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Who Should Sing Ol' Man River?The Lives of an American Song$
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Todd Decker

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199389186

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199389186.001.0001

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The High Season on Records

The High Season on Records

(p.138) 8 The High Season on Records
Who Should Sing Ol' Man River?

Todd Decker

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at “Ol’ Man River” on records during the height of the civil rights era—from roughly 1957 to the end of the 1960s. The song’s place on jazz concept albums is profiled by way of five discs that variously situated the song within other popular songs about the “South.” The creators of these discs include Dave Brubeck, Lou Rawls, and Albert Ayler. White performers from across the pop spectrum also took up “Ol’ Man River” in these years, yielding a surprising mix of not always successful versions. Consideration of versions recorded in Nashville, Los Angeles, and London by artists from country music, pop, soul, and rock demonstrates how, despite radical shifts in musical style, musicians still thought audiences might enjoy “Ol’ Man River.”

Keywords:   Dave Brubeck, Lou Rawls, Albert Ayler, Cher, Righteous Brothers, Nashville sound, Rod Stewart

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