About the Music
It’s full of wonderfully crafted storytelling, for one thing. When the likes of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer combined creative forces in composing “One For My Baby,” they produced one of the best “saloon songs” of all time. Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn collaborated on the delightful “Come Fly With Me,” and millions since have imagined themselves jetting off to exotic locales. Frank Loesser gave us the gamblers’ tongue-in-cheek anthem “Luck Be a Lady.” A veritable treasure trove of songs came from Broadway composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, and Rodgers with Lorenz Hart, “It Might As Well Be Spring” and “My Heart Stood Still,” respectively. Dorothy Fields penned the evocative “The Way You Look Tonight.” Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas,” “God Bless America,” and gave us so much more. There were so many terrific collaborations and songs that came out of mid-twentieth-century America that it is impossible to list all of them.
Between the mid 1930s and the late 1960s, Hollywood, Broadway and developing record labels and recording studios made music more accessible than ever before. The demand quickly grew with singers including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat “King” Cole, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett recording hit after hit. The songs spoke to the heart of a nation longing for more than simply entertainment- but for something truly meaningful. What was produced back then still stands the test of time today, as is well illustrated by the number of successful contemporary singers who have embraced the genre.
A diverse collection of artists, ranging from Barbra Streisand to Pat Benatar (and several other notable entertainers including Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson and Sting) departed from their own unique styles and devoted entire albums to The Great American Songbook. Linda Ronstadt and Rod Stewart concentrated on these pop standards, with Ronstadt releasing three album collections of the songs, and Stewart producing four. Other popular singers have devoted their entire careers to interpreting the genre, most notably Michael Feinstein, Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall and Michael Bublé.
Some have referred to The Great American Songbook as “America’s classical music.” As with classical masterpieces, these wonderful songs fulfill the destiny of all great music, and will continue to evoke profound emotional response for years to come.