standards of yesterday, among some of them are:

Barbara Streisand Natalie Cole

Linda Ronstadt Willie Nelson

Rod Stewart Sting

Joni Mitchell Bette Midler

Harry Nilsson Harry Connick Jr.

Michael Feinstein Michael Bublé

The music of the Great American Songbook can be described in some very definitive terms. Mostly written in “verse-chorus form”, the lyrics are rhythmic and somewhat simple. The subject matter usually refers to love, however in some of the songs, lyrics are depicted in a storytelling format, and describe everyday life of the common man.

Containing very sing-songy lyrics, in many cases, rhyming lyrics, the songs lend themselves to catchy memorable tunes. Some attributes that can be found in many Great American Songbook songs are the “in character” narrative style lyrics. Humming and whistling are prevalent in many of the standards of the Songbook as well.

Finding its earliest roots in the elaborate Broadway musical productions of the “Golden Age of Songwriting”, many of the songs themselves were written to stand-alone with just their chorus. This enabled a verse to be dropped here and there when being performed outside of musical theater.

Musical artists from all over the world have performed American classics from the Great American Songbook. The heartfelt lyrics and expressive delivery knows no geographical boundaries. The Great American Songbook’s music crosses over distance, culture and language. It speaks to the human heart and has survived the tests of diversity and time.

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