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"A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs."

David Lehman

Author David Lehman will present a lively and entertaining talk on the Jewish songwriters who created America’s popular and Broadway music from the 1920s to the 1960s, known as the “Great American Songbook.”  Many jazz standards and probably a majority of the songs in the Great American Songbook were written by Jewish composers and lyricists. They, or their parents, escaped persecution in Eastern Europe, emigrated to the United States, and wrote musical odes to love, romance, show biz, and the American dream. To take one example: the Russian-born Irving Berlin, the son of a cantor, wrote "God Bless America"; "There's No Business Like Show Business"; "White Christmas," the best-selling song of all time, which secularizes that holiday -- in addition to many of the songs to which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced. In this talk Mr. Lehman will raise and address such questions as these: What is "Jewish" about the songs written by Berlin, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Leonard Bernstein, Dorothy Fields, Yip Harburg, Frank Loesser, and many others? Who were they and what are their chief contributions? What did the non-Jewish Cole Porter mean when he said that the secret of writing hits was to "write Jewish tunes"? What are some of the characteristics of such songs as "Ol' Man River," "My Funny Valentine," "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," "That's Entertainment," "But Not For Me," and "Over the Rainbow"? What did the Jewish songwriters borrow from - and lend to -- African-American musicians as well as Italian-American crooners?

Time and Place
September 16, 2019, 7:30 pm
Textor 101 on Ithaca College Campus