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American Popular Song

The Great Innovators, 1900-1950

Third Edition

Author Alec Wilder and Robert Rawlins

Publication Date - 11 January 2022

ISBN: 9780190939953

576 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


"Wonderful"--The New York Times. "Provocative, opinionated, and never dull"--Down Beat. "A singular book."--Studs Terkel.

When it was first published, Alec Wilder's American Popular Song quickly became a classic and today it remains essential reading for countless musicians, lovers of American Song, and fans of Alec Wilder.

Now, in a 50th anniversary edition, popular music scholar Robert Rawlins brings the book fully up-to-date for the 21st century. Whereas previous editions featured only piano scores, the format has been changed to lead sheet notation with lyrics, making it accessible to a wider readership. Rawlins has also added more than sixty music examples to help complete the chapter on Irving Berlin.

One of the most fascinating features of the original edition was Wilder's inventive use of language, often revealing his strong and sometimes irreverent opinions. Wilder's prose remains relatively unaltered, but footnotes have been provided that clarify, elucidate, and even correct. Moreover, a new chapter has been added, discussing fifty-three songs by numerous composers that Wilder might have well included but was not able to. Songs by Ann Ronnell, Fats Waller, Jule Styne and many others are capped off with an examination of ten of Wilder's own songs.

New to this Edition

  • This 50th anniversary edition includes an additional 53 songs, including 10 by Alec Wilder himself
  • Features new chapters on Fats Waller and Duke Ellington
  • Provides not only historical context for each song, but also new discussion of composition and structure of the songs


  • Discusses over 800 classic songs from the golden age of American popular music
  • Includes 700 musical examples
  • Written for all fans of American popular song, including fans without knowledge of music theory

About the Author(s)

Robert Rawlins is Professor of Music Theory at Rowan University. A professional woodwind player for more than four decades, Rawlins has performed extensively in pit orchestras, stage shows, and jazz ensembles. He is the author of numerous publications on jazz and popular music, including Jazzology (with Nor Eddine Bahha, 2005) and Tunes of the Twenties (2016).

Alec Wilder was the composer of such songs as "I'll Be Around," "It's So Peaceful in the Country," and "While We're Young," as well as theater and film scores and chamber music.

Table of Contents

    Introduction by Robert Rawlins
    1. The Transition Era: 1885 to World War I
    2. Jerome Kern (1885-1945)
    3. Irving Berlin (1888-1989)
    4. George Gershwin (1898-1937)
    5. Richard Rodgers (1902-1979)
    6. Cole Porter (1891-1964)
    7. Harold Arlen (1905-1986)
    8. Vincent Youmans (1898-1946) and Arthur Schwartz (1900-1984)
    9. Burton Lane (1912- 1997), Hugh Martin (1914-2011), and Vernon Duke (1903-1969)
    10. The Great Craftsmen
    Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981)
    Walter Donaldson (1893-1947)
    Harry Warren (1893-1981)
    Isham Jones (1894-1956)
    Jimmy McHugh (1894-1969)
    Duke Ellington (1899-1974)
    Fred Ahlert (1892-1953)
    Richard Whiting (1891-1938)
    Ray Noble (1907-1978)
    John Green (1908-1989)
    Rube Bloom (1902-1976)
    Jimmy Van Heusen (1913-1990)
    11. Outstanding Individual Songs: 1920 to 1950
    12. Additional Songs and Composers