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Who Should Sing Ol' Man River? – The Lives of an American Song - Oxford Scholarship Online
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Who Should Sing Ol' Man River?: The Lives of an American Song

Todd Decker


This book tells the almost eighty-year performance history of a great popular song. Examining more than two hundred recorded and filmed versions of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s classic tune, the book reveals the power of performers to remake one popular song into many different guises. Written for the African American singer Paul Robeson, “Ol’ Man River” enjoyed instant success in the 1927 Broadway musical Show Boat and became a signature song for Robeson, who turned the tune toward his own goals as an activist. Beyond Robeson and Show Boat, “Ol’ Man River” also had a long and rich l ... More

Keywords: Ol’ Man River, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Paul Robeson, Frank Sinatra, popular song, Show Boat, racial content, popular music

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2014 Print ISBN-13: 9780199389186
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199389186.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Todd Decker, author
Washington University in St. Louis