The Oxford Companion to Popular Music

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9780193113237: The Oxford Companion to Popular Music
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Harper's has called them "the best reference books in the language." And The Boston Globe wrote, "How did we ever get along before Oxford began to publish its thick, encyclopedic volumes which, modestly and accurately, it calls Companions?" From the redoubtable Oxford Companion to English Literature to the fascinating Oxford Companion to the Mind, these browsable volumes have long been acclaimed as goldmines of information, capturing in thousands of entries the essence of a particular field of interest.
Now comes the newest addition to the Companion series, The Oxford Companion to Popular Music, encompassing in one alphabetic sequence all that is notable within this vast subject, everything from jazz, reggae, blues, and calypso, to Broadway musicals, rock and roll, and country western. There are hundreds of biographical entries on such diverse figures as John Philip Sousa and Ma Rainey, Fred Astaire and Joan Baez, Josef Lanner (the Father of the Viennese Waltz) and Mistinguett, Otis Redding and Prince. The great Broadway writers, performers, and musicals (including plot outlines) are all here: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern; "South Pacific," "West Side Story," "Show Boat," "Porgy and Bess"; Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Fanny Brice, Robert Preston. It covers rock groups from The Beatles, to Led Zeppelin, to Talking Heads; jazz figures such as Fats Waller, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Bix Beiderbecke, and Louis Armstrong; folk singers such as Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, and Arlo Guthrie; and country western figures such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash. Not the least important feature is the many informative essays on particular genres of popular music, from operetta and waltz, to vaudeville and blues, to brass band and gospel. In the article "Popular Song (USA)," for instance, Gammond traces our popular musical heritage from "Yankee-Doodle," to "Jump, Jim Crow" (a popular minstrel tune that was America's first international song hit in 1832), to "Dixie" (written by Northerner Daniel Decatur Emmett in 1859), to "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (written by James Bland, the first great Afro-American songwriter), to "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and the enormous outpouring of song in the 20th century. As in any Oxford Companion, one of the great pleasures is the discovery of odd, colorful details--for example, that "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" may date back to the time of the Crusades, or that singer Frankie Laine (who recorded "Rawhide" and other hit tunes) holds the all-time dance marathon record: 3,501 hours in 145 consecutive days. And throughout, Gammond includes generous cross-referencing as well as helpful bibliographies for the larger entries.
This authoritative and comprehensive volume offers a matchless tour of the popular music world, providing a balance between substantial information and a concise assessment of the subject.

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Review:

Okay, it's the Oxford Companion, which explains why so much space is devoted to English music-hall perennials such as Al Bowlly or Ray Noble. But this wrist-wrenching book covers the other bases, too, with copious material on jazz, blues, reggae, country, folk, and even light opera. A superb reference, a browser's delight, and one of the very few places you can read about Grand Funk Railroad, Stephane Grappelli, and the Grand Ole Opry on a single page. (Complaint: Leith Stevens and Shakin' Stevens made the cut, but somehow Cat has been omitted.)

About the Author:


About the Author:
Peter Gammond is a prolific writer on popular music, the author of over thirty books, including biographies of Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington, and Offenbach.

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