Artwork from the book - Popular Music of the Twentieth Century – Introductory Words to the Course by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג -
I'm a writer, scientist, musician, inventor and lecturer. During the daytime I am advisor to the President of Shenkar College. In the evening I write children's books, satire, and "how to" manuals ("Mel's ten tips). I'm co-founder of Ourboox and married to Ourboox CEO Shuli Sapir-Nevo.
Oct 2013
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Popular Music of the Twentieth Century – Introductory Words to the Course

by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג

Thank you David Shnaidman for the playlist of our course

writing great songs is something you can’t do consciously. Rather you have to let the music come by itself. The job of the musician is to get out of the way of the music.” – Michael Jackson 


As we start, please join our FB group:

Popular Music Course 2019




Artwork from the book - Popular Music of the Twentieth Century – Introductory Words to the Course by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג -

Let’s begin with a few songs from the early sixties just to warm up!


And now, back to 1927!

My Heart Stood Still, 1927,

Rodgers and Hart


I took one look at you
That’s all I meant to do
And then my heart stood still
My feet could step and walk
My lips could move and talk
And yet my heart stood still

Though not a single word was spoken
I could tell you knew
That unfelt clasp of hands
Told me so well you knew
I never lived at all
Until the thrill of that moment when
My heart stood still






Why I give this course?

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

Public Domain,


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.


Artwork from the book - Popular Music of the Twentieth Century – Introductory Words to the Course by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג -

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 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.



Why we start in 1927


What is popular music, though?

In his book, ” Tomorrow Never Knows” by Nick Bromell (University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 167, he described three beliefs –

-musicians and audiences assume that their musical activity will produce MEANINGFUL sounds.



-Secondly, that while each piece of music may not mean the same things to everyone, it will mean some shared things to listeners who collectively regard themselves as an audience for that music;

-Third, that some of the meanings can be used as a way to know ourselves and interact with the world around us. If we can agree to that, then we can get started.


So, I guess the first question is “Would a national anthem qualify as a popular song?”




OK, then should religious music be considered “popular music”?




The next questions might be “Who decides whether a song is popular?” and “When is a popular song a GOOD song? And are these two connected?


And now for the $64,000,000 question. What makes popular songs that pass the test of time popular? Perhaps that is the crux of the course.


Here is one take on the subject by Noah Askin. It raises many questions in my mind. How many does it raise in yours?




Noah Askin





And music does have this amazing affect on human beings (elders trying not to move or sing)…


and on bears too…

from 2:06



and playing music’s amazing affect on our brain:




We will ask the question, “What are popular songs made of? How are they put together? What are the common structures?”


We’ll discuss this more during the course, of course.


And then of course there’s the question of whether the whole equals the sum of the parts. And whether the success of a popular song might sometimes defy ‘objective’ or ‘rational’ explanation.



And of course, the music itself, the notes, the intervals, the length of each note, etc.





  1. Find a halilit (recorder) somewhere and bring it to class.

  2. Ask your parents/grandparents for a list of their favorite popular songs.

  3. Then ask them to choose one and post them. Can they explain why they love them? Go ahead, share on FB.

  4. Listen to Chet Baker singing songs from the 20s-40s (next pages)

  5. For next week, have a look at the e-book below comparing Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday and ask yourself which is the better version of each. And why?


One great way to love ‘old popular tunes’ is to listen to Chet Baker sing them.

Title Writer(s) Length
1. That Old Feeling Lew BrownSammy Fain 3:03
2. “It’s Always You” Jimmy Van HeusenJohnny Burke 3:35
3. Like Someone in Love Jimmy Van HeusenJohnny Burke 2:26
4. “My Ideal” Newell ChaseLeo RobinRichard A. Whiting 4:22
5. I’ve Never Been in Love Before Frank Loesser 4:29
6. My Buddy Walter DonaldsonGus Kahn 3:19
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. But Not for Me George GershwinIra Gershwin 3:04
8. Time After Time Jule StyneSammy Cahn 2:46
9. I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes) Hoagy Carmichael 2:59
10. My Funny Valentine Richard RodgersLorenz Hart 2:21
11. There Will Never Be Another You Harry WarrenMack Gordon 3:00
12. The Thrill is Gone Lew BrownRay Henderson 2:51
13. I Fall in Love Too Easily Jule StyneSammy Cahn 3:21
14. Look for the Silver Lining Jerome KernBuddy DeSylva 2:39



Four vultures


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