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IN-PERSON: Great Women of the American Songbook   

**This class will be taught In-Person**

**Please note that this class will not meet on June 15.**

The contributions of Women to the Great American Songbook have long been overlooked, yet many of their songs are still beloved and performed today.  Celebrating the lives, times, and music of our greatest women songwriters while shining a light on the struggle they went through to compete, this class aims to repair the cultural amnesia that made great women composers and lyricists invisible.  We also will explore the development of popular music through social and cultural changes which shaped the songs we heard and loved.  

Spanning the decades through Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, Jazz, Country, Folk, Motown and Rock – women like Dorothy Fields, (Sunny Side of the Street), Mary Lou Williams, Ann Ronnel (Willow Weep for Me), Peggy Lee, Carole King, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Bonnie Raitt - we take a fascinating journey through the development of the music business and examine the work, life and times of important women who created unforgettable music.    With biographical detail, music appreciation, sing-a-longs, video and music clips and some live performance.

Week by Week Outline


Early Tin Pan Alley years – ‘The Hustlers’ – Dorothy Fields, Tot Seymour, Vee Lawnhurst, Dana Suesse, Bernice Petkere.  We’ll explore those exciting years when popular music shifted from mostly Irish songwriters to predominantly Jewish songwriters who were inspired by Black music and early jazz – while examining the role women composers had in the pre-radio and gramophone era.  


1930 – 1945 – Broadway, Hollywood and Jazz – Doris Fisher, Dorothy Fields, Ann Ronell, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Mary Lou Williams.   Broadway shows were adapted by the Hollywood movie industry, and we’ll look at the role women composers had in these important years.  Meanwhile, we look at what some important women in jazz were up to – and see how Mary Lou Williams catapulted this music into a new sophisticated stratosphere.  


The Women of Country Music –  Maybelle Carter, Cindy Walker, Loretta Lynn, Bobbie Gentry, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift.   They say country music is ‘three chords and the truth’ – and women songwriters have always been powerful truth tellers in this genre, often having to navigate complex cultural images of what a woman should say and do.  


1945 – 1960  – Peggy Lee, Carolyn Leigh, Billie Holiday, Betty Comden and Fran Landesman – back to Dorothy Fields.  Swinging hard, while influenced by the Beat movement and rapidly changing sexual roles, these women songwriters made their voices known while sometimes having to battle powerful political and corporate forces. 


The Sixties and Motown – Carole King, Valerie Simpson (Ashford & Simpson), Cynthia Weill, Ellie Greenwich – Teen Tin Pan Alley gave us a generational soundtrack.


Singer/Songwriters of Folk, Rock and R & B – Joni Mitchell, Odetta, Laura Nyro, Patti Smith and Beyonce -   Popular songwriting moved beyond Billboard hits into journeys of personal discovery.  


This class is not available at this time.  

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