Jewish Songwriters is Topic of Ithaca College Talk

By David Maley, September 11, 2019
Author will discuss contributions to the “Great American Songbook”

In a lively and entertaining talk at Ithaca College, author David Lehman will discuss the Jewish songwriters who created America’s popular and Broadway music from the 1920s to the 1960s, known as the “Great American Songbook.” Titled “A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs,” Lehman’s presentation will be held on Monday, Sept. 16, at 7:30 p.m. in Textor 101. It is free and open to the public.

Many of the songs we have come to know as standards were written by Jewish composers and lyricists. They, or their parents, had escaped persecution in Eastern Europe, immigrated to the United States, and wrote musical odes to love, romance, show biz and the American dream.

In his talk, Lehman will address such questions as what is “Jewish” about the songs written by Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Leonard Bernstein, Dorothy Fields, Yip Harburg, Frank Loesser and many others. He will also consider what these songwriters borrowed from—and lended to—African-American musicians and Italian-American crooners.

Lehman’s book with the same title as his talk won the Deems Taylor Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in 2010. His other nonfiction books include “Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World” and “One Hundred Autobiographies: A Memoir,” which Cornell University Press is publishing next month. Lehman has published 10 books of poetry, is the editor of “The Oxford Book of American Poetry” and the series editor of “The Best American Poetry,” the annual anthology he founded in 1988.

His talk is sponsored by the Ithaca College Jewish Studies Program. For more information on Lehman, visit