The American Songbook

The American Songbook is a reference to various compilations of some of the most influential songs in American history. Many of the songs come from folk music traditions and gospel music of Native Americans and immigrant groups, while others are based on European classical traditions. In the early 20th century Broadway musicals and films brought many musical elements from folk, gospel, bluegrass, blues and jazz together. Around 1920 writers flocked into New York City to music publishing groups to crank out songs for elaborate musical productions for stage and screen. The region in New York was referred to as ‘Tin Pan Alley’ because of street venders selling pots and pans. Eventually, Rock and Roll and TV became important and demanded ‘new’ songs for the teen market and TV advertisement.

Various groups have attempted to archive or preserve these songs and their relationship to American culture and identity. The Smithsonian Folkways Recordings were one of the first and continue to publish diverse American songs. The American Songbook Preservation Society also seeks to preserve original influential works for posterity. Many popular singers have issued their own album of the American Songbook. In our course we will work our own American Songbook of 20 songs that reflect different times and context of American identity and culture with an emphasis on the 20th century. We will discuss these songs in class and you will print the lyrics. The American songs and the readings in Brown and Ling will be the primary information for your Final Exam.





1. "Amazing Grace" W. Walker John Newton 1772
2. "Yankee Doodle" Nursery rhyme R. Shuckburgh 1775
3. "Star-Spangled Banner" J.S. Smith Frances Scott Key 1814
4. "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" Irish Louis Lambert 1863
5. " Maple Leaf Rag" Scott Joplin Scott Joplin 1899
6. "Swanee" George Gershwin Irving Caesar 1919
7. "Strange Fruit" A. Meeropol A. Meeropol 1938
8. "This Land Is Your Land" Carter family Woody Guthrie 1940
9. "White Christmas" Irving Berlin Irving Berlin 1940/42
10. "I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry" Z. Turner Hank Williams 1949
11."Hound Dog" J.Otis Leiber/Stoller 1952/56
12. "Peggy Sue" Allison / Petty Buddy Holly 1957
13. " La Bamba" Trad./Vera Cruz W. Clauson 1958
14. "Blowin’ In The Wind" Bob Dylan Bob Dylan 1962
15. "Respect" Otis Redding Otis Redding 1965
16. "Like A Rolling Stone" Bob Dylan Bob Dylan 1965
17. "Higher Ground" Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder 1973
18. "Billie Jean" Q. Jones Michael Jackson 1983
19. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" Cobain/Grohl/




20. "I Used To Love H.E.R. Common Common 1994