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Each chapter gives us an extended history of one song—the circumstances under which it was written and first performed—and then explores its musical and lyric content. Drawing on his vast knowledge of records and the careers of performing artists, Friedwald tells us who was responsible for making these songs famous and discusses in depth the performers who have left their unique marks on them. He writes about variations in performance style, about both classic and obscure versions of the songs, about brilliantly original interpretations and ghastly travesties. And then there’s the completely unexpected, like Stan Freberg’s politically correct “Elderly Man River.”
This is a book for all lovers of American song to explore, argue with, and savor.