Who Should Sing 'Ol' Man River'?: The Lives of an American Song

Decker, Todd

Published by Oxford University Press
ISBN 10: 0199389187 / ISBN 13: 9780199389186
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Synopsis: A Broadway classic, a call to action, and an incredibly malleable popular song, "Ol' Man River" is not your typical musical theater standard. Written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II in the 1920s for Show Boat, "Ol Man River" perfectly blends two seemingly incongruous traits-the gravity of a Negro spiritual and the crowd-pleasing power of a Broadway anthem. Inspired by the voice of African American singer Paul Robeson, who adopted the tune for his own goals as an activist, "Ol' Man River" is both iconic and transformative.

In Who Should Sing "Ol' Man River"? The Lives of an American Song, author Todd Decker examines how the song has shaped, and been shaped by, the African American experience. Yet "Ol' Man River" also transcends both its genre and original conception as a song written for an African American male. Beyond musical theater, this Broadway ballad has been reworked in musical genres from pop to jazz, opera to doo wop, rhythm and blues to gospel to reggae. Pop singers such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland made "Ol' Man River" one of their signature songs. Jazz artists such as Bix Biederbecke, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, and Keith Jarrett have all played "Ol' Man River," as have stars of the rock and roll era, such as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, Cher, and Rod Stewart. Black or white, male or female-anyone who sings "Ol' Man River" must confront and consider its charged racial content and activist history.

Performers and fans of musical theater as well as students of the Civil Rights movement will find Who Should Sing "Ol' Man River" an unprecedented examination of a song that's played a groundbreaking role in American history.

About the Author:
Todd Decker is Associate Professor of Music at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical (Oxford, 2013) and Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz (2011, winner of the Best First Book Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies). He has lectured widely on American music, including at the Library of Congress, and his articles have appeared in Music, Sound and the Moving Image, The Journal of Musicology, Daedalus, and Contemporary Theatre Review.

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Title: Who Should Sing 'Ol' Man River'?: The Lives ...
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: New

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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2015. Hardback. Book Condition: New. 239 x 163 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the mid 1920s, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote a song called Ol Man River that combined the seriousness of a Negro spiritual with the crowd-pleasing power of a Broadway anthem. Inspired, according to Kern, by the voice of the African American singer Paul Robeson, Ol Man River went on to great success in the Broadway musical Show Boat and became a signature song for Robeson, who turned the tune towards his own goals as an activist. But the story of Ol Man River goes deeper than the curiosity of a song recorded by so many in so many different ways. For at the heart of Oscar Hammerstein s lyric is a clear-eyed vision of the black experience in American history. Anyone-black or white-who thought they should sing Ol Man River has had to deal with the charged racial content of the song. Who Should Sing Ol Man River ? traces this aspect of Ol Man River s course through American history, an at-times high-stakes journey where the African American struggle for dignity and equality came down to the lyrics of a popular song. However beyond Robeson and Show Boat, Ol Man River also had a long and rich life in the world of popular music. An astonishing variety of singers and musicians from across the musical spectrum-from pop to jazz, opera to doo wop, rhythm and blues to gospel to reggae-all chose to perform or record it. Who Should Sing Ol Man River ?: The Lives of an American Song traces out the performance history of this remarkable song by listening closely to over two hundred recorded and filmed versions dating from the song s debut in 1927 to the present. Many famous pop singers made Ol Man River a signature song; among them Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland: white performers who took up a lyric told from the black perspective. Important jazz artists such as Bix Biederbecke, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, and Keith Jarrett all played it. Opera singers-black and white, male and female-took it up as well. And a slew of surprising names from the first decades of rock and roll also recorded this inescapable tune, among them Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, Cher, and Rod Stewart. Bookseller Inventory # POW9780199389186

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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2015. Hardback. Book Condition: New. 239 x 163 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the mid 1920s, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote a song called Ol Man River that combined the seriousness of a Negro spiritual with the crowd-pleasing power of a Broadway anthem. Inspired, according to Kern, by the voice of the African American singer Paul Robeson, Ol Man River went on to great success in the Broadway musical Show Boat and became a signature song for Robeson, who turned the tune towards his own goals as an activist. But the story of Ol Man River goes deeper than the curiosity of a song recorded by so many in so many different ways. For at the heart of Oscar Hammerstein s lyric is a clear-eyed vision of the black experience in American history. Anyone-black or white-who thought they should sing Ol Man River has had to deal with the charged racial content of the song. Who Should Sing Ol Man River ? traces this aspect of Ol Man River s course through American history, an at-times high-stakes journey where the African American struggle for dignity and equality came down to the lyrics of a popular song. However beyond Robeson and Show Boat, Ol Man River also had a long and rich life in the world of popular music. An astonishing variety of singers and musicians from across the musical spectrum-from pop to jazz, opera to doo wop, rhythm and blues to gospel to reggae-all chose to perform or record it. Who Should Sing Ol Man River ?: The Lives of an American Song traces out the performance history of this remarkable song by listening closely to over two hundred recorded and filmed versions dating from the song s debut in 1927 to the present. Many famous pop singers made Ol Man River a signature song; among them Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland: white performers who took up a lyric told from the black perspective. Important jazz artists such as Bix Biederbecke, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, and Keith Jarrett all played it. Opera singers-black and white, male and female-took it up as well. And a slew of surprising names from the first decades of rock and roll also recorded this inescapable tune, among them Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, Cher, and Rod Stewart. Bookseller Inventory # POW9780199389186

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