In the final chapter, actually the “epilogue,” Ben Yagoda covers what he seems to see as the “rebirth” of the Great American Songbook. He talks about the movement away from New York to places such as Nashville (Country Music), Memphis (Early Rock and Roll) and Detroit (Motown). He also discusses the pairing up of composer Burt Bacharach with lyricist Hal David. This team’s songs were made famous by the singer Dionne Warwick.
He also discusses the work of the future Carol King (originally Carol Klein) who worked in New York for Aldon Music on Broadway, near, but not in the Brill Building. She went on to have a solo career and a number of hits in the 70’s. Some of her colleagues also went on to be famous – Neil Sedaka, Don Kirshner, Phil Spector.
Others mentioned are Randy Newman, Lenon and McCartney, whom I have discussed before, and Jimmy Webb who, among other things, composed “Up, Up and Away” (1967).
Mr. Yagoda takes a very positive view of this time. Citing Jimmy Webb, he says that “[r]ock and roll had morphed into something much more interesting musically. . . . It’s hard to imagine a more fecund atmosphere . . . .” Yagoda goes on to say that “[t]he final page had been turned on one songbook. Another was just starting to be written.”
Well, it is a point of view, as they say. I certainly agree with him up to a point, however, this “new songbook” seems to me to peter out by about 1980. In my opinion, these newer songwriters were living off of the capital of the past. They were raised in the great heritage of melody and harmony (as well as lyrics) of the original American Songbook and were able to write newer sounding songs which, however, drew upon the riches of the past. At a certain point, as they were replaced by a new generation who didn’t know the tradition, the newer songbook collapsed.
And, one of these days, I will write about this.