For nearly a century, New York's famous "Tin Pan Alley" was the center of popular music publishing in this country. It was where songwriting became a profession, and songs were made-to-order for the biggest stars. Selling popular music to a mass audience from coast-to-coast involved the greatest entertainment media of the day, from minstrelsy to Broadway, to vaudeville, dance palaces, radio, and motion pictures. Successful songwriting became an art, with a host of men and women becoming famous by writing famous songs.
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Tin Pan Alley was a nickname given to an actual street in Manhattan (West Twenty-eighth Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue) where many of the music publishers had their offices. Eventually, Tin Pan Alley became the generic term for publishers of popular American sheet music. These publishing businesses hired lyricists and composers to create popular songs and promoted these songs in their sheet-music form with attractive covers.
Jasen, an authority on ragtime and popular song, previously coauthored Rags and Ragtime (2d ed., Dover, 1989); Recorded Ragtime, 1897-1958 (Archon, 1973); and A Century of American Popular Music: 2,000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs, 1899-1999 (Routledge, 2002). His latest work covers the history of Tin Pan Alley from its heyday in the 1880s to its demise in the 1950s. With more than 300 entries arranged in an A-Z format, the encyclopedia identifies composers, lyricists, publishers, singers, dancers, and bands. Illustrated with period photographs and sheet-music covers, entries include names, birth and death dates, and information ranging from a couple of sentences to several pages. Most of the entries are biographical; around a quarter of them treat genres, publishing companies, and more. A bibliography, a general index, and an index to songs are included. Entries on prominent composers and lyricists such as Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, and Jerome Kern include a complete listing of their published songs. The lists include the year and, if applicable, the show in which each song was performed.
Not only would Tin Pan Alley complement collections owning Jasen's other titles, it would be an excellent companion to The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia by Thomas Hischak [RBB Ja 1 & 15 03], which also includes information and commentary on more than 1,200 individual song titles from this era. Recommended for large music collections. RBB
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[A] fine compendium... Recommended for public and academic libraries.
–Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&E University, Library Journal (starred review), September 2003
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