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THE SONG IS ENDED by William G. Hyland

THE SONG IS ENDED

Songwriters and American Music, 1900-1950

By William G. Hyland

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-19-508611-2
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

 Former Foreign Affairs editor Hyland sends an uninspired valentine to the music of his youth. Despite the subtitle, this is not an all-encompassing history of popular song from 1900 to 1950. Rather, Hyland focuses primarily on five of his favorite composers--Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers--and their lyricists. Beginning with Berlin's work at the turn of the century, he briefly sketches the period's theatrical history, then alternates among his chosen composers, examining their better songs and outlining their professional and personal lives. All of this has been well documented elsewhere, and Hyland draws on the usual sources (Alec Wilder's American Popular Song, not reviewed, and the many fine works of Gerald Bordman, including The American Musical Theatre, 1978) to flesh out his narrative and analyses. He tells once again the familiar stories of how Hammerstein and Kern's Show Boat and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! transformed the musical theater, relying on readily available published sources rather than any new research. Hyland brings no radical new thoughts to the table, and pop-song aficionados are likely to be familiar with most of the lore he recounts, so it's hard to say what purpose his overview might serve. Furthermore, the book virtually ignores the lasting contributions to popular music made by black composers and performers. Hyland's history of ragtime focuses on Irving Berlin and his famous pseudo-ragtime song, ``Alexander's Ragtime Band,'' while he spends a paltry three paragraphs discussing the contributions of Scott Joplin, and he barely acknowledges the fine popular songs of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, and Eubie Blake, to name just a few. A trip down memory lane that turns out to be a critical dead end.