This book, "The Great American Songbook: The Singers" includes sheet music with lyrics, guitar chords, and piano for 100 classical American songs. The subtitle "the Singers" indicates that the songs are organized in the table of contents by the singers who made them famous. (The songs, of course are standards, each of which has been sung by many people.) The book also includes photos and brief single paragraph biographies of the 28 singers featured in the volume. They include, Louis Armstrong, Betty Carter, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Blosom Dearie, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Dinah Washington,and more. The composers and lyricists are credited at the top of each song, but there is no specific index for them. There is a separate volume in this series which is arranged by composer.
The volume doesn't explain the much-used term "The Great American Songbook" and it is worth considering what it means. The term does not refer to a book or to a specific song collection per se. Instead it is used to indicate the show tunes largely from Broadway, live theatre, or Hollywood musicals composed roughly in the first half of the 20th Century.The songs are American staples and most of them will be familiar to many listeners. The precise content and number of the songs in the "Great American Songbook" is a matter for judgment. Ella Fitzgerald, among others, has recorded extensively under the title The Great American Songbook. The composers of the songs, included in the Songbook and in this collection include Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Walter Donaldson, Richard Rogers, Frank Loesser, and more.
The songs included in this volume represent part of America's broad musical heritage and constitute a substantial achievement. This is not the music I most often play or hear. I try to play classical piano; when I listen to popular music, I turn more often to blues or early rock & roll which are beyond to scope of the Great American Songbook. I found this book prominently displayed in the local library and wanted to take a look and try the music.
The book is thick but fits comfortably on the music stand of a piano. The piano arrangements are well-done. They are self-contained in that the pianist can capture the melodic line of the song and the accompaniment without a vocalist. Thus they are fun and appropriate to play as solos. I sight read most of the pieces with mixed results. As with any music, the songs will take practicing to capture accuracy, tempo, phrasing, and melody. Some of the songs are sophisticated with rhythmic and harmonic changes. I enjoyed working of playing in these styles and trying to learn something of the songs. I needed a break from playing Beethoven and Schubert, as it happened, and this book was refreshing. Working with this collection also reminded me of the continuity of music and of song from, say, Schubert art songs, through the Great American Songbook, through the blues, for example. This book reminded me that it is good to learn broad appreciation and to love as much music as one can.
Some of the songs I enjoyed playing from the collection were, "I could Write a Book", "The Way you Look Tonight","The Girl that I Marry", "Little White Lies", "A Sunday Kind of Love", "Autumn Leaves", "I'll take Romance","Heart and Soul", "Unforgettable", "What a Diff'rence a Day Made", "Smoke gets in your Eyes", and more. Each reader is likely to find favorites in this book, together with some surprises.
I found it valuable to work with this book and to broaden my appreciation of American music and the piano. This collection is good for browsing and fun. It is also a good basic accessible collection for those with a serious interest in performing music from the Great American Songbook.