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These illuminating, opinionated essays–provocative, funny, and personal–on the lives and careers of more than three hundred singers anatomize the work of the greatest popular vocalists of the twentieth century, from giants like Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland to lesser-known artists whose work still pleases and inspires.
Will Friedwald reconsiders their personal stories and professional successes and failures, their songs and performances, appraising both the singers and their music by balancing his opinions with the criticism of fellow musicians, listeners, and critics. This magisterial reference book–ten years in the making– brings into focus the Great American Songbook and the men and women who have sung it: straightforward jazz and pop singers; hybrid artists who moved among and combined genres; the leading men and women of Broadway and Hollywood; yesterday’s vaudeville stars and today’s cabaret artists.
A must-have for anyone with a passion for the classic, iconic music of America–the music that continues to resonate throughout our popular culture.
“If there were such a volume as the Great American Songbook, this book should be right next to it on your shelf. It is truly the definitive work on those who sing and swing those songs.”
—Alan Bergman, Grammy and Academy Award—winning songwriter
“A perfect holiday gift. . . . An authoritative, comprehensive and oft-amusing guidebook that leads readers through the lives and recordings of hundreds of singers, from Louis Armstrong to Hank Williams.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A fun reference book to dive into, get lost in—and use to add more songs and singers to your collection. . . . When it comes to the Great American Songbook, Will Friedwald is the keeper of the flame. He’s written some of the best books on popular song of the past quarter-century, from his engaging Jazz Singing to . . . his Sinatra! The Song is You [which] is one of the best studies of a singer’s craft ever written. With A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, Friedwald gave himself a daunting task: put together essays on every singer he can who made a career singing those great songs. ‘Every’ is a lot, but Friedwald doesn’t miss too many, from the early 20th century to the cabaret singers of the post-swing revival. The essays—more than 200 in all, including pieces on multiple artists—are part biography, part career overview, focusing on the singers’ highs and lows while tossing in bits of fun trivia.” —Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Will Friedwald has created an instant classic reference tome with his Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, the wealth of information and the breadth of knowledge being quite staggering. It is written without academic posturing but with wit and warmth and accessibility, covering in fascinating detail the careers of everyone from Jolson and Sinatra, of course, to Lee Wiley, Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich; from Armstrong to Doris Day, and everyone in between. It will surely be considered an essential text.” —Peter Bogdanovich