There is a weird thing about jazz standards

I have been listening to jazz for awhile now. It started with swing dancing (the first physical hobby I was naturally good at).

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At one point I was dancing five nights a week, teaching classes, and occasionally DJing. In short, I listened to lots of pop jazz from before the bebop era. There is no dancing to bebop. I don’t dance much anymore, but I continue my love of the music playing my ukulele.

When I started learning to play songs I noticed that older recorded versions often had more lyrics than what I was finding chords for online, or even more than most recordings I have. I thought a lot about why this is the case/how that happened, and now I have a whole theory about it.

Apparently there was a guy in the early ’40s who wanted to be able to keep track of songs, George Goodwin. His big idea was to invent a card catalogue filing system much like the cards one would find in a library. On one side of the card was all the info: who wrote the music/lyrics, year, who holds the copyright etc. On the other side was a snippet of the music, generally the chorus. They were meant as reference for anyone in the music biz.

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As a side note, I have a friend that has a couple of these. Cool to look through them, though he says he tried to play a bunch of the songs and mostly they were pretty bad. Guess that is why they did not become standards.

Anyway, back to my rambling theory. At some point someone took a bunch of these cards and photostated the music side of them and put them in a book. This was, as far as I know, the first fake book.

If you do not know what a fake book is: Fake books were put together as a way for jazz musicians to have an easy reference for the songs they were expected to play. It was put together and sold by the mob, as they were illegal because they were not paying for the copyrights (I believe if they had done it on the up and up the cost would have been prohibitive for most musicians)(and according to Wikipedia the music industry would not ok the idea anyway).

Most fake books seemed to follow the template of the first. So, now we have this book of a bunch of good jazz songs that only have the chorus on them as the primary reference for working musicians. It is therefor not surprising that when musicians play these songs it is only the chorus, with lyricists and solos of various instruments cycling through the same chorus.

So, that is my theory on how we lost the verses to many awesome songs. I maybe get obsessed with authenticity sometimes, and desperately want to be able to play the whole song as it was originally written. Some of the songs I have found sheet music for, but I sadly cannot read sheet music. Therefor I was unbelievably happy to find this guy last week, who apparently shares that particular obsession. He has the chords plus a video of himself singing the melody, and my next few weeks will be full of learning old songs anew.

Also, if anyone knows why my theory is wrong, let me know! Learning things is awesome, and this is really a theory I just made up in my head after some research. Because damnit, I wanted an explanation for why this tragedy happened.

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