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The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Great Lyricists Paperback – Jan 1 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (Jan. 1 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195074734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195074734
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 13.2 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #465,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Chell on June 4 2002
Format: Paperback
I have to wonder if the impressive endorsements on the back cover (by Sammy Cahn, Steve Allen, Michael Feinstein) are from musical celebrities who actually read the book. The author deserves praise for bringing concentrated focus to and careful analysis of the lyrics of America's best wordsmiths, but this is not a book that seduces the reader into staying with it for extended stretches. There's historical context, learned analysis of prosody with lots of concise examples, and pithy scholarly prose. But when all is said and done, the chapters devoted to individual lyricists, as well as the book as a whole, are quite bloodless. I don't sense any clear thesis, any driving passion, even any strong personal preferences from the author.
The author's justification for such a book--that composers of melody are given credit at the expense of the lyricist--strikes me as a bit of a straw man. How many listeners can immediately associate a familiar popular standard with either its composer or lyricist? Also, the analysis of prosody and technique often overshadows consideration of the thematic integrity, or meaning, of a song. Moreover, the analyses pay too little heed to melody and harmony to make a persuasive case for the poetic power of the lyrics themselves. Finally, with song lyrics how can you separate the dancer from the dance? Were it not for Billie Holiday, Mabel Mercer and, above all, Frank Sinatra, most of these songs would be long forgotten. Certainly some consideration of the actual performance of the lyrics would seem requisite to any demonstration of their continuing vitality and importance.
Most of the above challenges are met by a book to which the author frequently alludes--Gerald Mast's "Can't Help Singin'.
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By krebsman on Jan. 1 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book. Furia provides a fine overview with lyric analyses of all the major lyricists of the first half of the 20th Century. He also touches upon the history of Tin Pan Alley itself and other developments that were happening at the same time in music, like the rise of the film studios, the creation of ASCAP and BMI, and the "race" and "hillbilly" recordings which helped bring about the end of Tin Pan Alley dominance. Furia later wrote full biographies of Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer that are more complete. (He would do the world a great service if he would write a decent book on Dorothy Fields.) THE POETS OF TIN PAN ALLEY is highly recommended for all lyricists and anyone who has in interest in American popular song.
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By A Customer on June 30 1999
Format: Paperback
I erroneously entered this as an author's review. I thought I was communicating with the author. Please delete what I erroneously submitted, and accept it as a customer's review.
I would like to have several compies of this book available. I am thinking of putting on an adult education course with this book as the principal text.
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Format: Paperback
Delightful detailed insight into the creativity of the lyric writers of the 20th century [prior to 1960]. Furia's writing style is a pleasure to read, wonderfully free of cliches. If you appreciate genius {I do, but I'm not one} and you have a rudimentary knowledge of music [I do}, you'll love this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Peak pleasure for this reader. March 26 1999
By James988 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Delightful detailed insight into the creativity of the lyric writers of the 20th century [prior to 1960]. Furia's writing style is a pleasure to read, wonderfully free of cliches. If you appreciate genius {I do, but I'm not one} and you have a rudimentary knowledge of music [I do}, you'll love this book.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
O.K. for dipping. June 4 2002
By Samuel Chell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have to wonder if the impressive endorsements on the back cover (by Sammy Cahn, Steve Allen, Michael Feinstein) are from musical celebrities who actually read the book. The author deserves praise for bringing concentrated focus to and careful analysis of the lyrics of America's best wordsmiths, but this is not a book that seduces the reader into staying with it for extended stretches. There's historical context, learned analysis of prosody with lots of concise examples, and pithy scholarly prose. But when all is said and done, the chapters devoted to individual lyricists, as well as the book as a whole, are quite bloodless. I don't sense any clear thesis, any driving passion, even any strong personal preferences from the author.
The author's justification for such a book--that composers of melody are given credit at the expense of the lyricist--strikes me as a bit of a straw man. How many listeners can immediately associate a familiar popular standard with either its composer or lyricist? Also, the analysis of prosody and technique often overshadows consideration of the thematic integrity, or meaning, of a song. Moreover, the analyses pay too little heed to melody and harmony to make a persuasive case for the poetic power of the lyrics themselves. Finally, with song lyrics how can you separate the dancer from the dance? Were it not for Billie Holiday, Mabel Mercer and, above all, Frank Sinatra, most of these songs would be long forgotten. Certainly some consideration of the actual performance of the lyrics would seem requisite to any demonstration of their continuing vitality and importance.
Most of the above challenges are met by a book to which the author frequently alludes--Gerald Mast's "Can't Help Singin'." Any reader interested in the art and lives of the composers and the songs, not to mention the lyricists and lyrics, cannot afford to pass by Mast's singular achievement. In the neglected, taken-for-granted field of the American popular song, it remains the one "must read."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent overview Jan. 1 2004
By krebsman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book. Furia provides a fine overview with lyric analyses of all the major lyricists of the first half of the 20th Century. He also touches upon the history of Tin Pan Alley itself and other developments that were happening at the same time in music, like the rise of the film studios, the creation of ASCAP and BMI, and the "race" and "hillbilly" recordings which helped bring about the end of Tin Pan Alley dominance. Furia later wrote full biographies of Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer that are more complete. (He would do the world a great service if he would write a decent book on Dorothy Fields.) THE POETS OF TIN PAN ALLEY is highly recommended for all lyricists and anyone who has in interest in American popular song.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Very Enjoyable Book July 4 2012
By natalie mast - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I found this a very interesting read. There were great anecdotes, interesting insights and it's not too difficult to read if you aren't musical.

The analysis of songs is also pretty fair. Yes, it talks up great songs, but it also notes that there were quite a number of banal ditties produced over the period.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
SING ALONG WITH THIS ONE, FOR SURE!! Sept. 22 2007
By Anne Salazar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book!! I picked it up somewhere, and sang inside my head on almost every single page! It is a terrific overview of the Tin Pan Alley days of GREAT music, and in this book Philip Furia has provided enough lyrics to remind us of all the songs, and it is great fun to read. I marked up my copy, and then had to buy another, clean copy to re-read. I have also bought a couple more copies of the book for friends who also love the old music.

Philip Furia is a lover of this great music, and his bio of Johnny Mercer is very well written and, again, lots of fun to read. Oh for the good ole music of yesterday! I do miss it. But because of these books -- and others like them -- it is not gone forever. Thank you to Philip Furia for sharing your love of this music with all of us! The men and women who wrote this popular music were poets indeed, and one can tell they had a lot of fun while writing the songs.

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