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Who Should Sing 'Ol' Man River'?

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Table of Contents

1. Some Questions for "Ol' Man River" ; 2. Robeson's Revisions ; 3. Ol' Man Rhythm ; 4. Ol' Man Parody ; 5. Ol' Man Easy Listening ; 6. Ol' Man Metaphor ; 7. Sinatra's Way ; 8. The High Season on Records ; 9. The High Season on Television ; 10. Sons and Daughters of Joe ; A Select List of Recorded Versions of "Ol' Man River" ; Acknowledgements ; Notes ; Index

About the Author

Todd Decker is Associate Professor of Music at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical (Oxford, 2013) and Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz (2011, winner of the Best First Book Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies). He has lectured widely on American music, including at the Library of Congress, and his articles have appeared in Music, Sound and the Moving Image, The Journal of Musicology, Daedalus, and Contemporary Theatre Review.


A deep, wide, and thoroughly fascinating history of one of America's greatest songs, with surprises around every bend. * JAMES KAPLAN, author of Frank: The Voice * Todd Decker's Who Should Sing 'Ol' Man River'? is an eloquent and moving work charting the performance history of one of America's greatest and most controversial songs. Lyrically written and persuasively argued, the book transports the reader through a kaleidoscope of performers from Paul Robeson to Ray Charles, female and male, black and white, who wanted to make the song their own. Read about and listen to the performances with enormous pleasure but make no mistake this book is as much about the 'singing of the American experience of race' as it is about the song. * JORDAN GOODMAN, author of Paul Robeson: A Watched Man *

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