Let's Dance: Popular Music in the 1930s

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9780195053074: Let's Dance: Popular Music in the 1930s

In this exuberant sequel to his prize-winning The Jazz Age, Arnold Shaw captures virtually every aspect of popular music during the Depression.
Here is a colorful year-by-year chronicle of music in the '30s, blended with chapters on broader topics--the jazz clubs on Swing Street, the Big Band boom--and spiced with interviews with major figures (such as Burton Lane and Lionel Hampton), who bring a vibrant first-hand feel to the narrative. Readers visit every corner of the music scene. We watch as the Hollywood musical takes off, highlighted by the brilliant Busby Berkeley and the luminous partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. We read about the incredible popularity of radio shows such as Your Hit Parade and Martin Block's "make-believe ballroom," which brought music to households from coast to coast. And we experience once again the great Broadway musicals of the period--from Girl Crazy to The Cradle Will Rock--written by a who's who of American song: Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, and Cole Porter. But above all, the '30s were the Swing Era--when swing bands dominated dance halls, ballrooms, radio broadcasts, and record sales--and Shaw provides superb portraits of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, and countless others.
From Gershwin's Porgy and Bess to Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, from Woody Guthrie to Ethel Merman, and from the Carioca to the Lindy Hop, here is an affectionate and informative account of this golden era of popular song.

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About the Author:


Arnold Shaw was Director of the Popular Music Research Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He wrote The Jazz Age, which won as ASCAP/Deems Taylor Prize in 1988. He died in 1989, soon after completing the manuscript for Let's Dance. Bill Willard is Director of the Arnold Shaw Research Center for Popular Music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He lives in Las Vegas

From Publishers Weekly:

The history of popular music in the 1930s, a decade that boasted such eminent figures as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hart, Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen, is a story worth readingAbut not as presented here. Shaw, who died in 1989, was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he taught popular music history courses and established the school's Research Center for Popular Music. In his foreword, Williard rather confusedly explains that the manuscript for this, Shaw's 13th book, "had often repeated numerous situation accounts and names, necessitating proper juxtaposition to keep the Shaw continuity and meticulously glowing writing style a fascinating adventure into a marvelously productive musical timespan." With that established, Williard presents seven introductory chapters covering Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, movie music, Broadway shows, Swing Street (52nd Street), radio's weekly Hit Parade program and the rise of the big bands. The book goes on with a chapter-by-chapter survey of each year's song hits, inevitably repeating information in the first seven chapters. While there are interesting anecdotes scattered throughout the work, the book is poorly organized and awkwardly written. On a single page, for example, the text wanders from Bob Hope's singing "I Can't Get Started with You" with Eve Arden, to Fats Waller singing two comedy hits, to a suicide song imported from Hungary, to a discussion of the "cataclysmic events of 1936" (including the Duke of Windsor's abdication), to the market for Latin rhythms, to Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy's famed "Indian Love Call" duet, to a dance scene with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Few readers will have the patience to slog through this mass of unrelated information.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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