The Songbook Series:

The Evolution of American Popular Music in Six Defining Songs

Moderated by Edward Barnes

This seminar explores the creation and performance of six iconic American songs, each a keystone moment in the evolution of popular music. Starting with the blues, each session will use the story of one singular song to chart the course through the origins of jazz, swing, rock, pop, and soul: the pillars of American musical style. Journey through six decades of classics, from Bessie Smith’s “St. Louis Blues” to the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” Ethel Merman’s “I Got Rhythm” to Marvin Gaye’s soulful “What’s Goin’ On,” to discover the craft, innovation, and talent behind some of America’s greatest hits. Includes videos of historical and contemporary performances.

Seminar Dates & Times

Thursdays   |   10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. EST


Thursdays   |   2:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. EST


March 11, 25
April 8, 22
May 6, 20


Session 1

BLUES: “St. Louis Blues” (1925) 

Bessie Smith, written by WC Handy

Session 2

JAZZ: “I Got Rhythm” (1930) 

Ethel Merman, written by George & Ira Gershwin

Session 3

SWING: “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (1943) 

Andrews Sisters, written by Don Raye & Hughie Prince

Session 4

ROCK: “Maybellene” (1955) 

Chuck Berry, written by Chuck Berry

Session 5

POP: “Good Vibrations” (1966) 

Beach Boys, written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love

Session 6

SOUL: “What’s Goin’ On” (1971) 

Marvin Gaye, written by Obie Benson, Al Cleveland & Marvin Gaye

Seminar Cost: $450 (tax-deductible portion $225)