The Literature of American Popular Music

To commemorate last night's Grammy Awards, this week's review examines the development of American popular music through myriad genres and historical works

Songbooks: The Literature of American Popular Music

Weisbard, Eric. Duke, 2021
552p bibl index, 9781478011941 $124.95, 9781478014089 $27.95, 978147802139

Songbooks: The Literature of American Popular Music book cover

Weisbard (American studies, Univ. of Alabama) offers brief essays on 158 works, and presents them as influential in the development of American popular music over the past 250 years. Organized chronologically, the works include a small number of actual songbooks, but most are genre studies, memoirs/biographies, and other nonfiction works about aspects of popular music. Journals and works of fiction, poetry, and theater make appearances here and there. Weisbard looks at works on a wide range of popular music genres, giving special attention to genres that have attracted the most scholarly discussion and controversy—for example, jazz.  A few of the works are about related subjects such as dance, sociology, and classical music. In contrast to many book reviews, Weisbard’s essays tend to launch quickly into larger discussions about influential scholarship. In that way, the featured works serve as gateways to more expansive explorations of important people and writings. Thick with mentions of scholars, scholarly works, and contrasting viewpoints, the essays will be daunting for nonspecialists, but serious students of American popular music will find the book a strong introduction to the literature and scholarship that have defined American popular music.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
D. Beisswenger, University of Arkansas
Subject: Humanities – Performing Arts – Music
Choice Issue: Apr 2022

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