The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song

Ben Yagoda. Riverhead, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5944-8849-8
Drawing on previously unavailable archival materials, as well as interviews with Linda Ronstadt, Randy Newman, and Jimmy Webb, among others, essayist Yagoda (Memoir: A History) energetically conducts a journey through the development of popular music in this vibrant piece of cultural history. In the first two decades of the 20th century, when sheet music was the primary way of selling music, writers and publishers searched relentlessly for any angle that would sell. Various cultural, institutional, and technological forces converged to advance the careers of individual talents, such as Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter. By the 1950s and 1960s, however, the business of marketing and hit making altered the landscape of popular music so that the emphasis was on selling products rather than on making good, memorable songs. Yagoda points out in this wonderful history that even during the decline of the older songbook of standards, younger songwriters—including Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and others—were emerging to write new standards, so that “if you close your eyes while listening to McCartney’s ‘Yesterday,’ you’d swear you were listening to a lost classic from the great American songbook.” (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/24/2014
Release date: 01/22/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-59463-409-3
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