Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Yorkers trying to save historic Tin Pan Alley

Tin Pan Alley, the half-dozen or so 19th century brownstones in Manhattan's Chelsea District, is up for sale and marked for demolition.  And a group of concerned New Yorkers are trying to save them and get them recognized as a national landmark, which would keep the buildings from getting destroyed.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries a number of sheet music publishers, composers and lyricists setup shop on West 28th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.  Among the American songwriters to work in these buildings were Irving Berlin, Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, Hoagy Carmichael, Ira and George Gershwin, James P. Johnson, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter.  Many got their start here writing songs in a factory-like environment, not too different from how songs are written for Nashville or contemporary pop music.

Before the rise of radio and audio recordings, the music industry revolved around the sales of sheet music.  "Song pluggers" (often the songwriters themselves) would go to commercial locations and play these songs enticing consumers to buy them.  

If you think we have schlocky pop music now, you should hear some of this stuff... can you imagine Britney Spears singing something like Ernest Ball and J. Keirn Brennen's "Good-bye, Good Luck, God Bless You"?
It's hard to part when heart to heart 
We've lived and loved and dreamed.
It came to naught, although I've thought
That you were all you seemed.

Good bye, good luck
God Bless you, is all that I can say.
But when you leave, my heart will grieve
Forever and a day.
Although, "Womanizer" is *hardly* better.  

But, of course, there were some diamonds in the rough that we still know and love today (or not), like:

"God Bless American
"After the Ball"
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
"Give My Regards to Broadway"
"Alexander's Ragtime Band"
"A Hot Time in the Town Tonight"

I'm pretty confident that these buildings will be saved.  But we'll see how this situation shapes up.

See the AP article here.

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