Ken Bloom's new volume The American Songbook: The Singers, The Songwriters &andamp; The Songs provides thoughtful analysis and vital perspective on the sounds and compositions from the era before Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis. Bloom, who is a respected authority on the pre-rock period, carefully distinguishes between the many idioms that emerged, from the marches and minstrel tunes of the late 1800s to the ragtime, boogie-woogie, barrelhouse piano, Broadway musicals and big bands of the '20s, '30s and early '40s.

While profiling key creative figures (George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer) and vocalists (Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett), Bloom also shows how elements of blues and jazz influenced songwriters and performers not always identified with these styles, including Irving Berlin and Dinah Shore. He weaves in valuable side essays on related topics, such as war songs and holiday tunes, and spotlights the development of the music publishing industry and the role of song pluggers. The 600 photographs in the book add a stunning visual complement to the text. The American Songbook qualifies as the finest book currently available on the great standards and show tunes.

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