The Birth of the Great American Songbook:

Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern

Harvey Granat
Music / Arts & Letters

Course Description

Through a combination of live performance and historical narrative, this program will examine the major contributions of these two giants of American song, the influence of their family's Eastern European backgrounds and the role that black music and ragtime played in their early work. They gave birth to the unique cultural phenomenon know as The American Songbook. Attendees will hear live performances of some of their greatest songs and the stories behind them, interspersed with very rare video clips of some of our greatest performers doing some of their songs. Berlin's early success with ragtime, including Alexander's Ragtime Band, through a host of memorable songs like How Deep is the Ocean and Blue Skies and through the score of Annie Get Your Gun will be explored. Jerome Kern's classical background introduced a new sound which the audience will hear in songs from the iconic Showboat to All The Things You Are, The Way You Look Tonight and the dozens of our greatest songs. The goal of this presentation is to give the audience an appreciation of how these two composers, through their talent and their determination, created the art form that distinguishes our culture and influenced the many composers who followed.

About the Instructor

  • Harvey Granat is a performer and historian of The American Songbook. He currently presents a very popular series on American popular music at the 92nd St. Y in NYC. He has taught History of the American Popular Song at several major universities. He appears regularly, since 2011, at Canyon Ranch Resort and Spa in Lenox, MA. He has made multiple appearances at Feinstein's at the Regency, Birdland, The Metropolitan Room and a recent special show at Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts in conjunction with the Sinatra Centennial. He produced four-time Academy Award winning songwriter, Sammy Cahn on Broadway and served with him on the board of The Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has amassed and will make reference to a major collection of original letters and manuscripts of some of America's greatest composers.

    Gary Lawrence - Musical Director for the series.