Reading Lyrics: More than a Thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975.


A vast anthology bringing together more than one thousand of the best American and English lyrics of the twentieth century, this is an extraordinary celebration of a unique art form.
Reading Lyrics begins with the first masters of the colloquial phrase, including George M. Cohan (“Give My Regards to Broadway”), P. G. Wodehouse (“Till the Clouds Roll By”), and Irving Berlin, whose versatility and career span the period from “Alexander’s ...

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A vast anthology bringing together more than one thousand of the best American and English lyrics of the twentieth century, this is an extraordinary celebration of a unique art form.
Reading Lyrics begins with the first masters of the colloquial phrase, including George M. Cohan (“Give My Regards to Broadway”), P. G. Wodehouse (“Till the Clouds Roll By”), and Irving Berlin, whose versatility and career span the period from “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” to “Annie Get Your Gun” and beyond. The Broadway musical emerges as a distinct dramatic form in the 1920s and 1930s, its evolution propelled by a trio of lyricists—Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, and Lorenz Hart—whose explorations of the psychological and emotional nuances of falling in and out of love have lost none of their wit and sophistication. Their songs, including “Night and Day,” “The Man I Love,” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” have become standards performed and recorded by generation after generation of singers. The lure of Broadway and Hollywood and the performing genius of such artists as Al Jolson, Fred Astaire, Ethel Waters, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Ethel Merman inspired a remarkable array of talented writers, including Dorothy Fields (“A Fine Romance,” “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love”), Frank Loesser (“Guys and Dolls”), Oscar Hammerstein II (from the groundbreaking “Show Boat” of 1927 through his extraordinary collaboration with Richard Rodgers), Johnny Mercer, Yip Harburg, Andy Razaf, Noël Coward, and Stephen Sondheim.
Reading Lyrics also celebrates the work of dozens of superb craftsmen whose songs remain known, but who today are themselves less known—writers like Haven Gillespie (whose “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” may be the most widely recorded song of its era); Herman Hupfeld (not only the composer/lyricist of “As Time Goes By” but also of “Are You Makin’ Any Money?” and “When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba”); the great light versifier Ogden Nash (“Speak Low,” “I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” and, yes, “The Sea-Gull and the Ea-Gull”); Don Raye (“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Mister Five by Five,” and, of course, “Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet”); Bobby Troup (“Route 66”); Billy Strayhorn (not only for the omnipresent “Lush Life” but for “Something to Live For” and “A Lonely Coed”); Peggy Lee (not only a superb singer but also an original and appealing lyricist); and the unique Dave Frishberg (“I’m Hip,” “Peel Me a Grape,” “Van Lingo Mungo”).
Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball have created an indispensable reference work and history. The lyricists are presented chronologically, each introduced by a succinct biography and incisive commentary. Reading Lyrics is a magnificent gathering of words whose power to stir memories and evoke romance is akin to that of lyric poetry. Collected in one volume, it represents one of the twentieth century’s most enduring and cherished legacies.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Bookseller ReviewsThis incomparable anthology offers also an almost uniquely long subtitle: More Than 1000 of the Century's Finest Lyrics-a Celebration of Our Greatest Songwriters; a Rediscovery of Forgotten Masters, and an Appreciation of an Extraordinary, Popular Art Form. Truly encyclopedic, the book lives up to its own dustjacket fanfare. Indeed, no previous collection managed to gain permission from the estates of so many of our greatest lyricists: Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Hart, Hammerstein, Kern, and Sondheim, to name only the most prominent. The resultant collection is superb; it's dolefully.
From the Publisher
“Indispensable, stellar new anthology. This eclectic book provides enough humor, romance and sophistication to make you forget that Seussical even existed.”
—Jason Zinoman, Time Out New York

“This music is an amazing art form; it’s a substantial cultural phenomenon.”

Reading Lyrics is both a groundbreaking social document and its own pleasure dome. Its seven hundred and six pages confirm the accomplishments of the greats, but they also provide surprises.”
The New Yorker

“America was the laboratory that proved Plato’s contention that songs are ‘spells for souls for the creation of concord.’ If you read between the lines of many of the lyrics in the anthology, you hear an alarmed society calming its frazzled nerves.”
—The New Yorker

“[Reading Lyrics] defies literary categorization. It’s reference work. It’s a singalong book . . . It’s a shadow history of taste and mores over much of the past century. It’s a valentine to a now-vanished artistic craft. And it’s an act of fond provocation.”
—The Boston Globe

Reading Lyrics demonstrates one of the may magic tricks that words can do: the way that letters and lines on a page can (with years of practice) learn how to carry a tune.”

“With around 170 lyricists on offer, the book makes its share of worthwhile rediscoveries . . . That’s the fun of Reading Lyrics. Readers can hum along with songs they know, while songs they don’t will have them hurrying off to the nearest music megastore.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Sparklingly entertaining, Reading Lyrics exalts the lyrical sublimity of such cunning wordsmiths as Porter, Gershwin, and Coward.”
Vanity Fair

“Tuneless, but what joy! . . . For no sooner do the lyrics appear before one’s eyes than reading gives way to song.”
Billboard Magazine

“This wondrous and magical concoction is highly recommended.”
—Wall Street Journal

“This is one of the finest collections of words there is. To quote P.G. Wodehouse. . . ‘And I wish someday I could find my way/To the land where the good songs go.’ That land is Reading Lyrics. ‘S wonderful.” —Newsday

Library Journal
Gottlieb (editor, Reading Jazz) and Kimball (editor, The Complete Lyrics of Ira Gershwin) have assembled 1000 popular American and English song texts dating from 1900 to 1975 and arranged them chronologically by lyricist's birth date. Focusing solely on theater and film songs, the editors profile more than 100 songwriters, including Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein, Yip Harburg, and Stephen Sondheim. Each entry details their musical contributions and three or more lyrics with verse(s) and refrain. Country, rock, folk, and blues numbers go unmentioned, as they would not have fit in this single volume. "One-hit wonders" are also listed at the back along with an index of song titles. The inclusion of lesser-known songs by major figures such as Irving Berlin or by little-remembered writers such as Mann Holiner or Sam Coslow seems to pad the volume rather than enhance its usefulness. Unfortunately, the title, too, is misleading: Reading Lyrics is more of a compilation than an interpretative work. This book is recommended, however, as a sanctioned print alternative to various lyric web sites for libraries serving a clientele seeking popular song texts and information.--Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
From The Critics
Over a thousand fine lyrics from 1900 to 1975 are included in this celebration of songs and their writers. Organized by songwriter, Reading Lyrics contains lyrics of some of their most notable works, plus a capsule biography of their achievements. An excellent library reference.
David Yezzi
With around 170 lyricists on offer, the book makes its share of worthwhile rediscoveries. (Ever heard of Bobby Troup or Tom Adair?) Gottlieb (former editor of The New Yorker, dance critic and compiler of a book on jazz) and Kimball (editor of the lyrics of Porter, Hart and Gershwin) apologize in their introduction for excluding anyone's favorite lyrics. Many songs will be familiar, and many won't. That's the fun of ''Reading Lyrics.'' Readers can hum along with songs they know, while songs they don't will have them hurrying off to the nearest music megastore.
New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375400810
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/21/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 736
  • Sales rank: 698,574
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 1.47 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Gottlieb is the editor of Reading Jazz, The Collected Stories of Rudyard Kipling, and The Journals of John Cheever.
Robert Kimball is the editor of The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter, The Complete Lyrics of Ira Gershwin, and The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart and is the co-editor of The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2000

    'It's very clear...'

    If you know the words that follow in this popular lyric, then you're sure to love this book! How many times have you started to sing in the shower, only to discover the lyrics to an 'evergreen' have been forgotten? This generous volume is certain to contain the words to not just some--but nearly ALL of your favorites, especially if you are are one of the lucky folks born between 1925 and 1950. You'll find all the popular Gershwin and Cole Porter tunes, plus many of the songs that made stars of Big Band crooners like Sinatra, Crosby, and jazz songbirds like Ella Fitzgerald. This is a 'must have' book for anyone who appreciates good lyrics, and you don't have to be able to carry a tune to enjoy it. Compiling this collection must have been fun for the authors, too. 'Nice work if you can get it...'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2001

    An irresistable book of wonderful lyrics.

    It is impossible to read this book without bursting out into song. After the first song 'catches' you, it is equally impossible to lay this book aside. It is enjoyable to read because it floods one with memories of great performances and great shows. Remember that special song you shared with someone dear? The complete lyrics to that song are probably printed in this book and they will force you to hum or sing while you recapture that moment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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