Call him old-fashioned, call him sentimental, but Michael Paul Lund has made it his mission to celebrate and educate people about the Great American Songbook and its many interpreters. Lund, a Lincolnville resident, has given his lectures all over the country and will give one titled “Great American Popular Singers” at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Bangor Public Library.
For his Bangor lecture, Lund will focus on the the song stylings of four legendary artists: Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. Their recordings from the 1930s until the 1950s were the gold standard, when it comes to the Great American Songbook.
“There are three things that every song has to have: the music, the lyrics and the performer,” said Lund. “People like Hoagy Carmichael, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, they wrote these songs that were light, were clever, were romantic and sweet. And people like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald interpreted them.”
Though there are very few radio stations devoted to playing that music, there’s still an audience for it. Frank Sinatra is still a household name, nearly 20 years after his recording career ended. Thirty years after his death, Nat King Cole had a number one hit with “Unforgettable,” a posthumous duet with his daughter, Natalie. And contemporary performers like Michael Buble, Diana Krall and Rod Stewart have all had chart-topping standards albums.
“We live in a very busy world, with all kinds of distractions and phones going off. We can barely stop to catch our breath,” said Lund. “I think this music represents a simpler time. It’s less complicated. It’s poetry.”
Lund has a long background in music, both performing it and writing about it. Currently, he writes a syndicated newspaper column titled “The Serendipity Nostalgia Report,” is a featured commentator on WGBH-FM in Boston and has compiled six volumes of his essays, prose and short stories, titled “Quiet Thoughts For a Noisy World.” Lund also gives lectures on another favorite topic: Paul Robeson, the black singer, actor and social activist. But his talks and writings on the singers and songwriters of the first half of the 20th century comprise the bulk of his work.
“In my lecture, what I try to do is revisit the music with the people who grew up with it, and for those that aren’t as familiar with it, I try to open up a whole new world for them,” he said.