Synopses & Reviews
Will Friedwald’s illuminating, opinionated essays—provocative, funny, and personal—on the lives and careers of more than three hundred singers anatomize the work of the most important jazz and popular performers of the twentieth century. From giants like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland to lesser-known artists like Jeri Southern and Joe Mooney, they have created a body of work that continues to please and inspire. Here is the most extensive biographical and critical survey of these singers ever written, as well as an essential guide to the Great American Songbook and those who shaped the way it has been sung.
The music crosses from jazz to pop and back again, from the songs of Irving Berlin and W. C. Handy through Stephen Sondheim and beyond, bringing together straightforward jazz and pop singers (Billie Holiday, Perry Como); hybrid artists who moved among genres and combined them (Peggy Lee, Mel Tormé); the leading men and women of Broadway and Hollywood (Ethel Merman, Al Jolson); yesterday’s vaudeville and radio stars (Sophie Tucker, Eddie Cantor); and today’s cabaret artists and hit-makers (Diana Krall, Michael Bublé). Friedwald has also written extended pieces on the most representative artists of five significant genres that lie outside the songbook: Bessie Smith (blues), Mahalia Jackson (gospel), Hank Williams (country and western), Elvis Presley (rock ’n’ roll), and Bob Dylan (folk-rock).
Friedwald reconsiders the personal stories and professional successes and failures of all these artists, their songs, and their performances, appraising both the singers and their music by balancing his opinions with those of fellow musicians, listeners, and critics.
This magisterial reference book—ten years in the making—will delight and inform anyone with a passion for the iconic music of America, which continues to resonate throughout our popular culture.
"In this passionately opinionated encyclopedia of the old-school virtuosos of the American songbook, music writer Friedwald (Sinatra!) celebrates 200-odd performers of jazz and pop standards, from the mid-20th-century titans--Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra--to latter-day acolytes like Diana Krall and Harry Connick Jr., with a raft of unjustly obscure singers in between. (Forget the Andrews Sisters--get a load of the Boswell Sisters!) Friedwald is all about the music; he primly shies away from his subjects' scandal-prone personal lives, but accords each a substantial career retrospective, selected discography and wonderfully pithy interpretive essay. His tastes are wide-ranging and idiosyncratic: he plumbs the artistry of Jimmy Durante's and Shirley Temple's novelty voices, decries the bombastic narcissism of 'sacred monster' Barbra Streisand--'I remain completely unconvinced that she's a person who needs people'--and considers perky Doris Day's pop gems 'the most erotic vocalizing you'll ever hear.' However unconventional, his judgments are usually spot-on, as in his compelling reassessment of Elvis as the last great Crosbyesque crooner. Friedwald's exuberant medley is that rarest of things: music criticism that actually makes you sit up and listen. (Nov. 2)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
The most extensive biographical and critical survey of jazz and popular singers ever written—an essential guide to the Great American Songbook and those who performed it.
These illuminating, opinionated essays—provocative, funny, and personal—on the lives and careers of more than three hundred singers anatomize the work of the greatest popular vocalists of the twentieth century, from giants like Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland to lesser-known artists whose work still pleases and inspires.
Will Friedwald reconsiders their personal stories and professional successes and failures, their songs and performances, appraising both the singers and their music by balancing his opinions with the criticism of fellow musicians, listeners, and critics. This magisterial reference book—ten years in the making— brings into focus the Great American Songbook and the men and women who have sung it: straightforward jazz and pop singers; hybrid artists who moved among and combined genres; the leading men and women of Broadway and Hollywood; yesterday’s vaudeville stars and today’s cabaret artists.
A must-have for anyone with a passion for the classic, iconic music of America—the music that continues to resonate throughout our popular culture.
Covering such icons as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland, Friedwald presents the most extensive biographical and critical survey of jazz and popular singers ever written--an essential guide to the Great American Songbook and those who performed it.
About the Author
Will Friedwald writes about music for The Wall Street Journal and was the jazz (and cabaret) critic for The New York Sun. He is the author of eight books, including Stardust Melodies: A Biography of Twelve of America’s Most Popular Songs; Jazz Singing: America’s Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Bebop and Beyond; Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer’s Art; and The Good Life (with Tony Bennett). He has written nearly five hundred liner notes for compact discs, for which he has received eight Grammy nominations. He has also written for Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, American Heritage, and The New York Times, among other publications.
Table of Contents
This table of contents includes an alphabetical list of all the artists featured in the dictionary: individual artists, the five “extras” (iconic singers in other genres), and those included in multiple artist entries. These multiple artist groupings, which are in more or less chronological order, are also listed below for your reference.
The Andrews Sisters
Lil Hardin Armstrong
Connee Boswell and the Boswell Sisters
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Ann Hampton Callaway
Una Mae Carlisle
Nat King Cole
Harry Connick, Jr.
Sir Noel Coward
Sammy Davis Jr.
Mary Cleere Haran
Hutch (Leslie Hutchinson)
Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross
The Mills Brothers
(Little) Jimmy Scott
George “Bon Bon” Tunnell
The Birth of the Croon: Cliff Edwards, Nick Lucas, Rudy Vallee, and Russ Columbo
Torch Singers and Flappers: Marion Harris, Ruth Etting, Helen Morgan, and Annette Hanshaw
African Americans Abroad: Adelaide Hall, Josephine Baker, Elisabeth Welch, and Alberta Hunter
There’ll Always Be an England: Hutch, Layton & Johnstone, and Gracie Fields
Female Band Singers I Benny’s Babes: Helen Ward, Martha Tilton, and Helen Forrest
Sing a Song of Ellington: Ivie Anderson, Herb Jeffries, and Al Hibbler
Sing a Song of Miller: Male (Mostly) Band Singers I—Bob Eberly, Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton, Johnny Desmond, Tex Beneke, and Ray McKinley
Singing Songwriters: Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Arlen, and Johnny Mercer
Female Bandsingers II—Big Bands into Pop: Edythe Wright, Bea Wain, Ginny Simms, Kitty Kallen
Male Band Singers II—Exceptional Boychicks: Harry Babbitt and George “Bon Bon” Tunnell
Hollywood Divas: Alice Faye, Dorothy Lamour, Shirley Temple, and Betty Hutton
Two Inimitables: Sir Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich
Fats’s Femme Followers: Lee Morse, Ramona, Cleo Brown, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Una Mae Carlisle, Julia Lee, Nellie Lutcher, Rose Murphy, and Hadda Brooks
Big Pop (Male): Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray, Guy Mitchell, Johnny Mathis, and Andy Williams
Hipsters and Bopsters: King Pleasure, Eddie Jefferson, Jackie Cain, Roy Kral, Irene Kral, Ann Richards, and Cleo Laine
Lee Wiley’s Boston Connection: Teddi King and Barbara Lea
Leading Ladies: Barbara Cook and Julie Andrews
Leading Men—In Defense of the Broadway Baritone: Alfred Drake, John Raitt, Gordon MacRae, Howard Keel, and Robert Goulet
Dinah’s Daughters—Soulful Ladies and Local Favorites: Etta Jones, Gloria Lynne, Teri Thornton, Irene Reid, and Lorez Alexandria
Two Soulful Gentlemen: Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls
Blossom’s Buds and Dearie’s Daughters: Barbara Carroll, Daryl Sherman, and Ann Hampton Callaway
Rock Goes Standards!: From Connie Francis to Rod Stewart
Dynasty: Freddy Cole and Natalie Cole
Contemporary Male Jazz Singers: Allan Harris, Kevin Mahogany, and Kurt Elling
Contemporary Cabaret: Andrea Marcovicci, Mary Cleere Haran, Michael Feinstein, and Eric Comstock
Harry Connick Jr. and the Retro Crooner Boychicks: Harry Connick Jr., Michael Bublé, Jamie Cullum, and Peter Cincotti
Folk-Rock: Bob Dylan
Gospel: Mahalia Jackson
Rock ’n’ Roll: Elvis Presley
Blues: Bessie Smith
Country and Western: Hank Williams