Being a child of the 1950’s I was born along with the real birth of the genre of music we fondly know as “Rock ‘n Roll”, and then for the genre known as “Pop”. By the time I was eight [1959] and could really begin to enjoy listening to the old style radios we had I enjoyed listening to this kind of music. While I might not have understood the meanings of the songs being sung, I still enjoyed the sound of these songs.

When I was ten I got my first transistor radio with those rectangle 9 volt batteries I could listen to my music any time I wanted to. The problem was back then I fell asleep with the radio on, and as you might have guessed by the time I woke up the battery had died. I had no music so I wound up, much to my chagrin, having to ask my parents for money to buy a new battery. Of course, wanting to teach me a lesson about responsibility [turning off the radio before going to sleep], they would deduct it from my allowance.

All my friends had record players which we listened to the 45 rpm records we used to buy with our allowances. Some of my friends had been lucky as their parents gave them money to buy their records any time a song became very popular. There was never a party where records weren’t played, sometimes over and over again. We used to stack as many records as we could so we wouldn’t have to change the records on our own. Diners had a small one at all of the booths they had, and if you were lucky your parents would pay for your song selections.

We all loved listening to the songs of the “Rock ‘n Roll” and “Pop”, etc. eras, we never became interested if there was a reason as to why the singer[s] decided to write their songs. Even though the eras of this music have died, we’ve never gotten the music out of our blood. Which is why we’re nostalgic about them still today, and why, even as adults, we’re always looking for an opportunity to see our favorite artists live. And along with this nostalgia comes an interest in knowing if there had been a reason for any of the songs a specific artist is noted for singing.

The only way to find out what had brought about the creation of the songs we had loved is to speak to those involved which is precisely what Marc Myers has done here. By interviewing these individuals [those still alive] the author takes us into their minds and the events surrounding the decades of songs the author has included in this marvelous compendium of the songs we all loved listening to as we grew up, songs we still love hearing today.

If there’s song which would epitomize all of the songs and artists in this book it would be Barry Manilow’s song I Write the Songs:

I’ve been alive forever

And I wrote the very first song

I put the words and the melodies together

I am music and I write the songs


I write the songs that make the whole world sing

I write the songs of love and special things

I write the songs that make the young girls cry

I write the songs, I write the songs

My home lies deep within you

And I’ve got my own place in your soul

Now, when I look out through your eyes

I’m young again, even though I’m very old


Oh my music makes you dance

And gives you spirit to take a chance

And I wrote some rock ‘n’ roll so you can move

Music fills your heart

Well, that’s a real fine place to start

It’s from me it’s for you

It’s from you, it’s for me

It’s a worldwide symphony



This is why I loved Marc Myers efforts in compiling this compendium of the origins of each of the songs he’s included here. Some of us might be familiar with the songs included in this book as they come from a column, of the same name, which the author wrote for the Wall Street Journal [2011 – 2016]. It must have been a monumental task for the author to select the 45 songs he’s included from all those he’s written about; perhaps if we’re lucky we might see a second book covering additional songs, songs we’ve listen to which we’d love to know the origins of.

For bringing back memories of our younger days and for enlightening us as to the origins of these songs, how can I not give Mr. Myers 5 STARS for his endeavor here.