Saturday, September 30, 2017

America's greatest living

77 years ago this past Sunday, a special concert took place at the California Coliseum in San Francisco, CA. 

On Tuesday, 9-24-1940, America's top living composers and lyricists gathered together and entertained the audience in the City by the Bay.

*Albert Von Tilzer did his "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

*L. Wolfe Gilbert performed his anthem, "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee."

*Jerome Kern played his own "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" before guiding Tony Martin for "All the Things You Are."

*Carrie Jacobs Bond went to the piano to accompany singer Alan Linquist as he warbled her "A Perfect Day."

*George M. Cohan offered his "Over There," among other tunes in a medley of his big ones.

*And Irving Berlin wrapped up the festivities with his "God Bless America."

The whole thing was actually a two-part event put on by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (that's right, good ol' ASCAP). The event's title: "Cavalcade of Music: Those Who Make America's Music." 

In what was billed as "the most notable assemblage of artists and composers ever gathered on one stage," thousands at the California Coliseum heard and saw over forty ASCAP members do their thing. 

During the first half of the event (the afternoon session), the crowd heard American classical music. The evening session- what turned out to be the payoff half- went to this country's contributions to popular music. 

That night, Berlin, Bond, Cohan, Gilbert, Kern, and Von Tilzer were joined by the likes of Harold Arlen, Harry Armstrong, Shelton Brooks, Hoagy Carmichael, Walter Donaldson, W.C. Handy, Billy Hill, Joe Howard, Ralph Rainiger, Sigmund Romberg, and Leo say nothing of the team of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby.  

Back on 7-9-2017, toward the end of the Ragtime to Riches Festival workshop about Bond, the 9-24-1940 festivities got a mention...and the question eventually came up:

"If they were going to put on a concert like this today, with America's greatest living composers, who would show up?" 

Well, first of all, HBO or MTV or Showtime would be most likely to televise the event. (The 1940 soiree wasn't on radio...and we're lucky to have a recording of the whole concert because ASCAP commissioned a San Fran firm, Photo and Sound, Inc., to put the entire shebang on twelve 16" two-sided discs, playable at 33-1/3 RPM at a time when consumers were eight years away from being able to buy records at that speed.) 

Second, the producers would probably have to rent out New York City's Radio City Music Hall, Los Angeles' Dolby Theater, or Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to hold the event. 

Third, you're darn right you'll be able to get on your computer or smartphone or device of some kind and stream the show live.

Of course, it'd be televised live and in prime time. (Bet you they'd need three hours.) 

They'd need three hours- at least that long- for the following tunesmiths:

*Burt Bacharach

*Neil Diamond

*Bob Dylan

*The twosome of Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers

*Sheldon Harnick

*Another duo- James "Jimmy Jam" Harris and Terry Lewis

*Jerry Herman

*The team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland

*Rupert Holmes

*Billy Joel

*John Kander

*Carole King

*Robert Lopez (of "Frozen" fame)

*The duo of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

*Alan Menken

*Lin-Manuel Miranda

*Willie Nelson

*Dolly Parton

*William "Smokey" Robinson

*Steven Schwartz

*Neil Sedaka

*Marc Shaiman (he did the music to Broadway's "Hairspray")

*Paul Simon

*Valerie Simpson

*Stephen Sondheim

*Barrett Strong (Norman Whitfield's old songwriting partner)

*Diane Warren

*Jim Webb

*Frank Wildhorn (helped bring "Victor/Victoria" to Broadway)

*John Williams

*Stevie Wonder 

The bulk of this list was mined from the 2017 World Almanac and Book of Facts. 

With that in mind, who would you add to this list? Which of these songwriters would you like to remove from the list?

What if you wanted to internationalize the list...and bring in living legends like Benny Andersson (of ABBA fame), Paul Anka, Bjork, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Bernie Taupin, Keith Richards, Rod Temperton, and Bjorn Ulvaeus (also of ABBA), just to name a few? 

Could a special featuring America's greatest currently-living composers even hit today's TV screens? 

Let me know what you think. 

I'm Jim Boston...thanks for reading this blog!


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