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Kander and Ebb

Kander and Ebb

While their names may not be as instantly recognizable as those of other songwriting teams, no other duo in musical theatre history has had the longevity and success as Kander and Ebb. Both Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe worked together for just under twenty years. John Kander and Fred Ebb’s collaboration began with songs written for albums such as Barbra Streisand in 1962 and first found fruit on the stage with Flora, the Red Menace (1965), the stage debut of Liza Minnelli, daughter of Judy Garland. Though Flora was a flop on Broadway, it was the beginning of what would be a significant partnership in musical theatre.

Poster for Cabaret movie, 1972

The next show Kander (music) and Ebb (lyrics) brought to the stage was the ground-breaking, hard-hitting glimpse of life in pre-Hitler Germany: Cabaret in 1966. The story, focusing on the desperate conditions faced by Jews, homosexuals, theatre performers and those in decadent Berlin in the mid-1930s. As plot moves back-and-forth from cabaret performances to personal interactions, the songs by Kander and Ebb swing between two types: broad, cutting sarcasm cabaret songs and tender, personal character songs. In various revivals since the first show, the story ends with performers gradually changing from cabaret outfits to concentration camp uniforms complete with yellow Stars of David and beginning their march to the camps while singing the haunting “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” The following year, Cabaret won a Tony award as Best Musical and the cast recording of the show won a Grammy. A 1972 film Cabaret took great departures from the stage version in both script and song, yet it was similarly honored, winning eight Oscars, including Best Actress for Liza Minnelli in her film debut.

A decade after leaving the angst filled Berlin of the 1930s, Kander and Ebb brought their second blockbuster to Broadway, a rollicking romp through the heart of 1920s jazz – Chicago. Influenced more by vaudeville than cabaret, 1975’s Chicago was a fun-filled, implausible tale of sin, hucksters, razzle-dazzle and media-hype all set in the Windy City of the jazz-era. The original run of over 900 performances has been surpassed by the most recent Broadway revival which began in 1996 and is currently still running – with a tally of five Tony awards and over 5,500 performances so far. On the basis of the ’96 revival, a 2002 movie-musical Chicago was filmed, starring Reneé Zellweger, Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones, which was given an Oscar as Best Picture.

Into the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s Kander and Ebb created musicals for Broadway, culminating with Curtains, which opened in 2007, three years after Fred Ebb’s death. One final project, The Scottsboro Boys, a musical in the American minstrel form, played for a short run in 2010 and was nominated for a Tony Best Musical. In terms of longevity, popularity of shows, breadth of subject material and awards, few songwriting teams have impacted musical theatre history as have Kander and Ebb.

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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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