May 17, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Stardust Melodies: A Biography of Twelve of America's Most Popular Songs

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Will Friedwald
publisher
Pantheon
genre
Music, Nonfiction
We gave it an A

”The American Popular Song is like a car full of clowns at the circus: from the outside it looks small and unassuming, yet you can’t believe how much is contained inside.” This is how Friedwald explains the ingenious premise of his book. He takes a song that has been performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Chaka Khan and recounts its ”life” story, from the number’s initial inspiration to its later mutations (the ”Bonus Tracks” sections include the best versions and a few you might not ever want to hear). Friedwald’s writing, both erudite and funny, complements the standards he so clearly loves, like a melody set to the perfect lyric.

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