Just as THE LAST PARTY caught Britpop in the 90s, and EASY RIDERS and RAGING BULL portrayed Hollywood in the 70s, so THE BRILL BUILDING SOUND brilliantly captures the sweet, baby-boom music scene of New York in the 60s. The sound is still with us today: 'On Broadway', 'Walk on By', 'Leader of the Pack', '(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman', 'You've Lost that Loving Feeling'. Back in the sixties it was known as the 'Brill Building Sound'. Based at 1619 Broadway, just off Time Square, the Brill Building was a shabby office block populated by young musicians and composers: Burt Bacharach and Hal David; Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller; Carole King and Gerry Goffin; Neil Sedaka. They were brought together by Don Kirshner in 1958. Kirshner felt there was a real need for songwriters in the booming rock market, and to that end he hired eighteen to sit at their cubicles and churn out love songs for the teenage masses. These writers defined the music of the baby boomer generation and their songs informed the political awakening of a whole decade.
Most of the songwriters were Jewish, raised in Brooklyn, influenced as teenagers by the leftwing politics and the civil rights movement in the racially integrated borough. Inspired by black music some of their finest songs were written for Areatha Franklin, Dionne Warwick. The rise of Latino culture also affected their music. They added new elements to their music as most of them were classically trained. Through this blend a new identity was formed which changed a whole generation. Through their story, Ken Emerson re creates the era of social change and the rise of youth culture. Impeccably researched, including exclusive interviews with all the main participants, 'The Brill Building Sound' is a riveting chapter in American popular culture.
Ken Emerson is a music journalist, historian, and former editor of the New York Times Magaizine. His previous books include a biography of Neil Sedaka.