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They’re Playing Our Song: Conversations with America’s Classic Songwriters by Max Wilk

The breezy, amusing dialogues in this slim tome give insight into the character and personalities of 26 great writers of the American songbook. The machers of New York musical comedy and Hollywood film are puffed and polished: Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser; famous teams are met with separately: (Rodgers & Hart [& Hammerstein], Styne & Cahn). Wilk talked with them all in 1971-2 when Kern and Berlin were already in their 80’s and Sondheim the youngster. Only three essays are lively eulogies to Vincent Youmans, Vernon Duke; singer Margaret Whiting comments on dad Richard and on others throughout. In his preface, Jule Styne-one of the few subjects still living-verifies the authenticity of the interviewees and celebrates the longevity of their songs. To overhear Wilk’s awestruck chats with them, Tin Pan Alley’s famous denizens make a big, genial Jewish fraternity, talking about songs, deals, shows, and each other with voluble affection and creditable respect. That’s appropriate-like lyrics of a hit song.

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