In response to one of my queries, I faithful reader wrote:
“I hate to corroborate your fear that people do not seek beautiful melody anymore, but I think it is true. People want a beat, and that’s about it. And that is why I can’t listen to any contemporary music for long periods of time, whether it’s Keith Urban, Adele, or anyone else. I always gravitate back to jazz/big band/standards for my long “entertainment” or “recreational” playlists. It doesn’t pound away at you, and it’s much more singable, i.e. memorable . . . There’s nothing that could stand up to a book of American Standards. In fact, is there anything in any genre from the past 20 years capable of sticking enough to become a classic? I doubt it, though I know there’s a lot out there I don’t know about and haven’t heard. Still, I bet 50 years from now, the collections of American Standards are going to look about the same as they do now.”
I think that she is basically correct. In fact, I date the end of the “Great American Songbook” to 1960. However, the desire for beautiful melodies lingers on – even if in different styles. I had mentioned the ballads of Lennon and McCartney, but there were “non-rock” composers such as Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini, Marvin Hamlisch, and the Frenchman Michelle Legrand. Even Billy Joel with his more Rock ‘n’ Roll sensibilities writes some memorable melodies into the 1970’s and 80’s.
I shall be investigating this more in the future.
Here are two songs of Henry Mancini – “Two for the Road” (1967) and “Charade” (1963) sung by Johnny Mathis at a 1987 concert with Henry Mancini. The melodies have a logic connected to the chord progression and, even if “Charade” has a strong (and exciting!) Latin rhythmic accompaniment, it is not necessary. The well-written melody and chord progression have a movement unto themselves. The song moves irregardless of that particular rhythmic accompaniment.