THE POETRY OF THE LYRICS OF POPULAR SONG
Tony Murray, civil engineer
While the genius of composers of lasting melodies is widely recognised, the skill of the lyric writer is often overlooked. The golden era of twentieth-century popular song (1910–1965) produced ‘standards’ which have endured as much because of the words as because of the music. Lyricists have to consider the elements of ordinary verse such as rhyme, metre and imagery, but in addition they have to overcome the impositions of the music, and the singers, and the wider demands of impresarios, movie producers and censors.
This course delves into twentieth-century songs and singers to illustrate how the great lyricists: Hart, Hammerstein, Porter, Berlin, Lerner, Ira Gershwin and others – produced words which matched the music in brilliance. Their strivings and successes took place amongst the colourful personalities of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and Hollywood, which add further to the intriguing content.
1. The skills of the lyric writer
2. Some notable practitioners
Furia, P. 1990. The Poets of Tin Pan Alley. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gottlieb, R. and Kimball R. 2000. Reading Lyrics. New York: Pantheon Books.
Lerner, A.J. 1978. The Street Where I Live. New York: Norton and Company.
Citron, S. 1995. The Wordsmiths. New York: Oxford University Press.