Jerome Kern's songs far antedate his famous 1927 score for Showboat, but it is with that show that the American musical leaped into maturity. With material such as "Ol' Man River", "Make Believe", and "Why do I Love You?", Kern's music and Show Boat's dramatic scope led directly to Porgy and Bess, Okalahoma and Carousel, all of which combined a regional American setting with increasingly ambitious musical goals. The Broadway musical was moving toward light opera. In the case of Porgy and Bess,
in fact, even critical diehards no longer object to its being referred to as "grand" opera.
Kern continued to compose thereafter for Broadway and increasingly for films. His lyricists were legion and his compositions fundamental to the popular song tradition, whether they were created in collaboration with Oscar Hammerstein, Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Fields, Johnny Mercer or many others.
With all the riches of the American songbook, it had become the custom by the mid-century to present individual songs in a continuous medley throughout the evening. Under the leadership of such "society music" bookers as Lester Lanin and Meyer Davis, orchestras would present non-stop danceable rhythms by Jerome Kern and the rest of the makers of Broadway and Hollywood scores at debutant cotillion and other social occasions. It is doubtful, however, whether even Mr. Lanin has ever attempted to perform a medley of 100 (count them, 100!) tunes in no more than an hour-and-a-half. At the present concert, nevertheless, beginning with the works of Jerome Kern and modulating to those of a zillion other songsters, my cohorts and I will make this brave effort. You are invited to sing and count along. -- Dick Hyman.