Tag Archives: Music

The Popular Song: America’s Greatest Cultural Achievement

As beloved as it is, I don’t believe the popular song enjoys the cultural status it deserves. Perhaps that’s because the popular song is not an elite institution. But neither is the democracy that produced it.

The song instinct is as old as humanity. But, just as it took technology and a particular civilization to go from the mud hut to the Great Pyramids, it took technology and a particular civilization to go from war whoops to Stardust.

All the necessary preconditions for the emergence of the popular song came together in America. Many cultures from around the world gathered here, some voluntarily, some enslaved. They all brought their folk music traditions. Those traditions evolved in the new continent.

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