THE GREAT AMERICAN POPULAR SINGERS by Henry Pleasants

THE GREAT AMERICAN POPULAR SINGERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An erudite classicist by background and training, Pleasants converted late to American Pop. As though to make up for his early obtuseness -- he thought Bing Crosby and his ilk were ""just something tasteless for schoolgirls"" -- he now defends Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland and Ray Charles with a passion as fervent as it is misplaced. For the truth is that the battle has long since been won; American popular singers no longer need to be justified by longhair critics. Most especially, their music doesn't need to be exonerated according to the standards of another idiom -- in this case opera. Yet that is what Pleasants does; he takes great pains to provide the pop vocalist with an illustrious musical pedigree dating back to 17th and 18th century Italian opera. It seems that pop singers, too, are masters of the appogiatura, the portamento and the rubato -- some can even hit a high C. Maybe so, but Pleasants, though full of enthusiasm for the mainstream vocalists of the past three or four decades, stops short of the 1960's. Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and other rock greats are apparently still beyond the pale and all ""folk"" singing is dismissed categorically as ""amateurs ingenuously celebrating amateurism."" Alas, Pleasants is not as hip as he thinks. A well intentioned but rather old fashioned review of American popular music as it was, not as it is.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1974
Publisher: Simon & Schuster