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American Popular Music

From Minstrelsy to MP3

Fifth Edition

Larry Starr and Christopher Waterman

Publication Date - July 2017

ISBN: 9780190632991

672 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

Retail Price to Students: $134.99

The best-selling, most comprehensive, and richly supported introduction to American popular music


Explore the rich terrain of American popular music with the most complete, colorful, and authoritative introduction of its kind. In the fifth edition of their best-selling text, American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3, Larry Starr and Christopher Waterman provide a unique combination of cultural and social history with the analytical study of musical styles.

New to this Edition

  • Dashboard for American Popular Music delivers streaming audio, digital listening maps, auto-graded assessment material, an interactive eBook, and more in a simple, informative, and mobile-friendly format. Dashboard access is included with all new copies of the paperback and loose-leaf text or can be purchased separately.
  • Increased coverage of women in popular music throughout all eras
  • Enhanced coverage of early country music, folk music, the development of jazz (particularly jazz vocalists), rap, and hip-hop
  • Updated coverage of today's top acts, including Adele, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, and Arcade Fire


  • Covers the full range of American popular music, from its European, Latin, and African roots to today's multicultural sounds
  • Combines in-depth treatment of the music itself--including discussions of stylistic elements and analyses of musical examples--with solid coverage of the music's attendant historical, social, and cultural connections
  • Includes Listening Guides to help those unfamiliar with music analysis understand the key recordings discussed in the text
  • Enhanced by a selection of full-color and historic photographs

About the Author(s)

Larry Starr is Chair of American Music Studies and Waters Endowed Professor of Music at the University of Washington.

Christopher Waterman is Professor of World Arts and Culture and former Dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA.


"American Popular Music is perfect for my class and I would recommend it for adoption for similar courses. For my course, one that focuses on the development and evolution of American popular music, it is great."--Eric High, St. Norbert College

"This text is comprehensive, scholarly, and detailed. I appreciate the review questions and key terms and people. I especially like the timelines as a means to put developments in popular music into a historic context."--Carol Shansky, Iona College

Table of Contents

    Listening and Analysis Guides
    Timeline: 1760s-1899
    1. Themes and Streams of American Popular Music
    Theme One: Listening
    Theme Two: Music and Identity (Individuality, Gender, and Race)
    Theme Three: Music and Technology
    Theme Four: The Music Business
    Theme Five: Centers and Peripheries
    Streams of Tradition: The Sources of Popular Music
    2. "After the Ball": Popular Music of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
    The Minstrel Show
    An Early Pop Songwriter: Stephen Foster
    Dance Music and Brass Bands
    The Birth of Tin Pan Alley
    The Ragtime Craze, 1896-1918
    The Rise of the Phonograph
    Timeline: 1900-1945
    3. "Catching as the Small-Pox": Social Dance and Jazz, 1917-1935
    Technology and the Music Business
    "Freak Dances": Turkey Trot and Tango
    James Reese Europe and the Castles
    Jazz as Popular Music: The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the Creole Jazz Band, and Louis Armstrong
    Dance Music in the "Jazz Age"
    The Rise of Latin Dance Music: "El Manicero"
    4. "I Got Rhythm": The Golden Age of Tin Pan Alley Song, 1920s and 1930s
    Tin Pan Alley Song Form
    What Were Tin Pan Alley Songs About?
    What Makes a Song a "Standard"?
    Tin Pan Alley and Broadway
    5. "St. Louis Blues": Race Records and Hillbilly Music, 1920s and 1930s
    Race Records
    Classic Blues
    Understanding Twelve-Bar Blues
    The Country Blues
    Blind Lemon Jefferson: The First Country Blues Star
    Robert Johnson: Standing at the Crossroad
    Early Country Music: Hillbilly Records
    Pioneers of Country Music: The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers
    6. "In the Mood": The Swing Era, 1935-1945
    Swing Music and American Culture
    Benny Goodman: "The King of Swing"
    Duke Ellington in the Swing Era
    Kansas City Swing: Count Basie
    Superstar of Swing: Glenn Miller
    Jazz Singers: The Boswell Sisters, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald
    Vocal Harmony Groups
    Country Music in the Swing Era: Roy Acuff, Singing Cowboys, and Western Swing
    Latin Music in the Swing Era
    ASCAP, the AFM, and the Decline of the Big Bands
    Timeline: 1946-1979
    7. "Choo Choo Ch' Boogie": The Postwar Era, 1946-1954
    Popular Music and Technology in the Postwar Era
    The Rise of the Star Singers
    Urban Folk Music: The Weavers
    The Mambo Craze (1949-1955)
    Southern Music in the Postwar Era
    Rhythm & Blues
    Vocal Harmony Groups
    Country and Western Music
    8. "Rock Around the Clock": ROCK 'N' ROLL, 1954-1959
    The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll
    Cover Versions and Early Rock 'n' Roll
    The Rock 'n' Roll Business
    Early Rock 'n' Roll Stars on the R&B Side
    Early Rock 'n' Roll Stars on the Country Side
    Wild, Wild Young Women: Female Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers
    The Latin Side of Rock 'n' Roll
    Songwriters and Producers of Early Rock 'n' Roll
    Other Currents: The Standard and Folk Music in the Rock 'n' Roll Era
    9. "Good Vibrations": American Pop and the British Invasion, 1960s
    The Early 1960s: Dance Music and "Teenage Symphonies"
    Berry Gordy and Motown
    Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys
    The Beatles, the British Invasion, and the American Response
    Meanwhile, Back in California . . .
    Latin Sounds in 1960s Pop: A Tall Man, a Tanned Girl, and a Taste of Honey
    10. "Blowin' in the Wind": Country, Soul, Urban Folk, and the Rise of Rock, 1960s
    Patsy Cline and the Nashville Sound
    Ray Charles and Soul Music
    Sam Cooke, the "King of Soul"
    James Brown and Aretha Franklin
    The Broadway Musical in the Age of Rock
    Urban Folk Music in the 1960s: Bob Dylan
    The Counterculture and Psychedelic Rock
    Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
    Their Satanic Majesties: The Rolling Stones After Sgt. Pepper
    San Francisco Rock: Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead
    The Doors and "Light My Fire"
    Guitar Heroes: Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton
    11. The 1970s: Rock Music, Disco, and the Popular Mainstream
    Singer-Songwriters: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor
    Country Music and the Pop Mainstream
    Rock Comes of Age
    "Night Fever": The Rise of Disco
    12. Outsiders' Music: Progressive Country, Reggae, Salsa, Punk, Funk, and Rap, 1970s
    The Outlaws: Progressive Country Music
    "I Shot the Sheriff": The Rise of Reggae
    The Rise of Salsa Music
    "Psycho Killer": 1970s Punk and New Wave
    "Tear the Roof off the Sucker": Funk Music
    "Rapper's Delight": The Origins of Hip-Hop
    Timeline: 1980-Today
    13. The 1980s: Digital Technology, MTV, and the Popular Mainstream
    Digital Technology and Popular Music
    The Pop Mainstream of the 1980s: Some Representative Hits
    A Tale of Three Albums
    "Baby I'm a Star": Prince, Madonna, and the Production of Celebrity
    14. "Smells Like Teen Spirit": Hip-Hop, "Alternative" Music, and the Entertainment Business
    Hip-Hop Breaks Out (1980s-1990s)
    Commercialization, Diversification, and the Rise of Gangsta Rap (1990s)
    Techno: Dance Music in the Digital Age
    Alternate Currents
    Women's Voices: Alternative Folk, Hip-Hop, and Country
    Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music: Approaches to Tradition
    Latina Superstars of the 1990s: Gloria Estefan and Selena
    Globalization and the Rise of World Music
    World Music Collaborations: Ali Farka Touré and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
    15. Conclusion
    The Impact of Digital Recording
    Music and the Internet: The Revolution Will Be Streamed
    "On the Road Again": The New Popular Music Economy
    Rock Music in the 2000s
    Hip-Hop in the New Millennium
    Hip-Hop Stars of the 2010s
    Twenty-First Century Divas: We Never Go Out of Style
    Conclusion: American Popular Music in the Age of Globalization
    Appendix: Understanding Rhythm and Form
    Streaming Audio Playlist