Several books of music claim to be “The Great American Songbook.”
The term is often used to categorize great songs of the last century.
Ooh, that sounds so old. How about songs of our most recent century?
I like music of almost any kind. I have spent good money to see the stars of country, rock, soul and even the great classics. I sing in the shower and when I’m alone in the car. I whistle when I walk down the street or down the hall.
Music is good for the soul and I hope I’m never without it.
But I worry about the future of songs we once sang. They are not the kind you find on records, but the ones you know the words by heart.
A few months ago, I saw Garrison Keillor at an event at the Atlanta History Center. He led the audience in singing some old songs. We sang “Dixie” and “Old Folks at Home,” as well as “It Is Well With My Soul.”
I used to sing to my daughter when she was a baby. Some of the songs were old tunes I knew. Some I just made up.
I like when you know most of a song and then have to resort to what I call hum-singing. That’s where you hum the tune until you get to a part of the song that the lyrics come back to you.
We have a rich musical history in Georgia. Johnny Mercer, a Savannah native gave us great classics, such as “Moon River” and “Accentuate the Positive.” He won four Academy Awards for his songs in the movies.
Our own Bruce Burch and the late John Jarrard had great success in writing country hits for a number of artists.
As a society, we still love music, but we are now more likely to listen to it on a little bitty device with little bitty headphones.
I long for the day when we used to sing it ourselves.
I can remember church, school and 4-H bus trips where somebody would start a song and we’d all join in.
Sometimes they were good songs. Others had little redeeming value, such as the classic, “100 Bottles of Beer (on the wall).”
There were songs that had verses unveiling a story, like “On Top of Old Smoky,” “Sipping Cider in a Straw,” and “She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain.”
A song from the musical “Mame” speaks of “Carols at the Spinet.” It seemed that somebody was always around who could play a tune and folks would gather around the piano and join in. Somebody knew a handful of gospel or Broadway tunes and the place was filled with music. If somebody messed up, you laughed and went on.
There were those who tried to bring this back in the age of karaoke. It seems folks who sing karaoke are trying too hard to sound like a recording artist. Most often they fall short.
I’m afraid we are heading to a generation of people who never heard their mama or daddy sing a lullaby, a hymn or a gentle folk song.
The Great American Songbook may be a matter of opinion, but I hope we can keep that dimly lit candle of great songs burning for a future group of Americans to learn and enjoy.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.