Composers & Songwriters in the 1930s

By Gina Knutson

The composers of the 1930s were referred to as Tin Pan Alley song writers. According to the authors of the book "American Popular Music," the standout songwriters of that decade were extraordinary in terms of the quality and quantity of their work. Some of the writers of the 1930s were the first to reflect the influence of jazz and ragtime on mainstream American music.

George Gershwin

George Gershwin may be best known for "Rhapsody in Blue," which he wrote in the 1920s as part of an experimental music program. The composition blended classical and jazz music to such a degree that it became a top "hit" of the day and made Gershwin a star. Gershwin's other works include "I Got Rhythm," "Oh, Lady Be Good," "Fascinating Rhythm" and the American folk opera "Porgy and Bess." That show, which had its debut in 1935, included "Summertime" and "It Ain't Necessarily So." Gershwin's brother, Ira, wrote the opera's lyrics. Gershwin died at the age of 38 of a brain tumor.

Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin, who came to America from Russia at the age of 4, wrote 19 musicals, 19 film scores and more than 900 songs in his 60-year career. His musical "Face the Music," which opened in 1932, contained the popular song "Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee." Berlin wrote songs for the musical film "Top Hat," which was released in 1935. The film included the hit "Cheek to Cheek." In 1938, Berlin's anthem "God Bless America" premiered for the first time when it was sung by Kate Smith.

Cole Porter

Cole Porter is known for composing music with sophisticated rhythms, according to Larry Starr and Christopher Waterman, authors of "American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3." Porter's well-known songs include "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Night and Day" and "I Get a Kick Out of You." His classic song of 1938, "Begin the Beguine," was recorded and performed by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra. The hit song helped make Shaw a top band leader. Porter's Broadway musical, "Leave It To Me" included the popular song "My Heart Belongs to Daddy."

Richard Rodgers

Richard Rodgers wrote hit Broadway musicals with lyricist Lorenz Hart, including "Babes in Arms" and "I'd Rather Be Right" from 1937. Some of Rodgers' most popular songs are "Blue Moon" from 1934 and "My Funny Valentine" from "Babes." Rodgers and Hart also wrote songs for eight films in the 1930s. One film, "Love Me Tonight," included the songs "Isn't It Romantic?" and "Mimi." After Hart's death in 1943, Rodgers formed another successful music partnership with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. "Oklahoma!," "South Pacific" and "The Sound of Music" are just three of their hits.

About the Author

Gina Knutson began her freelance writing career in 2010. For several years, she worked as home editor/editorial assistant at "Prairie Farmer" magazine and served as a newsletter editor for several not-for-profit groups. Knutson graduated from Elmhurst College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.