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Songbook Book List: Women of the Songbook

March 1, 2023

Are you looking for your next book club selection or do you want to learn more about the women of the Songbook? We've searched the Songbook Archives shelves of our library and selected some of our favorite books for Women's History Month.


Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa. An illustration of Ella singing in a large purple gown.

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa (Children's Book)

by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney (Illustrator)

Goodreads: Ella Fitzgerald began her life as a singer on the stage of the Apollo Theater when she was just seventeen years old. Her rich voice and vocal innovations brought her fame and a remarkable career that spanned half a century and won her generations of fans around the world. Acclaimed author Andrea Davis Pinkney has told Ella's inspiring story in the voice of Scat Cat Monroe, a feline fan whose imagined narrative sings with the infectious rhythms of scat. Two-time Caldecott Honor winner Brian Pinkney's dramatic perspectives and fantastical images offer a jazzy improvisation all their own.

This for Remembrance: Rosemary Clooney. Rosemary is in 1940s glam and looks to the right.

This for Remembrance: The Autobiography of Rosemary Clooney

by Rosemary Clooney

Amazon: "Rosemary Clooney was at the very top of the entertainment ladder. Young, vivacious, radiant, with all-American good looks and a lovely voice, she was America's 'singing sweetheart' in the 1950s. Featured on the cover of Time, star of hit movies (White Christmas, Here Come the Girls), married to the brilliant actor Jose Ferrer in 1953 and mother of five children, host of her own network TV show in 1958, she had everything to live for. But in 1968 her world shattered. She suffered a terrifying mental breakdown, lived through the torments of hell, and emerged a strong, happy and fulfilled woman. This is her story. Never sparing herself, Rosemary Clooney writes with utter candor about the pressures that broke a gifted, beautiful and wildly successful young woman, bringing her to an isolation cell in the psychiatric ward of St. John's Hospital in Los Angeles. Hounded by hallucinatory demons, she pounded the walls in her paranoid frenzies. Reaching the depths of despair, Rosemary Clooney fought her way back to a productive, meaningful and contented life. Still beautiful, she has resumed her career and lives at peace with herself in her Beverly Hills home. Her house is alive with her children, four dogs, friends and music. 'My life is pretty darn good although it is not problemless,' she writes. 'Conflicts still arise, but I can deal with them. Some people will read this and say that Rosemary Clooney has been through hell. They are right. I have. But without that hell, I would not know joy - and that is what I often feel today.' And joy is the emotion she shares with every reader. Her story is one of the most gripping, heartrending - and ultimately inspiring - life stories you will ever read. And it has a most happy ending."
Judy Garland: A Portrait in Art and Anecdote.

Judy Garland: A Portrait in Art and Anecdote

by John Fricke and Lorna Luft

Goodreads: In a career that spanned five decades and encompassed stardom in every medium, Judy Garland's professional achievements retain their power to excite and thrill audiences of all ages. This book aims to define her on-and-off-stage talent to amuse. Historian John Fricke presents hundreds of rare and previously unpublished photos, studio memorabilia and personal mementos from the Garland estate, along with scores of anecdotes drawn from interviews with her professional colleagues, friends, family and Judy herself. Decade by decade, her incomparable accomplishments on stage, film, television, radio and in recordings, are lovingly illustrated and remembered by those who knew her best - and loved her most, Garland's own great and buoyantly emotional performances have brought to hundreds of millions of admirers.
Brown Sugar: Eighty Years of America's Black Female Superstars. Portraits of Black female musicians like Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne.

Brown Sugar: Eighty Years of America's Black Female Superstars

by Donald Bogle

Goodreads: And we can't forget the others: Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Katherine Dunham, Hazel Scott, Marian Anderson, Dinah Washington, Pearl Bailey, Dorothy Dandridge, Leontyne Price, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Tina Tuner... Brown Sugar narrates the triumphant struggle of these women to make it in the entertainment industry against overwhelming odds.
Fine and Dandy: The Life and work of Kay Swift

Fine and Dandy: The Life and Work of Kay Swift

by Vicki Ohl

Amazon: Kay Swift (1897–1993) was one of the few women composers active on Broadway in the first half of the twentieth century. Best known as George Gershwin’s assistant, musical adviser, and intimate friend, Swift was in fact an accomplished musician herself, a pianist and composer whose Fine and Dandy (1930) was the first complete Broadway musical written by a woman. This fascinating book—the first biography of Swift—discusses her music and her extraordinary life.

Vicki Ohl describes Swift’s work for musical theater, the ballet, Radio City Music Hall’s Rockettes, and commercial shows. She also tells how Swift served as director of light music for the 1939 World’s Fair, eloped with a cowboy from the rodeo at the fair, and abandoned her native New York for Oregon, later fashioning her experiences into an autobiographical novel, Who Could Ask for Anything More? Informed by rich material, including Swift’s unpublished memoirs and extensive interviews with her family members and friends, this book captures the essence and spirit of a remarkable woman.
Doris Day: Her Own Story. Doris stands with her hands on her hips in a field and smiles with her head cocked.

Doris Day: Her Own Story

by Doris Day and A.E. Hotchner

Goodreads: This unusual collaboration in the form of an autobiography brings together a highly skilled professional writer and the film superstar who never enjoyed being thought of as Miss Goody Two-shoes. For the first time, Doris Day tells the story behind the headlines of her private life- three marriages, real and rumored affairs, and professional triumphs countered by personal tragedies. At thirteen Doris was in a car hit by a train, and for a while she expected to be crippled for life. At sixteen she was earning her living on the road signing with bands. At seventeen she married a man who turned out to be a psychopathic sadist. She talks of many other things she never told anyone before, and her book is as compelling as it is honest. Mr. Hotchner, the author of Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir, has enriched her story with candid interviews with her son, Terry Melcher; her mother, her friends, and many of the people she has worked with including Bob Hope, James Garner, and Jack Lemmon. In this perceptive book, "the girl next door" turns out to be an inspiring woman of unique courage and strength.
Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazz Women. Quote: "The Definitive Work on Women in music, an incredible Job of Research." John Hammond.

Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazz Women

by Linda Dahl

Goodreads: This book delves into the history of the involvement of women in jazz. It covers how women participated in the music as well as in-depth interviews, and also includes a discography of recordings by female artists. "Dahl boldy goes where no man (or woman) has gone before. For people who love jazz...who get bleak when they think of what happened to Billie Holiday, this is their book." Los Angeles Times Book Review

Julie Andrews: Home, A Memoir of My Early Years. Julie Andrews poses with on her arm and looks to the left.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years

by Julie Andrews

Goodreads: Since her first appearance on screen in Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews has played a series of memorable roles that have endeared her to generations. But she has never told the story of her life before fame. Until now.

In Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, Julie takes her readers on a warm, moving, and often humorous journey from a difficult upbringing in war-torn Britain to the brink of international stardom in America. Her memoir begins in 1935, when Julie was born to an aspiring vaudevillian mother and a teacher father, and takes readers to 1962, when Walt Disney himself saw her on Broadway and cast her as the world's most famous nanny.

Along the way, she weathered the London Blitz of World War II; her parents' painful divorce; her mother's turbulent second marriage to Canadian tenor Ted Andrews, and a childhood spent on radio, in music halls, and giving concert performances all over England. Julie's professional career began at the age of twelve, and in 1948 she became the youngest solo performer ever to participate in a Royal Command Performance before the Queen. When only eighteen, she left home for the United States to make her Broadway debut in The Boy Friend, and thus began her meteoric rise to stardom.




First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald for the Record. Ella lays on a chaise and smiles.

First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald for the Record
by Geoffrey Mark Fidelman

Goodreads: The name alone conjures images of the Savoy Ballroom, the Chick Webb, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie bands, hot jazz, sweet ballads, and a genuinely unique presence. Ella Fitzgerald, an artist who has been called a national treasure - and no one has disputed the laudation - has captivated an international audience for more than fifty years. Her inimitable voice has been heard in intimate clubs, in concerts, on radio and television, and on countless recordings. First Lady of Song is a celebration of her life and work. In these pages are revived memories of duets with Frank Sinatra, harmonizing with Dinah Shore, and solo triumphs at Carnegie Hall.

On the Sunny Side of the Street: The Life and Lyrics of Dorothy Fields. A colorized picture of Dorothy Fields lays in a cameo.

On the Sunny Side of the Street: The Life and Lyrics of Dorothy Fields

by Deborah Grace Winer and Dorothy Fields

Goodreads: The untold story of a great American songwriter Dorothy Fields wrote the lyrics for over 400 songs, among them "I'm in the Mood for Love, " "On the Sunny Side of the Street, " "A Fine Romance, " and "The Way You Look Tonight." She lent her talents to such shows as "Sweet Charity" and "Annie Get Your Gun" and to over thirty films, "Swing Time" and "Roberta" among them. She collaborated with Jerome Kern and wrote lyrics for the house revues at the Cotton Club in its heyday. The only woman to achieve major success as a songwriter during the golden age of the American musical, Dorothy Fields brought a genuinely feminine point of view to the writing of romantic lyrics. Yet her story has never been written. Deborah Grace Winer chronicles Dorothy's origins in the show biz dynasty of vaudeville star Lew Fields, and her experiences working in New York and Hollywood from the roaring twenties to the sixties and seventies. A generous sampling of Fields's finest lyrics is included. Deborah Grace Winer is the author of "The Night and the Music" (Schirmer Books, 1995) and, with Dennis McGovern, of "Sing Out, Louise!"