Let’s Do It: The Birth of Pop Music; A History

Pegasus. Sept. 2022. 624p. ISBN 9781639362509. $35. MUSIC
In this prequel to his 2014 book Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé, London-based music journalist Stanley (a musician in his own right) argues that the precursors to pop music were (from the late 19th century until the 1950s dawn of rock and roll) light, easily accessible, danceable, syncopated, riffed melodies. The book embraces forms such as ragtime, jazz, the blues, Broadway melodies, swing, and country, surveying diverse producers, performers, and consumers. Stanley also acknowledges the impact of technology (as in recording methods in radio and film). In some cases, as with the introduction of the carbon microphone in the 1920s, it allowed changes in singing styles (stentorian blasting could be replaced by modulated crooning). Stanley is attentive to the international aspects of early pop, comparing the output of New York City’s Tin Pan Alley with that of London’s Denmark Street and Charing Cross. The book appropriately emphasizes myriad African American and European immigrant contributors to U.S. and British proto-pop, but it might underrepresent the impact of Latin American music styles such as the rumba, samba, and mambo.
VERDICT Stanley’s engaging narrative music study invites general readers as well as music mavens into a memorable world that provided the necessary antecedents for rock and roll.
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