Popular Music of the Twentieth Century – Course Catalog by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג - Ourboox.com
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Popular Music of the Twentieth Century – Course Catalog

After fruitful careers as a scientist and inventor I've gone back to what I love most - writing children's books Read More
  • Joined Oct 2013
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For the exam, you need to know the lyrics to these twenty-one songs, and everything else we learned about them. Who wrote them and when, why we studied them, did they win an award, appear in a movie or play, do they have a hook, do they garner empathy, what is special/amazing about them, the musical structure, who sang them, etc.  You also have to know the text (we will quote from it and ask what song it is from). Good luck!





Over the rainbow (Somewhere Over the Rainbow)
If I Only Had a Brain
My Heart Stood Still
Blue Skies
A Whole New World
Bear Necessities
I’m the King of the Jungle (I Wanna Be Like You)
They All Laughed (at Christopher Columbus)
Shall We Cance
I whistle a happy tune
I could have danced all night
Matchmaker matchmaker
Sit down, you’re rocking the boat
Adelaide’s lament
The way you are (I love you just the way you are)
At Seventeen
You’ve got a friend
Jacque Brel – Hebrew sung by Yossi Banai – אהבה בת עשרים
Girl from Ipanema 

Here we are!!



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Sample questions for self review


We didn’t have time for the two lectures of Dr. Alon Amit this year, but they are available here:

Post-60’s -prog, funk, etc.  jukebox: www.bit.ly/post-60s

Hebrew music over the ages www.bit.ly/isra20s


Why do we give this course?

Why do we give this course?

1.It’s a great opportunity to combine head, heart and hands according to Pestalozzi

2.Together with the students, we go on an expedition for the ‘secret sauce’ that makes some popular songs (perhaps popular everything) survive the sands of time.

3.I get to share my love for popular music, particularly the Great American Songbook.

4. We improve our listening and analytical skills. Together. And talk about life. Together.

5. To quote my late father-in-law, “music is the bread of the soul”.

6. It’s disruptive. In a (hopefully) good way.






After all, music is a reflection of life and teaches us a lot about the world as it was and as it is, and our place in it. It is related to all aspects of our existence. It allows us to combine our thoughts, actions, and behavior.

If we understand what makes a song popular over time, we gain insight on what makes anything popular over time: books, movies, inventions.

And if Prof. Michael Spitzer is right, then we are musical creatures and our insight into music helps us understand ourselves better as human beings.



KEEP IN MIND, THOUGH….The name of the course is perhaps too general. We will talk primarily about popular music in the era between about 1927 to 1980. And although we will mention other sounds and other places, we will concentrate on popular music in North America, the UK, and a bit of Israel. I beg your forgiveness.




We have two HUGE advantages. We are talking about music of very long ago. Those popular songs that are still played, still covered, still loved after so many decades may have ‘something special’ that sets them apart. Immortal jewels, perhaps. And you may not have ever heard many of them, so perhaps you can be even more objective. Or forget objectivity, and just fall in love with them!



How do we give this course?

The course is like an academic show put on by the teachers and the students. We listen to old records. We sing, clap our hands, get up and dance. We learn to fall in love with the music from another era. We discuss hypotheses. We learn the basics of music and lyrics. We talk about individual songs, genres, writers, performers. We look at popular songs as stories.



So what do we talk about in the course?

We start out talking about what makes a popular song stay popular for decades and decades after it was first written. We compare covers and originals, how we define a popular song (national anthem? religious tune?), the parameters that make a popular song immortal. We analyze “Over the Rainbow” which is often considered the best song of the twentieth century and mention”Bohemian Rhapsody” as well.


We talk about the reasons why the course begins in 1927. We look at the songs that won the Oscar (and the ones that didn’t), songs from movies, the special sauce of Disney movie songs,  tv (American Bandstand and Ed Sullivan mainly) and the musicals, focusing on Guys and Dolls (Frank Loesser), The King and I (Rogers and Hammerstein), West Side Story (Leonard Bernstein), and others.


NOTE: This year we didn’t have time to talk much about TV


We look at the great songwriters of the golden era, focusing on Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, the Gershwins, Frank Loesser, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, etc.. We compare singers, e.g., Bing Crosby and Billie Holliday. We talk about the Big Bands of the Swing Era, and why jazz died and was replaced by rock and roll. We talk about the influence of the musical, and of television. We talk about music, melody, surprises, hooks, major vs. minor, chords, scales, we discuss octaves, song structures and chord progressions. We talk about funk, prog, glam, disco and Israeli popular music (we didn’t have time this year, though). We talk about the singer songwriters of the 70s.


NOTE: This year we didn’t have time to talk much about We talk about funk, prog, glam, disco and Israeli popular music 


There are more than ten, but this is a start…

It’s for you..


Somewhere Over the Rainbow


Important –  If I Only Had a Brain




Why our popular music course begins in 1927. Radio. Modern Musicals. First movie with songs. Record players. Important songs – MY HEART STOOD STILL  and BLUE SKIES.


How we can analyze the success of a song –  important! Also has several checklists of what we learned about music.


Oscar Nominations, thirties and forties, songs from the movies – Important including Walt Disney. Songs: 




Dance moves through the years. Fun to watch. Six step.


Important. Why remember Billie and not Bing?




A (hopefully) welcome addition to the course!



Celebrating the Gershwins and Rhapsody in Blue. Happy 100th! Songs – SUMMERTIME, THEY ALL LAUGHED



Celebrating the opus of ‘course hero’ Richard Rodgers and his lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. Important.


Important! Song- VINCENT


Important from page 20 to understand what happened to jazz and why it became less popular, less mainstream.





The comparison between Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and Ed Sullivan’s show is important and the discussion around it.



We go over in class, so yes, please go over. SONG: You’ve Got a Friend



Important, particularly Carole King and Janice Ian. Songs: YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND, AT SEVENTEEN, JUST THE WAY YOU ARE




You have to know that basic blues are twelve bars long, usually three chords and the first two of three lines are repetitive. We mentioned a few songs in the course that are in blues format.




Carole King. Important!


Sample questions for self review


The following pages are for reference only.


Interesting but not for exam.



You can scroll down to see more.

Frank Loesser – short and sweet.

A brief discussion on last year’s course as it progressed


To what extent can popular music be analyzed? Interesting

The importance of pitch melody and phrasing – imporant. Listen to the songs.


Bing was more popular, now Billie is remembered while Bing has been largely forgotten. Why?  Important to give a listen.

Jerome Kern

Irving Berlin – interesting

Interesting and very short!

The Gershwins – yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Interesting and not short


Harold Arlen – interesting, short and sweet

Sholom Secunda – interesting

We dig the greatest Big Bands



Old picks of famous more recent musicians – interesting

Fun, the Christmas song (chestnuts roasting on an open fire is important as we interviewed Steve, the son of Mel Torme who co-wrote it.


very important, but less so for the exam


Not for the exam this year…


Not this year.


Did he copy the works of others? Not for the exam.



And finally…



Not for the exam.





This is a mini-catalog of several ebooks. Please take a look to find out more about Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, the Gershwins,

Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, Sholom Secunda, Frank Loesser, and Duke Ellington. We talked about Rodgers and Hammerstein and Frank Loesser in particular, just saying.

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