THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK: The Stories Behind the Standards by Chuck Denison
Photographs by Duncan Schiedt
Intriguing, Inspiring and Entertaining Stories of the Songs, the Singers and the Composers
From Tin Pan Alley to Broadway and Hollywood, THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK: The Stories Behind the Standards tells the stories of our most popular songs with humor, drama and insight. This is timeless music written in unique ways that is constantly being reinterpreted by each generation. Isaac Stern made this distinction between talent and genius: "A person possesses talent; genius possesses the person." This is a book about singers, musicians, lyricists and composers taking their talent into the atmosphere of immortality. They are fascinating, and they set the standards by which popular music is measured. They may not have lived easy lives, but their creativity drove them to new heights and they changed the face of American music forever: George Gershwin: a bright, bored and troubled child who amazed his family when he sat at their newly purchased piano and began to play brilliantly. By age 15 his ingenious songs were being featured in Broadway shows. His best work was done with his brother Ira Gershwin, his confidante and lyricist.
Billie Holiday: drug-addicted and hard-drinking, she continues to move listeners with her singing long after her death. Her flame burned so brightly and she lived so intensely that it is remarkable she survived for as long as she did.
Cole Porter: the boy from Peru, Indiana who never really fit in. Small, sickly, and exceptionally witty, Porter was precocious and had a flair for witty lyrics and ribald sexuality. He was also obsessed with his appearance and driven by a lust for muscular men. A tragic accident left him crippled at midlife, yet his tunes were as dapper as ever. Billy Strayhorn: the shy, musical boy from the toughest part of Pittsburgh, who got his big break when he played piano for the fabulous Duke Ellington. Duke gave him directions to his apartment in Harlem: "Take the A train…," and Billy though it might be nice to create a song out of Duke's directions. Take the A Train became a Duke Ellington standard for the next 50 years and is still his signature song. Music by a wide variety of artists is covered, including: George Gershwin, Billie Holiday, Cole Porter, Rogers & Hart, Paul McCartney, Dave Brubeck, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, John Coltrane and many others. Some chapters tell the story of just one song; others sketch the life stories of the artists. Music lovers will find new facts and deeper understanding about old friends in THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK The Stories Behind the Standards, and readers unfamiliar with the standards will find the book accessible, easy to read and delightfully entertaining and informative.
Dr. Chuck Denison is a writer, speaker, consultant and musician. During the day he works for the Presbyterian Church USA designing new models of ministry. As a jazz musician, he has played at the Indy Jazz Fest and many other venues. He has also been a poet, blues guitarist, merchant marine, cab driver, pastor, songwriter and folksinger. Those were the fun jobs. He lives in Louisville KY with his wife Cindy.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER:
Duncan Schiedt has photographed jazz musicians for sixty years. He is the author of several books, including The Jazz State of Indiana and Twelve Lives in Jazz, and is co-author of "Ain't Misbehavin". Schiedt's original and archival photographs were featured in Ken Burn's landmark PBS series Jazz, and his work has appeared in international art exhibits and trade and academic publications worldwide. His latest book is titled Jazz in Black & White.