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This compact book is a lucid personal response to a thick and complicated subject; how and why so many standards from the Great American Songbook came from the minds, hearts and pens of Jewish songwriters, from the Gershwins, Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin to Rodgers, Hart and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, Harold Arlen, and on through Sondheim and Bernstein to Carole King, Bob Dylan and Randy Newman. It’s part researched history, part clarifying criticism, and at times it becomes a phantasmagoria dreamscape in which the author—a poet and storied poetry editor— imagines all of the above are his relatives. Lehman identifies often-bluesy aspects of Jewish liturgical music that influenced these songwriters’ sounds, tendencies toward undercutting the glad with the sad (and vice versa) in their tone, and towards playfulness, irony, romance and gall in their lyrics, as elements shared by these children of immigrants “who wanted to re-create themselves as Americans and wound up recreating American culture in the process.” The book also sheds light on the nature and strength of our culture’s response to that shared sensibility.





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