Singing Songs in the Key of L.A.

Tin Pan Alley wasn’t the only place to find old timey tunes

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  [Above: Sheet music for "Avalon." Scroll down to the bottom of the story to see more sheet music from Songs in the Key of L.A.]

The golden age of vaudeville has long been a New York story—until now. “Songs in the Key of L.A.,” a project spearheaded by USC professor Josh Kun, gives our city some credit for the vivacious music. Sifting through the Central Library’s 50,000-item sheet music collection, Kun and his students culled hundreds of songs from the 1840s through the 1950s that had a local connection.

Among them is 1913’s “I Love You, California,” written by lyricist Francis Bernard Silverwood, who founded the downtown department store Silverwoods. It’s the state’s official song, and the title illustration—a grizzly bear hugging California—appears on the cover of surf band Best Coast’s latest album, The Only Place.

Silverwood’s ditty and about 100 other pieces have been collected in a new book (also called Songs in the Key of L.A.), which features essays by musicians Van Dyke Parks and Stew of the Negro Problem. The multimedia endeavor includes five recordings of vintage songs by current bands and, in August, a free outdoor concert at California Plaza with Ozomatli interpreting some old tunes. “While archives are important purely as preservation,” Kun says, “I think their real value is in how they’re used by people and given new meanings.”

Angelton

 

I’m Goin Back to California That’s Where I Belong

 

I Love You California

 

Long Beach by the Sea

 



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Comments

  1. Hal Mark McDonald

    July 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I enjoyed reading the article “Play It Again” by Elina Shatkin in the June 2013 issue of Los Angeles magazine. I hope to see the exhibit, “Songs in the Key of L.A.” at USC and will also be buying the book of the same title as the exhibit. At my antiques shop, James Mark Antiques and Interiors at Victoria’s Attic Antiques Mall in The Atrium at Rancho Mirage, CA, I sell these music sheets and many more with CA themes and songs from Hollywood movies. I have a great selection of music sheets from all categories and Hollywood memorabilia including music sheets, photos, magazines, movie heralds, etc.
    Hal Mark McDonald
    JAMES MARK ANTIQUES & INTERIORS
    VICTORIA’S ATTIC ANTIQUES MALL at The Atrium
    69930 Highway 111
    Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
    760-202-4500
    [email protected]