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Not Necessarily The Nose: What’s happening to the Great American Songbook?

Composer Richard Rodgers (left) & Oscar Hammerstein (right) collaborate at the piano in 1943 in New York, New York.
Michael Ochs Archives
Getty Images
Richard Rodgers (left) and Oscar Hammerstein (right) collaborate at the piano in 1943 in New York.

Irving Berlin, Dorothy Fields, George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein. These, along with many others, are the sorts of songwriters we associate with the Great American Songbook, the amorphous canon of important 20th-century pop songs, jazz standards, and show tunes from Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, and movie musicals.

But there’s another important detail here. The songs we think of as the Songbook are from, more specifically, the 1920s through the 1950s. With some simple arithmetic, you can see that they’re, uh, getting on in years — which might (must?) mean that their devotees are, too.

The Nose is off. In its place this hour, a look at and a listen to — and some concern for the future of — the Great American Songbook.


  • Joelle Lurie: Vocalist, songwriter, voiceover artist, and bandleader
  • Steve Metcalf: Founder and director of the Garmany concert series at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School

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Colin McEnroe and Eugene Amatruda contributed to this show.

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Jonathan is a producer for ‘The Colin McEnroe Show.’ His work has been heard nationally on NPR and locally on Connecticut Public’s talk shows and news magazines. He’s as likely to host a podcast on minor league baseball as he is to cover a presidential debate almost by accident. Jonathan can be reached at jmcnicol@ctpublic.org.
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