Tunes, lyrics, recordings, sheet musicall are components of popular songs, and all can serve as evidence of peoples, places, and attitudes of the past. Written by Ronald J. Walters and John Spitzer, Making Sense of American Popular Song provides a place for students and teachers to begin working with songs as a way of understanding the past. Ronald G. Walters is a Professor in the Department of History of The Johns Hopkins University. Author of The Antislavery Appeal (Johns Hopkins University Press and W.W. Norton), American Reformers (Hill and Wang), and editor of works on American sexual advice literature and on the authority of science in twentieth-century America, he has also published essays on film and American popular culture. His current project is a study of the mass media and popular culture in twentieth-century America. John Spitzer received a B.A. in History and Literature from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in musicology and ethnomusicology at Cornell University. In 1987 he joined the faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His chief research interests include the history of the orchestra, American song, and the relations between Western and non-Western musics.
Published online June 2003. Cite as: Ronald Walters and John Spitzer, "Making Sense of American Popular Song," History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/mse/Songs/, June 2003.