An illuminating history of the song for every kind of music
Often today, the word 'song' is used to describe all music. A
free-jazz improvisation, a Hindustani raga, a movement from a
Beethoven symphony: apparently, they're all songs.
But they're not. From Sia to Springsteen, Archie Roach ('Take
the Children Away'), to Andrea Keller ('Do Not Go Gentle into
that Good Night'), to Amy Winehouse, a song is a specific
musical form. It's not so much that they all have verses and
choruses - though most of them do - but that they are all
relatively short and self-contained; they have beginnings,
middles and ends; they often have a single point of view,
message or story; and, crucially, they unite words and music.
Thus, a Schubert song has more in common with a track by Joni
Mitchell or Rihanna than with one of Schubert's own symphonies.
The Song Remains the Same traces these connections
through seventy-five songs from different cultures and times:
love songs, anthems, protest songs, lullabies, folk songs, jazz
standards, lieder and pop hits; 'When You Wish Upon a Star' to
'We Will Rock You', 'Jerusalem' to 'Jolene'. Unpicking their
inner workings makes familiar songs strange again, explaining
and restoring the wonder, joy (or possibly loathing) the reader
experienced on first hearing.