America’s great popular music came from an amazing variety of sources including film, jazz, and Broadway musicals. John Eaton explores these musical sources and their surprising similarities and differences.
MAY 1 The Art of the Melody: The Fabulous Songs of Harry Warren
As the unchallenged king of the Hollywood musical in the 1930s and ’40s, Warren wrote dozens of famous and enduring standards (“Lullaby of Broadway,” “The More I See You,” “September in the Rain”), yet his name lacks the popular recognition of George Gershwin or Cole Porter. A look at his fascinating odyssey and why he belongs in the pantheon of great American songwriters.
MAY 8 Jazz, Folk, or Pop: The Paradoxical Genius of Hoagy Carmichael
Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Louis Armstrong, and Bing Crosby have all been superb interpreters of Carmichael songs, yet no matter who sings them, or how he is categorized, Carmichael remains as Johnny Mercer said, “the composer whose songs begin where those of most other songwriters leave off.” Eaton examines such classics as “Skylark,” “Georgia on My Mind,” and “Stardust.”
MAY 15 One Man and His Lyricists: The Two Worlds of Richard Rodgers
Rodgers, for all his gifts as a natural melodist, was profoundly influenced by the two great lyricists with whom he worked. Two radically different musical styles emerged from his collaboration with the witty and worldly Lorenz Hart (1919-1942) and the direct and heartfelt Oscar Hammerstein (1943-1962). Eaton looks at songs from both teams.
MAY 22: Duke Ellington: Master of Improvisation
Ellington was a conductor, jazz pianist, and composer of distinguished concert and religious works. Eaton explores what made him unique.
The American History Museum is home to a large repository of papers, memorabilia, and orchestral manuscripts of Duke Ellington. To see the Duke Ellington Collection, click here.
Listen to clips of Smithsonian Folkways recordings and rewind through the history of Jazz.