The Great American Songbook is the canon of the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards, most written from the 1930s to 1950s by composers like George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Duke Ellington and Johnny Mercer. These songwriters, at their best, employed “witty, urbane lyrics with teasingly unexpected rhymes,” to borrow from the Wikipedia site. It is music for adults, and many of the songs have remained musical touchstones for decades.
In addition to Sinatra, performers like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett and Dean Martin provided indelible renditions. You are certainly familiar with these songs, if you don’t know the name of the tunes. These have also become classic, instrumental jazz recordings that also add to that oft-found musical backdrop at dining or imbibing establishments.
Over the years, I’ve joked – accurately, I believe – to family that the Great American Songbook is comprised of the songs largely composed by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe or their sons and been sung and recorded the best by male Italian-American and female African-American singers. It’s truly American music.