Jerome Kern


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Stephen Banfield

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A founding father of the modern American musical, Jerome Kern (1885–1945) was the composer of legions of popular songs, including such standards as “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “Ol’ Man River.” His 1927 Show Boat with Oscar Hammerstein II helped to set a new standard for musical theater.

This book is the first to provide a critical overview of Kern’s musical accomplishments throughout his career. Stephen Banfield ranges from Broadway, to Hollywood, and to London’s West End, drawing on unpublished manuscripts and scores to assess the composer’s extraordinary oeuvre.

Kern’s life, personality, and working methods are given due attention, as is the development of his work from the early musical comedies through the collaborations with Hammerstein and P. G. Wodehouse up to the later film scores. Banfield focuses especially on the musical and lyrical structures of Kern’s compositions, illuminating beloved works and shedding light on compositions often overlooked.

Stephen Banfield is Stanley Hugh Badock Professor of Music, University of Bristol, England.

"Stephen Banfield's study is a major addition to Kern scholarship."—Gerald Bordman, author of American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle

"Banfield's book is heroic in its scope and coverage of a neglected but essential American music icon."—Michael Feinstein, Singer, Music Historian

 “With P.G. Wodehouse, Jerome Kern wrote some of the first, funniest, and most charming American musical comedy songs; with Oscar Hammerstein, he wrote the great musical epic of the Broadway stage, Show Boat; with Dorothy Fields, he wrote the most enduring jazz and pop standards of the American songbook, including ’The Way You Look Tonight’ and ’I Won’t Dance.’ He did all this and more without ever swimming into either biographical or musicological focus the way Gershwin, Porter, and others did. Stephen Banfield has now rectified both omissions with a book that’s intelligent and authoritative but also a vivid evocation of early twentieth-century show business. This lively study not only conjures Kern and his world but lays out clearly why this music is of value and why it will last.”—Mark Steyn, author of Broadway Babies Say Goodnight

"An important contribution to the literature on the American musical; highly recommended, especially for academic libraries."—Library Journal

“Stephen Banfield . . . has just stepped in to fill the void of Kern scholarship with his able book Jerome Kern. It’s as much a technical study as a biography. Banfield takes apart Kern’s work with a watchmaker’s precision, but not without a passion.”—Elizabeth D. Hoover,

“[An] exemplary addition to the Yale Broadway Masters series. . . . This book is brimming with fabulous fare and includes many musical quotations, all helpful and some of startling transcendence.”—Alexandra Mullen, New Criterion


"It's surely a fact that the essence of Kern's art is to be found not so much in the atypically grandiose Show Boat as in the gracefully spun numbers to be found particularly in EMI's 1993 Jerome Kern Treasury. It's a tribute to Banfield's beautifully written study to say that it admirably captures much of the same essence in print."---Andrew Lamb, BBC Music Magazine

"Evinces an impressive fluency with Kern, musical theater history, and its social and cultural contexts."—Elizabeth A. Wells, Journal of the American Musicological Society

Selected as an "Outstanding" book in 2007 by AAUP University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries 

Finalist for the George Freedley Memorial Award of the Theatre Library Association.
ISBN: 9780300217612
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
392 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
21 b/w illus.+ 42 musical examples
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