Smash Hits
The 100 Songs That Defined America
by James E. Perone
October 2016, 333pp, 7x10
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3468-4
$108, £84, 94€, A148
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3469-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

U.S. life, culture, and concerns are vividly portrayed in popular songs ranging from “Dixie” to “Hound Dog” to “Respect.”

We are what we listen to. That's the premise of this study of 100 songs that have shaped and defined the American experience, from the Colonial period to the present.

Well-known music author James Perone looks at 100 songs that helped tell America’s story. He examines why each song became a hit, what cultural and social values it embodies, what issues it touches upon, what audiences it attracted, and what made it such a definitive part of American history and popular culture.

The chart-topping singles presented here crossed gender, age, race, and class lines to appeal to the mass American audience. The book discusses patriotic songs, minstrel music, and sacred songs and hymns as well as music in the broad categories of pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, country, and folk. An introduction provides an overview of the history and significant issues raised by the songs as a whole. Individual songs are then presented chronologically, based on when they were written. The revealing commentary for each “hit” is not only interesting and fun, but reveals what it was like to live in the United States at a particular time by unveiling the social, economic, and political issues—as well as the musical tastes—that made life what it was.


  • Takes an entertaining approach to understanding the cultural tides in American history
  • Covers a wide range of songs from the Colonial period through the present to depict political and social perspectives as represented in music
  • Explores numerous subtopics related to the songs
  • Engages and educates as it gives historical context and meaning to songs with which readers have long been familiar
  • Uses a research-based approach to explore the historical and cultural background behind America's hits
James E. Perone, PhD, is associate dean of the faculty and the Margaret Morgan Ramsey professor in music at the University of Mount Union, Alliance, OH. His published work includes the ABC-CLIO titles Mods, Rockers, and the Music of the British Invasion; Music of the Counterculture Era; The Words and Music of Elvis Costello; and The Words and Music of Melissa Etheridge, among others. Perone is also editor of ABC-CLIO's The Album: A Guide to Pop Music's Most Provocative, Influential, and Important Creations.


"This strong reference work, which effectively integrates the history, popular culture, and music that defines America, is highly recommended to high school and undergraduate libraries, as well as teachers looking to incorporate new avenues into their curriculum. Members of the general public will also appreciate this work."—ARBA, March 13, 2017
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